Recently in Performances
It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.
With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.
Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.
If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”
Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?
Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.
On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.
Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.
Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.
Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.
The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s ﬁrst great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.
The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.
This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.
Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’
Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.
Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by
the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.
27 Nov 2004
Angels in America at Theatre du Chatelet, Paris
Clipping the wings of an apocalyptic epic (Filed: 27/11/2004) Rupert Christiansen reviews Angels in America at Theatre du Chatelet, Paris There are plenty of wonderful operas taken from good plays, and a few (Otello and Wozzeck, for example) taken from...
Clipping the wings of an apocalyptic epic
Rupert Christiansen reviews Angels in America at Theatre du Chatelet, Paris
There are plenty of wonderful operas taken from good plays, and a few (Otello and Wozzeck, for example) taken from great ones. What these all have in common is a sense that music - more specifically, the singing of the text - expands the drama and enriches the characters. It isn't enough simply to reflect what is already there, or to enhance the mood like a film score. Music must be the driving force, the medium of revelation.
This is the hurdle at which the composer Peter Eötvös and his librettist wife Mari Mezei fall flat on their faces. Their adaptation of Angels in America, Tony Kushner's apocalyptic epic of Aids and the spiritual turmoil of the Reagan era, condenses rather than expands the theatrical original, squeezing a gallon of drama into a pint-pot of opera.
It isn't just a matter of cutting too many of Kushner's words or scenes. The problem is that anyone with memories of the play on stage (or in Mike Nichols's excellent screen version, shown on Channel 4 earlier this year) will find its operatic incarnation thinner in every respect: the characters diminished, the plot less rich, the language less resonant.
Out goes the sexiness - Prior's anguish at the loss of Louis, and the latter's affair with the buttoned-up Mormon Joe scarcely register. Out goes the Satanic grandeur of the lawyer Roy Cohn, reduced here to a deluded buffoon. Out goes the Dickensian cumulation of the narrative and its intertwining of disparate human fates.
What is left moves with cartoon-like swiftness, drained of emotional urgency and oddly dated - a bad dream of a crisis now replaced by other terrors.
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