Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

22 Oct 2004

Four Reviews of Die Zauberflöte at the Met

Julie Taymor -- and Mozart Too By HEIDI WALESON [Wall Street Journal] October 14, 2004; Page D7 New York The Metropolitan Opera usually showcases singers, not star directors, but the Met's newest production is most definitely the "Julie Taymor 'Zauberflote'"...

Julie Taymor -- and Mozart Too

By HEIDI WALESON [Wall Street Journal]
October 14, 2004; Page D7

New York

The Metropolitan Opera usually showcases singers, not star directors, but the Met's newest production is most definitely the "Julie Taymor 'Zauberflote'" ("Magic Flute"). Ms. Taymor is best known for "The Lion King," which has been running for almost seven years on Broadway, but her startlingly original visual imagination also worked brilliantly with Mozart, illuminating this complex work without overpowering it.

With set designer George Tsypin and lighting designer Donald Holder, Ms. Taymor created a compelling universe for "Flute." Mozart's last opera, with sung and spoken text by Emanuel Schikaneder, mixes grandeur, pathos and whimsy. Unlike many directors, who often slight one for the others, Ms. Taymor succeeded in making all those elements work together. She understood that the grand Enlightenment scheme of the opera is about the journey from darkness into wisdom. In the ideal union of Tamino and Pamina, sense and sensibility temper and strengthen each other. Ms. Taymor's nonrepresentational world, explored through creative combinations of materials (glass, steel and billowing silks) and light made those themes clear while maintaining the humanity of the characters.

The production exploited the Met's sophisticated stage machinery to create the fears and confusions of that journey, for the path to enlightenment is not easy. Four large transparent squares, each with a different geometric opening (a triangle, a square, a large circle and a small one) at the center, first appeared independently, circling on the stage turntable. But as Tamino, Papageno and Pamina stumbled along, they moved to create jagged angles and dizzying kaleidoscopic vistas. "Where am I?" the characters often asked, and in this world of hard edges, strange reflections, darkness and no recognizable landmarks, it was no wonder. No wonder, also, that when they found each other they clung together, only to be torn apart again. Ms. Taymor even captured the terror of the final trials of fire and water with two proscenium-high figures, their helmets filled with flame, that guarded the portal.

[Remainder of article here (subscription to WSJ Online required)]


Die Zauberflöte, Metropolitan Opera, New York

By Martin Bernheimer [Financial Times]
Published: October 13 2004 03:00 | Last updated: October 13 2004 03:00

Graceful geese swoop through the black sky. The baddest of bears prance about the proscenium with surreal bonhomie. Exerting stylised menace, a collapsible serpent stalks the puny hero. Blissful storks traipse the boards sur les pointes. A flying lobster snaps its claws at a would-be devourer.

The basic set, constantly evolving and revolving, evokes a pyramid locked in a gigantic ice-cube. It's a fantastic show. It's Julie Taymor's Die Zauberflöte. It may not be Mozart's.

With her inspired accomplices (set designer George Tsypin, lighting director Donald Holder, puppet-master Michael Curry, choreographer Mark Dendy), Taymor has left no turn unstoned in her effort to make the old operatic fable look nifty. She invokes all manner of scenic mumbo-jumbo to tell the tale on her own cleverly picturesque terms.

[Remainder of article here (subscription to Financial Times Online required)]


Taymor's 'Flute' is utterly enchanting

By HOWARD KISSEL [New York Daily News]
DAILY NEWS CRITIC
Monday, October 11th, 2004

Although Mozart's "Magic Flute" is one of the most sublime operas ever composed, in its own time it was most definitely part of Show Business.

That's why it was a brilliant idea to have Julie Taymor (Broadway's "The Lion King") direct and design a sorely needed new production for the Met. It opened Friday night and has a performance tonight.

In contrast with other opera directors, Taymor's soaring imagination is always at the service of the composer. Her production captures the grandeur of the work and is also, hands down, the best show in town.

Unlike other Mozart masterpieces, which were written to be performed at court, "The Magic Flute" was intended for a theater with a box office.

Despite its allusions to the ideals of the Enlightenment and to Masonry (Mozart, his friend Haydn, and Emanuel Schikaneder, who wrote the libretto, were all Masons), "Flute" is at heart a fairy tale. As such, it was a boffo hit in 1790 and has remained so ever since.

In her costume designs (and in the imposing sets of George Tsypin), Taymor conveys both the somberness of the ideas that underpin the plot, as well as its delicious fancifulness.

[Remainder of this article here (no subscription or registration required)]


Amadeus Ex Machina

Chagall and Hockney have already had their way with Mozart's Magic Flute. Now--cue the kite puppets --it's Julie Taymor's turn.

By Peter G. Davis [New York Magazine, October 25, 2004]

Mozart's music may not always take second place when the Metropolitan Opera stages The Magic Flute, but--at least as long as I've been around--the productions have been mostly defined by their sets and costumes. And, true to form, the big buzz over the latest Flute centers on Julie Taymor, Tony-winning director of The Lion King, and her take on this immortal operatic fantasy. No wonder, since her Asian-influenced sense of theater, with its kite puppets, animal imagery, and masks, together with set designer George Tsypin's translucent geometric shapes and sculptures, give the eyes plenty to take in. To judge from the roars of approval on opening night, audiences will be finding new visual marvels to savor in this production for many years to come.

Yes, Taymor's stage is a very busy one, but not so frantic as to obscure what is at heart a fairly traditional approach to the dramatic action. Sarastro and the Queen of the Night, their mythical realms located somewhere between the sun and the moon, are clearly depicted in a pitched battle between good and evil; the young lovers Tamino and Pamina are tested, grow, and become wise through their adventures; everyday folk like Papageno and Papagena remain endearingly unaware of life's mysteries as they eat, drink, and make babies; and illusion is omnipresent as the characters wander through a world where humans of all ethnicities mix in surroundings that remain in a constant state of magical mutability. The stage pictures are dazzling, but the real wonder of Taymor's production is how precisely movement is counterpointed with music to reflect the enormous emotional range of Mozart's score, from slapstick comedy to solemn spirituality.

[Remainder of article here (no subscription required)]


Staging note:

The Stilts Beneath Their Wings
By DANIEL J. WAKIN [New York Times]

Mark Mindek walks into the Metropolitan Opera as a 5-foot-11-inch dancer and walks out onto the stage as a 12-foot dancing bird. He and a fellow dancer, James Graber, play two of the Julie Taymor-created creatures that flirt with Papageno, the girl-crazy bird catcher of Mozart's "Magic Flute," in the second act of Ms. Taymor's new production at the Met, which has performances on Monday and Thursday. How do the dancers manage to reach and lunge while tottering on stilts?

[Remainder of article here (subscription required for archived articles)]

Recommended recordings:

Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):