Recently in Performances
Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.
Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.
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.
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.
It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
15 Oct 2004
Two Reviews of "The Dialogues of the Carmelites"
Unbearably Good Classical Music BY JAY NORDLINGER [New York Sun] October 14, 2004 Is there any opera more shattering than "The Dialogues of the Carmelites," when it's done well? On Tuesday night, City Opera did it well. It was...
BY JAY NORDLINGER [New York Sun]
October 14, 2004
Is there any opera more shattering than "The Dialogues of the Carmelites," when it's done well? On Tuesday night, City Opera did it well. It was almost unbearable - that's how good it was.
"Dialogues," of course, is Francis Poulenc's masterpiece from 1953. It tells the story of nuns who suffer and die - are killed - in the French Revolution. Your high-school teachers and college professors may have been rahrah about this revolution; Poulenc, bless him, was not.
It so happens that, two seasons ago, the Metropolitan Opera performed "Dialogues" unforgettably. In that cast were Patricia Racette, Heidi Grant Murphy, Felicity Palmer, and Stephanie Blythe. (I should throw in Matthew Polenzani, too, to name one man.) Ms. Palmer, in particular, was consummate as the Old Prioress. James Conlon led understandingly from the pit.
City Opera's singers are not as famous as the Met's, but they are far from shamed. In the central role of Blanche is Rinat Shaham, an Israeli mezzo-soprano. She gave just about all one could ask, musically and dramatically. She captured a woman's searching and turbulence - and fear. Always fear, except perhaps in the opera's final moment. Her voice is a little smoky, but not impure. (We can hear Carmen in that voice, even when she is Blanche.) The upper register is vibrant, and the lower one bottled. Ms. Shaham showed a sure technique, featuring intonation and evenness. This was especially gratifying in Poulenc's exposed lines. And she never slopped over his intervals.
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A synopsis of this work may be found here.
Dialogues of the Carmelites, New York City Opera
By Martin Bernheimer [Financial Times]
Published: October 15 2004 03:00 | Last updated: October 15 2004 03:00
Modern opera is not the most popular attraction in cultural Manhattan but Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites has proved to be an encouraging exception. Completed in 1957, this examination of the crisis of faith during the French revolution was first performed here - rather ineptly - by the New York City Opera in 1966.
The mighty Metropolitan followed suit in 1977 with a powerful staging by John Dexter that remains a staple in the big house at Lincoln Center. Now the brave City Opera, next door, has come up with an alternative that sheds its own light.
The best news involves communication. Although Poulenc wanted his philosophies to be articulated in the language of the audience, the Met respected this wish only in the early years. The City Opera, however, reverts to the vernacular.
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