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A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
Gustav Mahler and fin-de-siècle Vienna will be the focus of the Oxford Lieder Festival (13-28 October 2017), exploring his influences, contemporaries and legacy. Mahler was a dominant musical personality: composer and preeminent conductor, steeped in tradition but a champion of the new. During this Festival, his complete songs with piano will be heard, inviting a fresh look at this ’symphonic’ composer and the enduring place of song in the musical landscape.
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.
For the first time in its history, this summer Garsington Opera will present four productions as well as a large community opera. 2017 also sees the arrival of the Philharmonia Orchestra for one opera production each season for the next five years.
New work by the English artist Rachel Kneebone will be exhibited at Glyndebourne Festival 2017, which opens for public booking on 5 March.
The London-based artist has created three new sculptures inspired by two of the operas being staged at the Festival this summer - Cavalli’s Hipermestra and a new opera based on Hamlet by composer Brett Dean and librettist Matthew Jocelyn.
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.
03 Aug 2005
ROSSINI: Equivoco Stravagante
A DVD performance of an opera may deserve recommendation for a single memorable performance, or because a rare work has finally been recorded, or simply for nostalgia's sake. How many DVDs primarily offer the pleasures of a witty, imaginative staging, done on a minimal budget?
Francesco Esposito (director and designer) has created such a performance for this Kicco Music DVD. Some Rossiniites may have been praying for a chance to see the very early L'Equivoco Stravagante; one hopes to be forgiven for suggesting the clamor elsewhere could not have been so great. The libretto's one amusing feature, alluded to in the title, involves a scam meant to convince an older suitor that his intended bride is actually a male — a castrato. That plot point takes up most of the shorter act two; act one offers a more familiar set of scenes of young lovers struggling against the preemptory rights of age and money. In fact, that first act contains many eerie foreshadowing of Barbieri di Siviglia, including the tenor suitor's disguised entrance into the house of his beloved, aided by that home's servant.
The score cannot compete with that of the later masterpiece, but the music remains fresh and energetic throughout.
Esposito, working with a cast of no great distinction, manages to make the performance come to life, mainly through his clever design. No one would mistake this for a Metropolitan Opera production. Clearly the theater is small and the budget tight. Necessity has engendered much creativity, however. Three large frames, representing different rooms and/or locales, dominate the stage. Within each frame are carefully selected props that truly evoke the required milieu — the kitchen setting in act one, with realistic steam seeping through pot lids, serves as just one example.
Most importantly, Esposito has sought out ways to keep the stage picture as fresh as the energetic action. So that sometimes only one of the frames is used, or two at other times too. In some scenes the chorus appears behind a long row of smaller frames, making for am amusing row of portraits. Through a variety of approaches Esposito keeps the action moving and still manages to set the scene. It is very well done.
Viewers may differ on whether the occasional use of film deserves as much praise. The overture accompanies some mystifying antics involving a Rossini bust come to life. Later, as the buffoonish older suitor imagines with horror the supposed male he has been romancing, we see that character (mezzo-soprano Olga Voznessenskaia) with full beard, entertaining a bevy of nymphs. (this is before the "knife" — here scissors — but surely a bearded youth wouldn't have a voice worth preserving through such extreme measures!)
Similarly, including the audience seating area in the action smacks a bit of desperation for innovation. The general spirit of fun allows for a forgiving spirit, however.
If only that spirit could extend to the reaction to the singers. The older suitor, played by the youthful Luciano Miotto, is decent enough, both as actor and singer. The other two leads leave much to be desired. The tenor, Vito Martino, is the anti-Juan Diego Florez — having neither that great singer's charming appearance or sweet, fluid instrument. One can only imagine how much more rewarding this performance would be with a more effective tenor.
Voznessenskaia, the supposed castrato in love with the tenor and eager to escape the clutches of the "basso comico," possesses a dark, heavy contralto, which belies the supposed youthful femininity of the character in the first act. The second act masquerade might be more believable with such a voice. Suffice it to say, when this contralto and tenor get together, the resulting duet makes for some uncomfortable listening.
The DVD has one large demerit — the titles, at least in English, are even worse than usual. One may become accustomed to the typical DVD's odd spelling or wayward syntax. Here, however, the shoddy translation makes some of the story incomprehensible. Surely someone can do better than "A man without a head in his head" or "Life don't out of me!" On the other hand, sometimes the mangled English becomes quite poetic as the mezzo decries the "frenetic delirium of a pygmy thinker" and the basso worries that he is engaged to a cross-dresser with "a rock beneath the waves." Ouch!
A mixed bag, therefore. On a vocal level, this L'Equivoco Stravagante can't merit a recommendation. As an example of what a truly creative director can do under less than ideal circumstances, the DVD provides much to ponder, and even enjoy. And Francesco Esposito deserves credit for that.
Los Angeles Harbor College