Recently in Performances
On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.
It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre
Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances
dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed
at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in
the present case.)
I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the
annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I
heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It
was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at
As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to
life on stage
‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.
Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s
L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed
follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high.
The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution
of the CBSO to this concert.
When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities,
upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court
during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined
that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the
opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in
service of his God and his monarch.
Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.
The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.
There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.
First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.
With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).
What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question.
Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although
already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.
25 Mar 2007
Eugene Onegin — English Touring Opera
London is fortunate to have played host to several productions of Tchaikovsky’s best-known opera in the last three years alone, most recently British Youth Opera’s heartbreakingly fresh account last September – so it was a risky decision on ETO’s part to stage yet another.
Director James Conway chose to focus on the opera’s themes of lost opportunity and the contrast between dreams and shattering reality. Joanna Parker’s very simple reflective set gave a wistful, faded beauty to the stage, while the ‘snow’ for the duel scene was formed of a devastated mass of pages torn from Tatiana’s romantic novels. As Tatiana, Amanda Echalaz provided, rightfully, the opera’s emotional core. She knew how the cripplingly shy provincial Tatiana should walk and move; she knew how to update the character by seven years and several steps up the social ladder without losing her original identity. In recent years, Echalaz’s ETO appearances alone have earned her an exciting reputation; from a slightly one-dimensional performer with a hugely promising dramatic voice, she has developed into a versatile artist with impressive depth of interpretation.
Roland Wood, in the title role, gave a more sympathetic interpretation than most; it was clear that his stiffness and propriety were rooted in self-awareness. His tenderness towards Tatiana was obvious from the start; for once I found myself ‘knowing’ Onegin as well as I always feel I ‘know’ Tatiana.
Michael Bracegirdle’s Lensky didn’t seem at ease on stage, and his singing was monochrome and somewhat forced; as Olga, Marie Elliott was also a little stiff without the necessary weight in her lower register. Gremin’s aria should be the centrepiece of the final act, but Geoffrey Moses failed to bring it to life.
At the start there seemed to be a difference of opinion between the musical and dramatic moods; Michael Rosewell’s tempi were brisk from the outset, while the opening scene was dramatically almost over-restrained. This turned out to be a perfect piece of dramaturgical planning; emotion and passion burst into vivid life at the start of the Letter Scene. The chorus, a good size by ETO’s standards, sang and danced stylishly so it was a great shame that they were the chief victims of a catalogue of unnecessary musical cuts.
Ruth Elleson © 2007