Recently in Performances
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.
The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.
One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.
That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.
Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.
‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.
The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.
In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.
High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.
The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.
‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough
and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy
will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.
It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?
‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies,
that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’
Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon
which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting
and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can
charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to
convey emotion and embody character.
‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.
Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.
It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).
Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.
Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.
23 Feb 2006
La Forza del Destino at the Met — Four Reviews
METROPOLITAN OPERA: "Commissioned for St Petersburg (the premiere was in 1862), La Forza del Destino was based on a play by the Duke of Rivas, and was at first only a moderate success. Although Verdi revised it for Milan in 1869, it took a long time for audiences to come to appreciate the sprawling drama; several years take place between the first and last scenes, and the number of coincidences in the plot stretches credulity to the limit. But the overture, the arias for Leonora (including “Pace!”), and the duets for tenor and baritone have ensured that the opera remains popular whenever it is revived." Here are four reviews.
A Conductor's Date With Destiny
BY JAY NORDLINGER [NY Sun, 22 February 2006]
One of Verdi's best operas is now playing at the Met: "La Forza del Destino," a stew of arias, duets, choruses, and drama that makes a near-perfect operatic feast. If you don't like "Forza," you don't like Verdi. And you probably don't like the Italian repertoire. I won't go so far as to say you don't like life.
Click here for remainder of article.
The Marquis's Daughter and the Inca Prince Who Loves Her
By ALLAN KOZINN [NY Times, 22 February 2006]
The economics of opera being what they are, there are reasons to worry about a production that the Metropolitan Opera files away immediately after its premiere and leaves in storage for a decade. When it finally returns, it looks as if the company is holding its finger to the wind, trying to sneak it past an audience that either missed or has forgotten the original run, and hoping it's safe to slip it into the repertory.
Click here for remainder of article.
La forza del destino, Metropolitan Opera, New York
By Martin Bernheimer [Financial Times, 22 February 2006]
It looked so promising on paper. La forza del destino, virtually uncut, was returning to the mighty Met on Monday after a decade's absence, with a cast that seemed elite by current standards. Reality, alas, did not reinforce expectations. For at least one observer this was a sad night at the opera.
Click here for remainder of article.
'La Forza' may not be with you at the Met
BY MARION LIGNANA ROSENBERG [Newsday, 23 February 2006]
Seas of anguish surrounding islands of bitter humor, lit by the faintest glimmers of grace: Verdi's "La Forza del Destino" (1869) is volcanic, giddy, pious and among the hardest operas to perform well. The composer had a special fondness for this novelistic work, which he deemed one of his "modern" operas and repeatedly withheld from performance unless an exacting conductor and a theatrically sharp ensemble could be assembled.
Click here for remainder of review.