Recently in Performances
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.
It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre
Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances
dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed
at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in
the present case.)
I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the
annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I
heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It
was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at
As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to
life on stage
‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.
Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s
L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed
follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high.
The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution
of the CBSO to this concert.
When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities,
upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court
during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined
that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the
opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in
service of his God and his monarch.
Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.
The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.
There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.
First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.
With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).
What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question.
Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although
already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.
So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.
19 Nov 2004
Tosca at Graz
Boris Trajanov, Evan Bowers and Marquita Lister Opernhaus Graz's new production of Tosca is a hit. According to Larry Lash of the Financial Times, A stage direction in my score of Tosca has Scarpia making a cup of coffee...
Boris Trajanov, Evan Bowers and Marquita Lister
Opernhaus Graz's new production of Tosca is a hit. According to Larry Lash of the Financial Times,
A stage direction in my score of Tosca has Scarpia making a cup of coffee during the heroine's big number, "Vissi d'arte". In Dietmar Pflegerl's updated staging, Scarpia, a pony-tailed metrosexual, skips the cappuccino: he puts down his crystal rioja goblet, tends to some silver candlesticks, dims the lights in his elegantly minimalist office and spreads a fur in front of the fireplace in anticipation of doing the nasty, as the diva pours out her heart to her punishing God. Things in Rome sure have changed since 1800.
Pflegerl's genius lies in such moments when he pointedly illuminates characters' emotions. Whether it be Cavaradossi hugging a quivering political prisoner, Scarpia enjoying a manicure or Tosca groping her lover and then shimmying out of the church, these simple gestures contrast with the big shockers in perhaps the least subtle opera ever written.
Marquita Lister as Tosca "has a voice like a cup of rich, hot cocoa: luscious, dark, thick and bittersweet. . . . Evan Bowers's velvet trumpet tenor, meltingly gorgeous with tender phrasing, perfectly fitted his heroic, nice-guy Cavaradossi. Complex, seductive and sardonic, Boris Trajanov brought unexpected nuances to Scarpia, unleashing tones as dark as a bottomless pit and blazing top notes."
Floria Tosca — Marquita Lister
Mario Cavaradossi — Evan Bowers
Baron Scarpia — Boris Trajanov; Egils Silins
Cesare Angelotti — Wilfried Zelinka
Spoletta — Manuel von Senden; Andries Cloete
Der Messner — David McShane
Sciarrone — Shavleg Macharashvili; István Szecsi
Ein Kerkermeister — Konstantin Sfiris; Shavleg Macharashvili
Ein Hirte — Grazer Kapellknabe
Click here for scheduling information and production photos.