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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.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
Ossia Il barbiere di Siviglia. Why waste a good tune.
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’.
Both by default and by merit Il barbiere di Siviglia is the hit of the thirty-fifth Rossini Opera Festival. But did anyone really want, and did the world really need yet another production of this old warhorse?
Armida (1817) is the third of Rossini’s nine operas for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, all serious. The first was Elisabetta, regina di Inghilterra (1815), the second was Otello (1816), the last was Zelmira (1822).
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.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
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.
06 Oct 2005
ORFF: Carmina Burana
Once hailed by the Nazis as a symbol of Aryan supremacy, Carmina Burana has come to be recognized as a powerful expression of the gluttony and depravity present in a medieval, pagan society. An effective performance of Orff’s musical adventure must allow audiences to envision the “imagines magicae,” or magical images conveyed through the convergence of music and choreography.
In the absence of a stage presence, the performers must strive to pointedly depict the illustrative tales portrayed in love songs, drinking songs, and fantasies that together form the rich tapestry that is Carmina Burana.
In this work, Carl Orff thoughtfully selected twenty-five Goliardic poems from the thirteenth-century Benektbeuren manuscript to set to music. The mood of each poem is so remarkably distinctive that in creating a musical setting, each required a drastically different approach. Through this wide-ranging contrast, Orff was able to demonstrate his amazing versatility as a composer. Likewise, Günter Wand and the musicians of the NDR Sinfonieorchester and Chorus commendably mirrored Orff’s talents.
The opening “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi,” radiated the necessary strength and power to rival the most prominent of ensembles. “O Fortuna” lends itself to images of greatness, and this performance never diminishes the desired outcome. On the contrary, the strength of the chorus, the carefully balanced orchestra, and the well-articulated unison passages, all added to the percussive effect to create a feeling of imposing dominance.
In contrast to the bold statements in this first section, the “Primo Vere,” a section devoted to Spring, was lyrical and well-phrased, reinforcing the diversity of the piece and its interpreters. Baritone Peter Binder showcased his talents as well through his smooth voice and relaxed delivery. The springtime feeling continued in “Uf dem Anger” (On the Lawn) where the strings interjected playfully syncopated melodies that where delightfully light and care-free.
“In Taberna” (In the Tavern), a colorful section opening with Baritone Peter Binder and featuring Tenor Ulf Kenklies, was among the more dramatic (in the Thespian-sense), in that the inebriation referred to in the text certainly came across in the soloists’ voices. Ulf Kenklies noticeably exaggerates the intoxicated inflections in a quite entertaining way, depicting images of swan resigned to its miserable fate, as described in the text.
The love songs of the “Cour D’Amour” are characterized by lilting voices in the chorus and Soprano Maria Venuti, as well as seductive calls from the tenor and bass soloists. The songs range from playful, to mischievous, to utterly romantic. Maria Venuti is simply amazing in “Dulcissime,” the last song of the section, showing off with her unwavering tone and power in a register-taxing, cadenza-like passage.
The restatement of the “O Fortuna” is as impressive in the closing frame of the work as in the opening. The variety of styles and themes that come together to form such a complex entity tend to leave audiences fully satisfied. Carmina Burana fans won’t want to miss out on this extraordinary performance that exceeds the already high expectations generally attributed to this monumental work.
University of Tennessee