Recently in Performances
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.
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.
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.
Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.
Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.
San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).
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.