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The Importance of Being Earnest , Gerald Barry’s fifth opera, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Barbican, and was first performed in concert, Thomas Adès conducting the London premiere.
‘Beauty is the one form of spirituality that we experience through the senses.’ In Thomas Mann’s, Death in Venice, Plato’s axiom stirs the hopes of the aging, intellectually stale poet, Gustav von Aschenbach, that he may rekindle his creativity.
There is a sense in which it all began in London, Puccini having been seized in 1900 with the idea of an opera on this subject after watching David Belasco’s play here.
The tenor that the audience most wanted to hear, Plácido Domingo, opened the vocal program with “Junto al puente de la peña” (Next to the rock bridge) from La Canción del Olvido (The song of Oblivion) by José Serrano. He sounded rested and his voice soared majestically over the orchestra.
Tucked away somewhere in the San Francisco Opera warehouse was an old John Cox production of Così fan tutte from Monte Carlo. Well, not that old by current standards at San Francisco Opera.
Rossini's Maometto Secondo is a major coup for Garsington Opera at Wormsley, confirming its status as the leading specialist Rossini house in Britain. Maometto Secondo is a masterpiece, yet rarely performed because it's formidably difficult to sing. It's a saga with some of the most intense music Rossini ever wrote, expressing a drama so powerful that one can understand why early audiences needed "happy endings" to water down its impact
I suppose it was inevitable that, in this Britten Centenary year, the 66th Aldeburgh Festival would open with Peter Grimes.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Garsington Opera at Wormsley isn’t Mozart as you’d expect but it’s true to the spirit of Mozart who loved witty, madcap japes.
What a pity! On a glorious — well, by recent English standards — summer’s day, there can be few more beautiful English countryside settings
than Glyndebourne, with the added bonus, as alas much of the audience appears
to understand it, of an opera house attached.
Described by one critic as “cosmically gifted”, during her tragically short career, American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson amazed and delighted audiences with the spellbinding beauty of her singing and the astonishing honesty of her performances.
“I wrote it almost without noticing.” So Verdi declared when reminded of his eighth — and perhaps least frequently performed, opera, Alzira. One might say that, since he composed the work, no-one else has much noticed either.
Just when you thought the protagonist was Hoffmann! Who, rather what stole the show?
When is verismo verily veristic? Or what is a virginal girl dressed in communion white doing in the two murderous acts of the Los Angeles Opera’s current production of Tosca? And why does she sing the shepherd's song?
Wagner’s Lohengrin is not an unfamiliar visitor to the UK thanks,
in the main, to Elijah Moshinsky’s perennial production at Covent Garden.
Philip Glass's The Perfect American at the ENO in London is a visual treat, but the libretto is mind-numbingly anodyne.
Jonathan Dove's Mansfield Park, with libretto by his regular collaborator Alasdair Middleton, has the remarkable distinction of being the first completed operatic adaptation of any Jane Austen novel to be staged.
London’s two principal opera companies have offered a baffling
near-silence as their response to Wagner’s two-hundredth anniversary.
If a recent trio of musically superlative performances at Canadian Opera Company is indicative of their norm, the casting director should get a hefty bonus.
Just when you imagine you’ve got the operatic time-line fixed in your mind
in a clean sweep of what goes where and when and how, you hear another work
from another forgotten corner of the repertory that upends one’s conclusions.
Nothing inspires fable quite like defeat. The great riddle of Spanish
history is how the Christian Visigoths managed to lose the Iberian peninsula to
the Moors in one small battle in 711 and took eight hundred years to get it
28 Mar 2007
Camacho’s Wedding (Die Hochzeit des Camacho)
UC Opera now have a half-century’s reputation to live up to; they were responsible for the UK premieres of such works as Das Liebesverbot, The Maid of Orleans, Alzira, Oberto and the 1847 version of Macbeth.
unquestionably a need for a company such as this on London’s operatic
scene; they continue to fly the flag for works which would not otherwise be
performed, and are almost unique in offering these obscure works in staged
performance rather than in concert.
The company exists independently of the academic functions of University
College London, which does not even have a music department; instead the
company draws its large and enthusiastic amateur chorus, orchestra and lesser
principals from the University College Union Music Society, and hires in
young professional artists for the leading roles – alumni include
Felicity Lott, Robert Lloyd and Jonathan Summers, and Charles Mackerras
served briefly as Musical Director during the 1950s.
Die Hochzeit des Camacho was written by Mendelssohn between the ages of
fourteen and sixteen. It is a lively, folksy comic opera based on an episode
from Don Quixote, about a conspiracy on the part of the young and amiable
Basilio to save his beloved Quiteria from a forced marriage to the wealthy
but unprepossessing Camacho. After many complications, some largely pointless
interventions by Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and a faked suicide, Basilio
gets the girl; her father and Camacho accept their union and all live happily
The production, by Duncan McFarland, was set in the context of a bedtime
story being told to a young boy (Oliver Kirk) by his nurse (Liz Lea). This
gave the feel of a cosy Christmas family movie. Christopher Giles’s set
was simple but imaginative and versatile, with three brightly-coloured moving
wooden huts transforming the stage from the child’s nursery into all
manner of different locations. There were bright, attractive costumes for the
young cast too.
The opera was sung in English, and the best individual performances came
from two fine tenors – medical student Hal Brindley gave a strongly
sung and charming account of Basilio’s sidekick Vivaldo, while
postgraduate linguist James Crawford gave an excellent characterisation of
the eponymous Camacho (really quite a minor role). Stephen Brown’s
Basilio and James Harrison’s Carrasco (Quiteria’s father) also
sang well; Håkan Vramsmo’s Sancho Panza was likeable and smoothly sung.
But elsewhere there were problems; Margaret Cooper’s Quiteria was
strong in the upper register but weak in the middle; her conventionally
operatic soprano was inadequately balanced by Sarah Rea’s treble-like
Lucinde. The veteran professional bass Deryck Hamon was seriously stretched
in the role of Don Quixote. Projection of dialogue was problematic for
professional and amateur soloists alike; sometimes the singing was inaudible
too. The chorus was excellent, but the biggest problem was the orchestra, an
amateur ensemble, whose timing and tuning were simply painful at times
despite Charles Peebles’s poised and well-phrased direction.
This is the fifth UC Opera production I have seen, some with high musical
standards. This was far from the best. Perhaps they will fare better in 2008
with Lalo’s Fiesque.
Ruth Elleson © 2007