Recently in Performances
In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.
Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.
Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.
Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.
Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.
On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.
Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.
In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.
Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.
Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.
Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.
The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.
Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.
If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.
Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.
With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.
Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.
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.
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.