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Recently in Performances

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

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.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

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 Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

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.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘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.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

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. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

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.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

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.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

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.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

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.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

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.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

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

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.

Monsters and Marriage at the Aix Festival

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.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

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.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

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).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

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’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

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.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

13 Dec 2004

A Wedding in Chicago: Two Reviews

Altman opera a fitting renovation By Bill Gowen Daily Herald Classical Music Critic Posted Monday, December 13, 2004 It's rare that a film director has an opportunity for a do-over. But Robert Altman is no ordinary director, having created several...

Altman opera a fitting renovation

By Bill Gowen Daily Herald Classical Music Critic
Posted Monday, December 13, 2004

It's rare that a film director has an opportunity for a do-over.

But Robert Altman is no ordinary director, having created several of the most honored films of the past 40 years.

But even he will admit "A Wedding," filmed in Lake Forest in 1977 and released by 20th Century Fox the following year, isn't on the same exalted plane as "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," "Nashville" or "M*A*S*H." So when composer William Bolcom approached him about turning "A Wedding" into an opera, Altman wasn't all that enthusiastic.

But their successful Lyric Opera collaboration with "McTeague" in the 1992-93 season remained fresh in Altman's mind, and after several years' contemplation, the operatic "A Wedding" was born, with Altman the stage director and co-librettist (with Bolcom's longtime librettist, Arnold Weinstein). This creative team has come up with another operatic winner in a comedy of manners that presents a glimpse of a societal clash between two disparate families, one of them uncultured and nouveau riche from Louisville, the other a snobbish, high-society clan from the North Shore. Both are hiding numerous dark secrets from their past.

[Click here for remainder of article.]


Bolcom Musically Weds the Old Money to New

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI

CHICAGO, Dec. 12 - Most composers count themselves lucky to secure even one commission from a major opera company. William Bolcom has had three in relatively quick order from one America's leading companies, the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The first resulted in the intense and gothic "McTeague," of 1992. Then came "A View From the Bridge" in 1999, a work Mr. Bolcom described as his journey into "Brooklyn verismo." On Saturday night the Lyric Opera presented the world premiere of "A Wedding," adapted from Robert Altman's 1978 film.

I wish I could report that the Lyric Opera's admirable faith in Mr. Bolcom, a prodigiously skilled composer, has emboldened him. But musically "A Wedding" plays it safe. In some ways it is the least compelling of the three works, each written with Mr. Bolcom's longtime lyricist, Arnold Weinstein, as librettist.

Be assured that you will have a good time attending "A Wedding." Mr. Altman, who collaborated with Mr. Weinstein on the libretto, has directed the striking production, drawing nuanced and vibrant portraits from a splendid cast. The creators have done an ingenious job of adapting the film into an opera that holds the stage effectively. No small feat, since the film's 48 characters had to be reduced to 16 singing parts.

Based on a story by Mr. Altman and John Considine, the film is a bleakly satirical, class-skewering tale of a wedding between Dino, the rakish son of a wealthy family from the posh Chicago suburb of Lake Forest ("old money" people) and "Muffin," the smitten and vacuous daughter of a trucking magnate from Kentucky ("new money" people who haven't yet acquired the snobbish pretensions of the old).

Still, music should come first in opera and Mr. Bolcom takes a frustratingly deferential role, as if he were afraid to impede the stage show or undermine a sight gag. The score is filled with snappy songs and dance numbers, extractable arias, clever ensembles and pleasing bits. But after a while the music seems slight. I wish Mr. Bolcom had tried to entertain his listeners a little less and challenge them a little more.

[Click here for remainder of article.]

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