Recently in Performances
“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”
A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.
Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure,
this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish
hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably
Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left
much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang
bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars
lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano
Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera
Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night
of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
19 Mar 2007
Angela Gheorghiu, Los Angeles
A near-capacity audience, expectant and enthusiastic, streamed into the Dorothy Chandler for an old-fashioned evening of operatic glamour, as Angela Gheorghiu, with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra in support, flew into town for a one night concert.
The soprano delivered on the
glamour big-time, with three gowns, glittering jewelry, and a happy, even flirty manner. She sang
beautifully too, if without the total captivation of her physical presence.
French music comprised the first half of the evening, with Eugene Kohn leading the orchestra in
a bumptious “Rakoczy March” from Berlioz’s Damnation de Faust. The musicians seemed to
need more warming up than the vocalist; the horns in particular struggled, possibly due to their
recent exertions with the LAO’s run of Tannhäuser.
Gheorghiu swept on in flaming red, and the ovation that greeted her spoke to the impression she
made with local audiences in her previous appearances with the company, as Nedda and Mimi.
She launched into the so-called “Jewel song” from Faust, a number that spotlights her easy,
bright top. Next was the program’s one rarity, “Pleurez, pleurez, mes Yeux,” from Massenet’s
El Cid. Though not the composer’s most memorable tune, the piece has enough dramatic
crescendos and darker passages to contrast well with the Gounod aria. After a gown change and
the orchestra’s tepid run-through of the Béatrice et Bénédict overture, Ms. Gheorghiu reappeared
and sang a tender “Adieu, notre petite table.” The first half ended with Ms. Gheoghiu’s
somewhat controversial essay into Carmen, but for a recital, her “Habañera” succeeded
wonderfully. She took a light-hearted approach, playful more than siren-ish, and the aria’s range
seemed to suit her well.
The second half went to Italian composers, with Kohn choosing the Mascagni overture to Le
Maschere, an unsubtle but fun piece. Gheorghiu’s Puccini Manon had a real poignance in “In
quelle trine morbide.” Then she offered one of her specialities, “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta,”
another opportunity to display her lovely top notes. She left for another gown change, and Kohn
led the orchestra, finally sounding like the excellent group that has played for James Conlon
recently, in Verdi’s overture to Les Vêpres Siciliennes. Now clad in glamorous black, with a sort
of spider web motif, Gheorghiu sang Forza’s “Pace, pace, mio dio” and closed the second half
with “Un bel di.”
These last two pointed up the relatively soft volume of Gheorghiu’s middle voice. She can be
heard, even in a larger hall such as the Chandler, but it is not until the vocal line takes her higher
that the voice has real force. Nevertheless, this listener would not trade the warm textures of her
middle voice for a pushed sound.
So a rapturous audience called Ms. Gheorghiu back for several encores. Ironically, it was in the
Lerner-Loewe “I Could have Danced All Night” that Ms Gheorghiu’s softer approach teased the
ears a bit too much, but her irresistible delight in performing the song could not be denied. She
treated the crowd as well to a Romanian song, to “Granada” and Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro,”
and finally to “Non ti scordar di me.” She then grasped the first violinist by the hand, and led the
musicians off the stage.
A delightful evening, but one that might have left some listeners eager for some heavier fare.
Perhaps on her next visit, Ms. Gheorghiu will offer a program of more challenge. And one gown
will do fine.