Recently in Performances
‘Mack does bad things.’ The tabloid headline that convinces Rory
Kinnear’s surly, sharp-suited Macheath that it might be time to take a
short holiday epitomizes the cold, understated menace of Rufus Norris’s
production of Simon Stephens’ new adaptation of The Threepenny
Opera at the Olivier Theatre.
On May 25, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of the Herbert Ross production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La bohème. Stage director, Peter Kazaras, made use of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s wide stage by setting some scenes usually seen inside the garret on the surrounding roof instead.
On May 21, 2016, Ars Minerva presented The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles (Le Amazzoni nelle Isole Fortunate), an opera consisting of a prologue and three acts by seventeenth century Venetian composer Carlo Pallavicino.
While Pegida anti-refugee demonstrations have been taking place for a while
now in Dresden, there was something noble about the Semperoper with its banners
declaring all are welcome, listing Othello, the Turk, and the hedon Papageno as
Opera houses’ neglect of Leoš Janáček remains one
of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the
‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas
would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa,
Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely
hook most for life.
It’s not easy for critics to hit the right note when they write about musical collaborations between students and professionals. We have to allow for inevitable lack of polish and inexperience while maintaining an overall high standard of judgment.
Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on
Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so
given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to
see three different productions within little more than a couple of
Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.
George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.
Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.
‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’
Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is
wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.
This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.
As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.
From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the
Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the
appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic
dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today,
‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in
genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.
On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.
A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.
Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.
Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.
What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.
08 Jan 2005
Verlaine and Rimbaud in Boston
'Verlaine and Rimbaud' has the poetry but not the passion By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff | January 8, 2005 Intermezzo: The New England Chamber Opera Series adventurously alternates standard 20th-century chamber operas with new works. The company opened its third...
'Verlaine and Rimbaud' has the poetry but not the passion
By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff | January 8, 2005
Intermezzo: The New England Chamber Opera Series adventurously alternates standard 20th-century chamber operas with new works. The company opened its third season last night with its sixth world premiere, "Verlaine and Rimbaud" by David Paul Gibson.
In brief pre-performance remarks Gibson referred to his 15-year friendship with baritone John Whittlesey, founder and artistic director of the company, and thanked him for the opportunity to experience his own music in performance -- "now I can take it home and work some more on it." Let us hope he does, because the piece does need work, but it also has something going for it beyond the sensational subject matter, the erotic and artistic relationship between the established poet Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, the rebel genius 10 years his junior.
Eighteen brief, pivotal scenes adding up to about an hour chart the emotional temperature. The libretto, Gibson's own, alternates exposition with settings of poems by the pair in new English translations. The exposition is elementary and sometimes pretentious (Rimbaud's poetry, Verlaine's wife sings, is a pearl produced by "a cancerous oyster"). And there is way too much of it -- the text treats this complex symbiotic relationship in shorthand terms reminiscent of "The Owl and the Pussycat." The poems, and their settings, are effective and even eloquent, and Gibson skillfully moves among recitative, aria, and ensemble in a conservative musical style influenced by Britten and, appropriately, French composers. But the piece needs to be longer, to probe deeper. Too much of it advances at the same tempo and emotional pitch; it lacks variety and real passion. The accompaniment is scored for piano and violin; the violin is occasionally intrusive, like a gypsy bearing down on your table in a restaurant, something you probably wouldn't feel if the composer were to rescore for a slightly larger ensemble.
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