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’.
20 Dec 2004
Kata Kabanova at the Met
Janacek’s Kata Kabanova began this year’s run at the Met on Friday night with a very new cast including two important and highly successful debuts.
This is Janacek late in his career, writing on a Russian subject by the playwright Ostrovsky. His admiration for Russian culture and literature may also have led him to follow Anton Chekhov’s example — Kata moves swiftly with the sense that any extraneous word or note has been rigorously pruned away — it is an opera that speaks directly and powerfully to its audience. Last night’s audience — the Met was at least 90% full — reacted with enthusiasm that bordered on delirium when the final curtain rose again for beloved Finnish soprano Karita Mattila’s pride-of-place first solo bow.
Janacek's Kata Kabanova began this year's run at the Met on Friday night with a very new cast including two important and highly successful debuts.
This is Janacek late in his career, writing on a Russian subject by the playwright Ostrovsky. His admiration for Russian culture and literature may also have led him to follow Anton Chekhov's example — Kata moves swiftly with the sense that any extraneous word or note has been rigorously pruned away — it is an opera that speaks directly and powerfully to its audience. Last night's audience — the Met was at least 90% full — reacted with enthusiasm that bordered on delirium when the final curtain rose again for beloved Finnish soprano Karita Mattila's pride-of-place first solo bow.
Ms. Mattila is not perfect. Let's get out of the way the fact that the lower voice is rather dry and not the most interesting register she possesses. Beyond that, her Kata moved from strength to strength as she created a wholly convincing character and sang the role with blazing conviction, beauty of tone and a glorious upper register. Particularly in act 3 her talents as an actress were astonishing — her physicality in expressing Kata's self revulsion, then the poignancy and aching need for some kind of physical contact from the feckless Boris, then the radiant calm with which she sang that birds would fly over her grave and bring their young with them. Then she turned and instead of an actressy leap into the Volga, she simply dropped off the riverbank and let herself be absorbed in the ever-flowing river's history. The woman next to me gasped; when it was all over the crowd went crazy.
Judith Forst provided a scary Kabanicha, ramrod straight, seethingly intolerant, demanding, manipulative, ultimately unbearable and so wonderfully tempting to hate. Along the revival's director Paula Williams and the rock-solid bass Vladimir Ognovenko as Dikoj, Forst has reimagined the bizarre little scene for Kababicha and Dikoj in act 2. Formerly played as a scene where the drunk and slobbering Dikoj disgusts her, she is now visibly aroused and the scene ends with Dikoj on his knees clutching her hips and buttocks with his face buried in her bodice. The curtain quickly falls on what will certainly be a monstrous and morally hypocritical coupling in contrast to the healthier mating of Varvara (the luminous Magda Kozena) and Vana Kudrias (Ramond Very is a superbly detailed and sympathetic performance) or the tragic one of Kata and Boris.
Tenor Jorma Silvasti displayed warm and shimmering tone as Boris and Chris Merritt presented the spineless, trapped but well-meaning Tichon to the life. In his Met debut, conductor Jiri Belohlavek let a taut, propulsive and very beautiful reading of the score, seconded by the Met orchestra in top form. The cast was strongly applauded but it all paled next to the reception for Ms. Mattila. This was a star performance totally at service to the role and the work, sung and acted by a star performer at the height of her art.
Technical Coordinator for Theater Arts
Massachusetts Institute of Technology