Recently in Performances
At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.
By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.
In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.
Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.
Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.
Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.
Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.
On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.
Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.
In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.
Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.
Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.
Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.
The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.
Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.
If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.
Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.
With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.
Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.
Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.
13 Oct 2005
Anna Christy in Recital
OMAHA — Having first heard Anna Christy a few years ago in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor, she clearly had a bright future ahead of her. On Tuesday, this opinion was not only reaffirmed, but it is now manifest that this lovely and elegant soprano is well on her way to becoming one of the great coloraturas of the 21st Century.
The first half of her recital was devoted to German lieder. She began with a set of three familiar works by Schubert: “Die Forelle,” “Du bist die Ruh” and “Heidenroeslein.” She approached these with appropriate restraint, emphasizing the text, phrasing and vocal placement.
This was followed by Schubert’s trio, “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen,” op. 129, for soprano, piano and clarinet. One of Schubert’s last works, this piece fluctuates from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of despair, ostensibly expressing Schubert’s thoughts of his own mortality. The musicians performed with near abandon, reaching a crescendo at “Je weiter meine Stimme dringt, je weiter die Stimme dringt, je heller, je heller sie wieder klingt” (“The further my voice penetrates, the further the voice penetrates, the lighter, the more brightly it sounds again”), which called for stunning vocal gymnastics.
The first half closed with five of the six lieder from op. 68 (the so-called “Brentano Lieder”) by Richard Strauss. Devilishly difficult, these pieces required perfect intonation, control and placement, all of which Christy performed with seeming ease. The last of this set, “Amor,” portrayed Christy’s coquettish side, a fitting preview of her upcoming performance of Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos) at La Scala later this season.
The second half was devoted to American music. Premiered by Eleanor Steber and more recently championed by the likes of Dawn Upshaw, Barber’s “Knoxville Summer of 1915,” op. 24, has become a standard amongst American singers. When performed with piano accompaniment, the range of stylistic choices made by Barber is starkly revealed, which demonstrates Barber’s lyrical best to percussive rhythms àla Prokofiev or Bartok. The challenges to the performers are daunting. As throughout the recital, Christy performed with precision as to phrasing and dynamics. Her tone was at all times focused, bright and ringing. Well done.
Christy then concluded the second half with two works by William Bolcom — “Amor” from volume 1 of his Cabaret Songs and “Muffin’s aria” from his opera, A Wedding, which she premiered at the Chicago Lyric. As with the Strauss, “Amor” showed her as the classic femme fatale. “Muffin’s aria,” on the other hand, showed her introspective side.
She segued from “Muffin’s Aria” to her encore, Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” (Gianni Schicchi), by explaining that she recently married in Italy and planned to sing this on the bridge in Florence but “chickened out.” In a word, marvelous.
Christy was accompanied by pianist Kelly Kuo and, in "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen," by clarinetist John Klinghammer. Kuo was a true musical partner throughout the program. And, Klinghammer performed his role with aplomb.
At all times, Christy appeared at ease, as if she were in her natural element. While recitals do not call for dramatic action, it is clear that she is a singing actress of the first order.