Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Max Emanuel Cencic (Tamerlano) on throne (Photo: Bill Cooper)
15 Nov 2006

Handel Unwrapped by Scottish Opera: “Tamerlano” at tea-time

On a cold, wet and dark Glasgow evening in November, some 500 brave souls received what was possibly their first taste of baroque opera.

Above: Max Emanuel Cencic (Tamerlano) on throne

Photo by Bill Cooper. All photos courtesy of Scottish Opera.

 

The occasion was a special pre-performance event designed to offer local people the chance to get an insight into the operas that the Company are currently showing, and in this case it was Handel’s great drama “Tamerlano” written in that miraculous period of his life, 1723-25 when he also produced “Giulio Cesare” and “Rodelinda”. They call the series “Opera Unwrapped” and judging from the example last week, it is a resounding success.

The format is simple: the audience are invited to attend, for free, for an hour in the early evening prior to a performance that they may, or may not, be attending. All are welcome - on this occasion there were school children of about 8 or 9, and all ages above - and the musicians are members of the regular orchestra and the singers are the understudies, or covers for the first cast. What is essential is an excellent communicator as host to guide proceedings and explain what is being seen, and Scottish Opera certainly had that in Mark Hathaway, staff producer and assistant to the opera’s director John la Bouchardiere. He had the sort of engaging charm and self-deprecating wit that everyone responded to immediately - no High Artiness here.

In an hour, young and old in the audience were given a quick but informed resume of the baroque opera form, Handel and his times, the castrati and today’s countertenor voice, the de capo aria and - to the delight of the kids - how to replicate an angry tyrant spraying a room with machine-pistol bullets. That went down particularly well and judging by their faces in a box above me, it was a real “shock and awe” success. On the subject of the countertenor voice, our host invited second-cast Robert Ogden to demonstrate the entire range of his voice, from the top of his falsetto to the bottom of his root baritone voice - again this drew appreciative applause and much comment. It also presumably cleared up any lingering misconceptions about the singer’s masculinity that might have remained in the minds of those not yet familiar with the voice-type. Some more insights into high-level work in the set and safety lines - demonstrated by a brave soprano - concluded the entertainment, and entertaining it certainly was, judging by the buzz of fascinated and positive reactions all around the auditorium.

Scottish OperaMany opera houses already have outreach programmes, and pre-performance talks, but this most open and democratic of formats which encourages people to just pop into the theatre after work, or school, seems to work particularly well as a blue-print for extending and deepening the company’s relationship with its local population.

Anyone who saw the little nine year old girl leaning over the balcony and studiously mimicking the conductor as he guided the orchestra through a lively ritornello, or watched the twelve year old boy riveted by Tamerlano’s furious outbursts and gun-toting in Act Three, could only assume that they, at the very least, went home wanting to come again one day to the magical world of opera. Let us hope that Scottish Opera will still be there for them.

Sue Loder

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):