Recently in Performances
“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”
A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.
Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure,
this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish
hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably
Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left
much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang
bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars
lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano
Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera
Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night
of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.
On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value
a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.
Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.
Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.
24 Nov 2004
OONY Presents La Fanciulla del West
Superb, if mixed, Fanciulla at OONY Last night's La Fanciulla del West at Carnegie Hall was the classic case of the whole being much better than the sum of its parts. It was a thrilling performance of Puccini's score and...
Superb, if mixed, Fanciulla at OONY
Last night's La Fanciulla del West at Carnegie Hall was the classic case of the whole being much better than the sum of its parts. It was a thrilling performance of Puccini's score and a huge, fully deserved, personal triumph for Aprile Millo.
Of the three roles Ms. Millo has done for OONY recently, this was surely the most successful, better even than her storied Adriana Lecouvreur and easily obliterating memories of her pale La Gioconda. For one thing, the role sits perfectly for her voice,allowing its beauty and sensuousness to emerge almost effortlessly. The high notes are still possible for her, even if the tone now spreads just noticeably,and they are both substantial and secure. Her major current technical limitation -- not being able to do anything in the top register piano let alone pianissimo, was no handicap in this score. She dominated the proceedings vocally and created a believable character, with no trace of the pretentious grande dame mannerisms that had trivialized her Gioconda. Her Minnie was down to earth, courageous, and emotionally vulnerable -- and Ms. Millo seemed to enjoy portraying her immensely. Audience reaction was tumultuous and it was all richly deserved, not inflated or fake enthusiasm for a cult figure. Last night Aprile Millo was a major Italian Soprano in great shape and in full communication with her audience.
I don't mean to suggest that it was a case of Aprile and the seven dwarfs, but nothing else except the spirited, tonally gleaming work of the New York City Gay Men's Chorus and William Ferguson's strongly sung and acted Nick the Bartender came anywhere near her level. The orchestra played very well, with all sorts of inner detail cleanly articulated, but conductor Eve Queler let it roar out at volume levels that covered singers mercilessly. Ms. Queler has a penchant for finding promising, interesting young singers and giving them wonderful exposure in these concert performances. Last night, however, the entire first scene until Minnie's entrance (except for the brief Jake Wallace scene) that features a dozen such singers, was experienced as pantomime. Time after time during the evening, the orchestra was allowed -- encouraged? -- to obliterate anything in its path. As a performance of the Fanciulla symphony it wasn't bad, but Puccini did write this as an OPERA and far too many moments, even for the three principal singers, were inaudible.
There was another disappointment. Tenor Carl Tanner, who has been impressive elsewhere, was miscast here. Like Minnie, Dick Johnson has some spectacular ascents into the upper register and Mr. Tanner didn't fail. But Johnson -- also like Minnie -- really lives in his middle voice and needs strength at the bottom as well. Mr. Tanner's voice doesn't blossom down there and its focus is warm and soft rather than clear and brilliant. Given the orchestral volume, he was mostly either inaudible or not really present vocally from his first entrance until half way through the final duet of act one. Act two was much the same. In act three, he seemed to find enough volume for basic audibility but the heart of the role does not lie well for him, particularly under the orchestral circumstances he faced last night.
Marco Chingari, a handsome man with a fine-grained baritone of nice, warm timbre, made a sympathetic if moderately-scaled Sheriff Rance. Stephen Gaertner's Sonora emerged an attractive presence, Daniel Mobbs sang Jake Wallace beautifully, Mary Ann Stewart actually made something of Wowkle, and Mr. Ferguson's Nick showed promise of a fine lyric tenor leading man in the making. Evaluation of the rest of the large cast must await a performance in which they can actually be heard with some consistency.
Ira Siff faced some serious challenges in directing a semi-staged Fanciulla. There's a massive amount of realistic action and he was also facing a leading lady who has gained a considerable amount of weight in the past year and who elected to sit during most of act two. This last created serious difficulties for Mr. Tanner when attempting to play any scenes opposite her and Mr. Siff may simply have given up. Act two featured a lot of wandering around the stage until the climactic poker game for Johnson's life. Here, where Ms. Millo could justifiably have sat across a table from Rance, Mr. Siff had the singers standing on either side of the podium singing straight out at the audience with not a card in sight. Fortunately, Ms. Millo made the moment electric visually and vocally all by herself.
But I cannot stress enough that SHE was enough. The performance last night will be remembered as a huge success, a success that rests firmly on her fully capable shoulders.
Technical Coordinator for Theater Arts
Massachusetts Institute of Technology