Recently in Reviews
It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.
With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.
Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.
If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”
Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?
Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.
On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.
Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.
Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.
Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.
The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s ﬁrst great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.
The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.
This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.
Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’
Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.
Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by
the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.
30 Oct 2005
Ewa Podleś — Rossini Gala
If Rossini could set a laundry list to music, then Ewa Podleś is one of the few candidates available to sing it. In this CD, recorded live at the Polish Radio Hall in Wroclaw (Wratislavia), during the thirty third International Festival Wratislavia Cantans Music and Fine Arts, the Polish contralto gives ample proof of her status as one of the great singers of her generation.
Podleś is one of those singers whose versatile instrument is as comfortable singing Tancredi, in the opera by the same name, Isabella (L’Italiana in Algieri), Rosina (Barbiere di Siviglia), Adalgisa (Norma), Eboli (Don Carlo), or La Haine in Gluck’s Armida. In fact, this singer can tackle any role she desires, and do it successfully. Her voice is dramatic, and she possesses an extraordinary technique which enables her to show off an impressive range spanning three octaves. She is a remarkable artist whose effortless singing comes through in her emotionally charged performances.
The timbre in her voice is warm, bronzed and pleasant to the ear; her ability to switch registers with great ease is well demonstrated, as in Arsace’s aria,“ A quel giorno,” springing from the depths of her being, and ending with crystal clear soprano-like high note; and the reverse is also true as in the finale of “Non temer d’un basso affetto” from Maometto II. She displays a firm, secure, staccato with short, rapidly sung notes, which Bernard Holland (New York Times, May 5, 2005) has likened to “bayonet charges.” When listening to this CD, other singers come to mind, not as a point of comparison, but as a compliment to her artistry and her ability to convey the drama, emotions, and the “Bel Canto” of what she is singing. Podleś delivers a rock solid performance—close to sixty minutes of non-stop singing, in what must have been an electrifying concert.
Podleś’ is clearly not one to please every listener—like any other singer she has her “own” mannerisms, some which are more noticeable in live performances; but the qualities of her instrument and her artistry cannot be denied. The contralto was in powerful form for this concert, and after listening to this CD her detractors will also come out her most ardent fans.
The Leopoldinum Chamber Orchestra, under conductor Wojciech Michniewski, is very effective in accompanying Podleś. This CD also includes one solo selection for the orchestra, the overture to Rossini’s Il Babiere di Siviglia.
Daniel Pardo 2005