Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

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.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

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.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

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.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

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.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

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.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

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.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

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).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Eglise Gutierrez & Joyce DiDonato (Photo: Ken Howard, © 2006)
18 Jul 2006

CINDERELLA GLITTERS

JULES MASSENET'S 'BROADWAY HIT,' the 1899 Cendrillon, billed as Cinderella but sung in French, was given top notch treatment at its Santa Fe Opera debut Saturday night (July 15).

The Old Master of French opera would have been delighted that his fairy tale show was so well treated. Indeed, Broadway would be lucky to welcome such an audience-pleasing and musically polished light entertainment.

Santa Fe Opera, not known as a French house, pulled off a high-style, energetic production with enough excellent singing and good orchestral playing to let you know you were not in a vaudeville theatre. Otherwise,
the presentation was strictly show-biz and for this mild, melodious bit of operetta fluff, that is a very good thing.

French producer/designer Laurent Pelly was hero of the occasion. His conception of the musical fairy tale was low-farce with touches of romance and sentiment, and when it was not over-illuminated by the inconsistent lighting designer Duane Schuler, it glowed with youth and, dare I say, modernity. With no special effort to bring the old 19th Century show into a later era, the feeling was always up-to-date and fresh. The boy-girl plot is a slight one; Cinderella's trials and tribulations are thrice familiar and just barely endurable, but couched in Massenet's beautifully written score and graced by his buoyant melodies the package was a delight to enjoy on its own terms. A few solo numbers and lovely duets took care of expectations of operatic music, otherwise all was romp and posturing.

Set in a series of sliding walls, panels and free-standing backdrops entirely covered with the artfully inscribed text of the fairy tale (in French) - it was fun to sit there and translate - the show was alive visually due to vividly colored costumes (rouge ruled), comical and over-stated, that had the audience laughing and applauding at every turn. Cinderella's coach, pulled by two dancers charmingly gotten up as horses, was the French word for coach - carrosse - most artfully wrought into a carriage of sorts, that wheeled gracefully onto the stage and off again bearing its beautiful cargo to the Prince's Ball - yes the glass slipper was visible as was a pungent Fairy Godmother issuing her charge to be home by midnight.

What made it all work? Aside from Massenet's music, the performance of Joyce DiDonato, a winsome young lyric mezzo-soprano from Kansas City, galvanized the show. Cinderella is a big sing, and DiDonato had the vocal strength and quality to last the evening. Her acting was simple and natural, while she played against Richard Stilwell, as her loving father Pandolfe, with sincerity and touching sentiment. This is likely a hard role to master as it requires unfailing energy, a lot of high notes and strong emotion, and it cannot seem artful. DiDonato was in every way appropriate to the occasion, as was the sympathetic veteran baritone, Stilwell, a favorite at Santa Fe since 1972.

The important role of Fairy Godmother, engine of the action all evening, was a big success for Cuban-born coloratura soprano Eglise Gutierrez. Her mock magical heroics on stage and her remarkable high soprano singing were assured and engaging. Cute, bosomy, delightfully costumed, with an illuminated wand and amusing gestures to control those in her spell, this was one Fairy in a million. Watch for the name, she's to be heard from. Billie Burke is envious!

Most of the remainder of the cast was in a lesser league. Judith Forst, the distinguished Canadian mezzo, seemed ill-cast as the caricatured social-climbing stepmother, Madame de la Haltiere, disappointing in both vocal force and comic creativity. She was quickly a worn cliché, as were her 'ugly' daughters sung by faint voiced Ann-Carolyn Bird and Gabriela Garcia. Special dispensation must be given to a young mezzo soprano, Jennifer Holloway, a second year apprentice in the Santa Fe Opera young artist program. She replaced the noted Kristine Jepson, through on several months' notice, as Prince Charming - normally the other leading role of the opera. It was otherwise with Holloway, not that she did not look the part and have a promising voice - for indeed she was convincing to the eye as a lean young man and her voice encompassed all the notes. Stage experience, however, was not hers and she seemed too often dramatically pallid and emotionally uninvolved. It was probably unwise to cast young Holloway against a major talent such as DiDonato; let's check back in five years.

A few members of the Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet graced the stage as presenters at the Prince's Ball, and after a rather insipid start, conductor Kenneth Montgomery and his fine-sounding orchestra settled into good routine. Cinderella at Santa Fe is a winning show, maybe even the hit of the five-opera summer season, with seven performances to go through August 24.

We are advised the season is largely sold-out, though there are turn-backs.

J. A. Van Sant, Santa Fe

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):