Recently in Performances
On May 25, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of the Herbert Ross production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La bohème. Stage director, Peter Kazaras, made use of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s wide stage by setting some scenes usually seen inside the garret on the surrounding roof instead.
On May 21, 2016, Ars Minerva presented The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles (Le Amazzoni nelle Isole Fortunate), an opera consisting of a prologue and three acts by seventeenth century Venetian composer Carlo Pallavicino.
While Pegida anti-refugee demonstrations have been taking place for a while
now in Dresden, there was something noble about the Semperoper with its banners
declaring all are welcome, listing Othello, the Turk, and the hedon Papageno as
Opera houses’ neglect of Leoš Janáček remains one
of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the
‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas
would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa,
Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely
hook most for life.
It’s not easy for critics to hit the right note when they write about musical collaborations between students and professionals. We have to allow for inevitable lack of polish and inexperience while maintaining an overall high standard of judgment.
Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on
Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so
given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to
see three different productions within little more than a couple of
Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.
George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.
Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.
‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’
Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is
wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.
This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.
As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.
From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the
Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the
appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic
dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today,
‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in
genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.
On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.
A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.
Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.
Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.
What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.
I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s
Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The
Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and
further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic
term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.
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.
[Remainder of article here (no subscription required)]
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.
[Remainder of article here (subscription to Financial Times Online required)]