Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

La Fille du regiment, Royal Opera

Donizetti’s opera comique La Fille du regiment returned to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for its third revival.

Schoenberg and company

With Schoenberg, I tend to take every opportunity I can — at least since my first visit to the Salzburg Festival, when understandably I chose to see Figaro over Boulez conducting Moses und Aron, though I have rued the loss ever since.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Scene from Orfeo ed Euridice (Photo Credit: Robert Kusel)
14 Mar 2006

HIGH RISK “ORFEO” FROM CHICAGO LYRIC

Producer Robert Carsen, together with his set designer Tobias Hoheisel, is taking a big risk with their new production of Glück’s 1762 version for alto of “Orfeo ed Euridice” at Chicago Lyric Opera.

By stripping down the story to its bare bones, eschewing ballets, later additions and mock Grecian tunics, he takes us to the core of the work within seconds of the curtain rising. But then he has to keep us there: and with just a few sweeps of grey stones, a heaped grave (concealing both entrance and exit to the Underworld) and a lit cyclorama sky for much of the production — enlightened by superb lighting and occasional dramatic torches — that is a tall order. However, he has a trump card in the form of his acting singers. With complete faith in the abilities of David Daniels (Orfeo), Isabel Bayrakdarian (Euridice), and Ofelia Sala (Amor) to plumb depths of pathos with dignity and truth, and to hold the eye unwaveringly, he challenges the Chicago audience to go with him in this very singular and arresting vision of the ancient myth.

Not that the audience has much option — the entire opera lasts some ninety minutes only, but is given without intermission with just brief interludes between the acts. This has been something of a novelty for many in the audience, but they have responded with good manners and fulsome praise — and with virtually full houses both nights this writer attended, obviously the word was out that this was a production not to be missed. And, of course, all got out to their various transports somewhat earlier than normal — a bonus on freezing Lake Michigan nights.

Such intensity of drama and singing, with essentially just two major characters and a deux et machine to motivate the action, requires top class performers and the voice of American countertenor David Daniels in all its voluptuous beauty was the essential ingredient that balanced Carsen’s austere vision and the music’s serene elegance. He is on stage continuously, with but occasional vocal respite — and without doubt this must become one of his great roles. Total physical commitment, total integrity, and a fine vocal line that spun heartache and despair in a way that inspired awe at its consistent beauty and superb intonation. This was a fuller, more intensely lived performance than his earlier concert version at Covent Garden in 2002 and he was complemented by his colleagues throughout.

Bayrakdarian, when she appeared at last from the depths of Hades, in this case literally out from the grave, was a perfect match both vocally and dramatically. She is an elegant figure on stage who more than convinced with her mix of innocent anguish, confusion and despair. Her timbre and tone seemed perfect for this brief, but essential role as she had to quickly establish all the emotions required within minutes. At times in the climactic third act both characters were twisting, turning, almost engaging, then being torn apart again by Orfeo’s panic-driven attempts to abide by his instructions. Ofelia Sala’s Amor was a bright, sparkling, if essentially static, contrast to the more dramatic voices alongside her and her scenes with the despairing lover were memorable as she ably depicted the capricious, boyish Amor who sanguinely orders the night’s action. She is obviously a singer of wide dramatic capability; as her Tytania in the Liceu, Barcelona’s “Midsummer Nights Dream”, (also with Daniels and now on DVD) attests.

With this 1762 version of the opera, Glück was making an early attempt to put the brakes on the traditional indulgent opera forms of his predecessors, and both Carsen and Daniels follow through in every way. They create, and maintain, a steady, if ratcheting-up, dramatic growth. There is no showboating of the famous arias, each of these emerges naturally, on the breath, from within the music and the story and worked well when the audience was prepared to sit quietly and let this seamlessness just happen. One night they did, another they didn’t and burst into spontaneous applause — somewhat to the detriment of the magic.

Baroque expert Harry Bicket’s control of orchestra and chorus was neatly effective, if perhaps a mite less successful in period feel than his previous “Partenope” by Handel here — but nevertheless the Lyric orchestra offered some nice attack and articulation whilst not loitering too much in the plusher sections of the score. Alternating with “Rosenkavalier” at the end of a long season must have been particularly testing for them — how often do we audience give a thought to these hard-working musicians whose professionalism and multi-faceted skills are too easily taken for granted? Together with the excellently schooled Chorus — who had more than a usual amount of acting to get their teeth into in lieu of the more traditional ballet — this orchestra did the production proud, and helped create one of the most innovative, musically superb, and challenging “Orfeo’s” that has been seen in a long time. If only it could make the transition to DVD, and perhaps in a more sympathetic, smaller venue. Are you listening, Liceu? Munich? Glyndebourne? The production continues until March 26th.

© S.C. Loder 2006

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):