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“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”
A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.
Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure,
this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish
hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably
Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left
much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang
bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars
lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano
Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera
Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night
of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.
On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value
a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.
05 Aug 2005
BIZET: Les Pecheurs de Perles
Bizet's youthful masterpiece is notoriously difficult to stage. Up to now I have not seen a production which is not slightly ridiculous. So it is an ideal opera for a concert performance or a listening experience. If you are looking for an authentic performance this is not the one to go for.
The orchestra is somewhat thin sounding and so is the chorus. Conductor Bruno Rivoli (whose name is printed in the smallest letter possible on the back) has some strange ideas concerning tempi at the start of the opera (the faster the better) until Alfredo Kraus makes his entrance and then Mr. Rivoli gladly follows the experienced guide. There is no libretto included and for those wishing to brush up their French this is not the course to follow. The chorus has no inkling what it is singing and Vicente Sardinero grunts a lot of sounds that vaguely resembles French. Therefore this set is strictly for the fans of the three principal singers and it must be said they will not be disillusioned.
The main attraction of course is tenor Alfredo Kraus whose picture is on the cover though he is at least twenty years younger on it than he was at the time of the performance. Still the voice after a career of 26 years had the youthful sheen which at the end of the eighties would gradually disappear. Kraus is the only singer with perfect French and he is his stylish self though with a few reservations which definitely won't put off his fans as he is playing a home match and not recording a set for the international market he is not too much concerned with note values. Each high note is kept a second longer than necessary though he doesn't make a circus spectacle of this facility. He makes his entrance with a blazing unwritten high C and he keeps up the good works all along .There is in my opinion something lacking in this performance: charm and sweetness. Take the big aria " Je crois entendre encore ". The voice is a little too stiff, too unwieldy to lead us into the land of his dreams. There is no morbidezza in this song which can be found so abundantly in Alain Vanzo's interpretations. Moreover Kraus' attacks on the high notes are always fortissimo, then gradually declining into piano and this makes the aria more of a robust love song than a dream. Of course the moment determination has to be shown his approach works magnificently as in the duet " Ton coeur n'a compris le mien ".
Mariella Devia is a fine Leila — young sounding (and not old as Jeanine Micheau did on the historic set with Gedda) or too thin as with Ileana Cotrubas on the later EMI-set though that lady has a bit more charm than the Italian soprano. Devia's middle register is not very distinct but of course the voice takes flight from middle G on. Baritone Vicente Sardinero mixes up Bizet with Mascagni. There is no elegance in his delivery like Blanc or Massard gave us but there is no denying the fully rounded sound he brings with him. Bass Giovanni Foiani is a deluxe Nourabad in a role which is often weakly cast. Indeed I always wondered why he didn't have a bigger career.
As told, this is not an authentic performance of the score though I take the heretic view that hundred and fifty years of tradition cannot be wiped away as some seasoned performers probably recognized better the beauties of the opera than did 25-year old Bizet himself. The hit of the piece " Au fond du temple sain " is given the traditional reprise of the main theme after the short quarrel between Nadir and Zurga instead of the somewhat clumsy melody Bizet wrote. And I still think that Benjamin Godard's trio " O lumiere sainte " (magnificently sung here) is a more impressive way to conclude the opera than Bizet's own ideas.