Recently in Performances
On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.
In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.
Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.
On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.
There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.
With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia
Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory
mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola,
whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the
Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.
Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.
Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.
It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.
Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.
American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no
less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series
feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera,
Nixon in China.
Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.
'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.
On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.
In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener
Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.
In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the
Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in
a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.
I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and
Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series
programmes opening the New Year.
There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.
On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.
Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.
20 Jan 2005
Karita Mattila — A Stunning Leonore
'Fidelio' returns Lyric, cast rise above flawed Beethoven opera By John von Rhein Tribune music critic January 19 2005, 1:00 AM CST "Fidelio" has been missing in action at Lyric Opera for nearly 24 years, much too long for...
Lyric, cast rise above flawed Beethoven opera
By John von Rhein
Tribune music critic
January 19 2005, 1:00 AM CST
"Fidelio" has been missing in action at Lyric Opera for nearly 24 years, much too long for a flawed masterpiece that once held sway on Wacker Drive whenever the great tenor Jon Vickers was available to sing the punishing role of Florestan.
Beethoven's only opera attempts to translate the high-flown democratic ideals he later developed in his Ninth Symphony into credible theatrical form. He didn't fully succeed despite his heroic labors. But dramatic awkwardness finally bows to the music itself: a great score driven by noble sentiment.
Much of that noble sentiment was recognizable in the radiant Finnish soprano Karita Mattila's thrilling portrayal of Leonore, the opera's courageous, larger-than-life heroine, at the Lyric's first performance of the season Tuesday night at the Civic Opera House.
But the Lyric also did itself proud with its casting of the other roles, all of them strongly filled.
Whatever inconsistencies of concept marred German stage director Jürgen Flimm's updated production from the Metropolitan Opera (taken over in his absence by his assistant, Gina Lapinski) were more than offset by the splendidly idiomatic conducting of Christoph von Dohnányi, returning in triumph to the theater that gave him his U.S. operatic debut 36 years ago.
[Click here for remainder of review.]
Beethoven's 'Fidelio' seizes the heart
January 20, 2005
BY WYNNE DELACOMA Classical Music Critic
With all due respect to Beethoven -- creator of those landmark piano sonatas, gripping string quartets and iconic Ninth Symphony -- opera was not his forte. "Fidelio,'' his sole foray into the form, which opened Tuesday night at Lyric Opera of Chicago, has its clunky patches. In Act II, he is so eager to emphasize his points about the value of freedom and selfless love that he belabors them mercilessly.
But such weak spots were easy to overlook, given the powerful musical and theatrical forces at work in this production conducted by the estimable Christoph von Dohnanyi and starring Karita Mattila in the title role, Rene Pape as the jailer Rocco and Kim Begley as the imprisoned Florestan.
"Fidelio's'' story of a wife risking her life to free her unjustly imprisoned husband is universal, and designer Robert Israel has moved the action to the 20th century. The tale of the loving wife, Leonore, who disguises herself as a male prison guard, Fidelio, in an attempt to rescue her husband, Florestan, plays out in a grim concrete prison block. Its gray, forbidding shadow could be falling across God-forsaken stretches of west Texas, Bosnia or South Africa. Originally staged for the Metropolitan Opera by Jurgen Flimm in 2000 and staged for Lyric by Met assistant director Gina Lapinski, this is a world in which important politicians wear well-cut three-piece suits and prison guards sport short-sleeved khaki shirts and brandish billy clubs.
At the center of this barren arena, Mattila's Fidelio glowed like a judiciously hooded but red-hot flame. Previously this season, the Finnish soprano sang a moving Donna Anna in Lyric's "Don Giovanni," and her Leonore/Fidelio offered an even more nuanced blend of glorious singing and riveting acting. Mattila's voice is big and agile, with a bright center and velvety edge, capable of plumbing every facet of Leonore's treacherous emotional journey.
[Click here for remainder of review.]