Recently in Performances
Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to
explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs
that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and
theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.
Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.
It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.
Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.
Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.
Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.
The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.
On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.
There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.
It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.
At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.
Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican,
London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony
Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating
a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens
or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?
Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.
Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.
Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.
Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me
I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.
An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.
On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.
Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.
On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.
22 Feb 2005
Anne Sofie von Otter at Göteborg
Yesterday [19 February 2005], I went to the concert hall in Göteborg, where Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg held a recital. It was the first time I actually heard them live, and I must confess that I was apprehensive! I have listened to them so much on recordings and taken so much influence from them, especially when it comes to my repertoire — what if I didn’t like them in concert? The concert hall was full — 1200 seats, imagine that for a recital… I have a hard time getting jobs at all because it is so hard to attract audiences to recitals. But, they are world famous and that, of course, attracts a large audience.
Anne Sofie von Otter at Göteborg
Yesterday [19 February 2005], I went to the concert hall in Göteborg, where Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg held a recital. It was the first time I actually heard them live, and I must confess that I was apprehensive! I have listened to them so much on recordings and taken so much influence from them, especially when it comes to my repertoire -- what if I didn't like them in concert? The concert hall was full -- 1200 seats, imagine that for a recital... I have a hard time getting jobs at all because it is so hard to attract audiences to recitals. But, they are world famous and that, of course, attracts a large audience.
At the beginning of the recital, I was embarrassed by people who clapped their hands after every song. I was wondering when/if the performers were going to say something about it, you could tell they were not happy about it. But what they did was wonderful! After three songs, Bengt Forsberg came to the microphone and talked about the next set of songs, "Four Serbian Folksongs" by Tor Aulin. Then Anne Sofie von Otter talked about the lyrics. As they were about to start, Bengt Forsberg jumped up again and said "ooh I just want to say that these pieces go so well together and would you please clap after all four are finished. We love that you do it, but..." He said it in such a friendly way that everyone felt at ease, and it was a great atmosphere during the rest of the concert.
Lars-Erik Larsson: Skyn, blomman och en lärka
Wilhelm Stenhammar: Melodi, I lönnens skymning, Gammal nederländare
Tor Aulin: Four serbian folksongs: Till en ros, Vinter i hjärtat, Vad vill jag, Domen
Ernest Chausson: Paysage (for piano)
Cécile Chaminade: L'anneau d'argent, L'amour captif, Viens, mon bien aimé, Sombrero
Franz Schubert: Frühlingsglaube (D 686), Im Frühling (D 882), An mein herz (D 860), Im Abendrot (D 799)
Gustav Mahler: Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder, Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grünen Wald, Aus! Aus!
Erwin Schulhoff: Arabesque (op. 29, no. 1), Two pieces from "Hot music for piano"
Kurt Weill: Nannas Lied, Lied der Seeräuber-Jenny, Speak Low, Foolish heart
A wonderful and varied program. The two performers talked in between the pieces and made the atmosphere of the large room friendly and nice! They truly are professionals and they didn't seem to do anything but what they wanted to do.
The encores were fun: First, ABBAs "Thank you for the music", which became hilarious as Bengt Forsberg didn't play very well and von Otter started waving her arms beating the rhythm. In the end, she grabbed the mike and started to sing into it. I was laughing so hard that I cried- and later we got the explanation to what had happened: The lamps reflected on the music, so Bengt Forsberg couldn't see the music. The other encore was also Benny Andersson, from Kristina from Duvemala, "Ljusa kvällar om varen".
For me, this concert became a precious moment. The two performers truly brought out the best from the music, such a varied program, and everything performed in style. Even if they were funny and relaxed, they still performed the music with all the concentration and finesse that you could ask for. I wonder what they are like when they perform in other countries, if they are as relaxed and funny then, or if different cultures call for different behaviour?
This summer I was at the Scubertiade, and heard many good singers. No one talked in between songs though, and I have a hard time thinking that a concert like this could have taken place there. Or am I wrong?