Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.

Riveting Maria de San Diego

As part of its continuing, adventurous “Detour” series, San Diego Opera mounted a deliciously moody, proudly pulsating, wholly evocative presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s “nuevo tango” opera, Maria de Buenos Aires.

La Walkyrie in Toulouse

The Nicolas Joel 1999 production of Die Walküre seen just now in Toulouse well upholds the Airbus city’s fame as Bayreuth-su-Garonne (the river that passes through this quite beautiful, rich city).

Barrie Kosky's Carmen at Covent Garden

Carmen is dead. Long live Carmen. In a sense, both Bizet’s opera and his gypsy diva have been ‘done to death’, but in this new production at the ROH (first seen at Frankfurt in 2016) Barrie Kosky attempts to find ways to breathe new life into the show and resurrect, quite literally, the eponymous temptress.

Candide at Arizona Opera

On Friday February 2, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Although all the music was Bernstein’s, the text was written and re-written by numerous authors including Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, as well as the composer.

Satyagraha at English National Opera

The second of Philip Glass’s so-called 'profile' operas, Satyagraha is magnificent in ENO’s acclaimed staging, with a largely new cast and conductor bringing something very special to this seminal work.

Mahler Symphony no 8—Harding, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

From the Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, a very interesting Mahler Symphony no 8 with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The title "Symphony of a Thousand" was dreamed up by promoters trying to sell tickets, creating the myth that quantity matters more than quality. For many listeners, Mahler 8 is still a hard nut to crack, for many reasons, and the myth is part of the problem. Mahler 8 is so original that it defies easy categories.

Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday—Angelika Kirchschlager

At the Wigmore Hall, Schubert's birthday is always celebrated in style. This year, Angelika Kirchschlager and Julius Drake, much loved Wigmore Hall audience favourites, did the honours, with a recital marking the climax of the two-year-long Complete Schubert Songs Series. The programme began with a birthday song, Namenstaglied, and ended with a farewell, Abschied von der Erde. Along the way, a traverse through some of Schubert's finest moments, highlighting different aspects of his song output : Schubert's life, in miniature.

Ilker Arcayürek at Wigmore Hall

The first thing that struck me in this Wigmore Hall recital was the palpable sincerity of Ilker Arcayürek’s artistry. Sincerity is not everything, of course; what we think of as such may even be carefully constructed artifice, although not, I think, here.

Lisette Oropesa sings at Tucson Desert Song Festival

On January 30, 2018, Arizona Opera and the Tucson Desert Song Festival presented a recital by lyric soprano Lisette Oropesa in the University of Arizona’s Holsclaw Hall. Looking like a high fashion model in her silver trimmed midnight-blue gown, the singer and pianist Michael Borowitz began their program with Pablo Luna’s Zarzuela aria, “De España Vengo.” (“I come from Spain”).

Schubert songs, part-songs and fragments: three young singers at the Wigmore Hall

Youth met experience for this penultimate instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s Schubert: The Complete Songs series, and the results were harmonious and happy. British soprano Harriet Burns, German tenor Ferdinand Keller and American baritone Harrison Hintzsche were supportively partnered by lieder ‘old-hand’, Graham Johnson, and we heard some well-known and less familiar songs in this warmly appreciated early-afternoon recital.

Brent Opera: Nabucco

Brent Opera’s Nabucco was a triumph in that it worked as a piece of music theatre against some odds, and was a good evening out.

LPO: Das Rheingold

It is, of course, quite an achievement in itself for a symphony orchestra to perform Das Rheingold or indeed any of the Ring dramas. It does not happen very often, not nearly so often as it should; for given Wagner’s crucial musico-historical position, this is music that should stand at the very centre of their repertoires – just as Beethoven should at the centre of opera orchestras’.

William Tell in Palermo

This was the infamous production that was booed to extinction at Covent Garden. Palermo’s Teatro Massimo now owns the production.

The Bandits in Rome

AKA I masnadieri, rare early Verdi, though not as rare as Alzira. In 1847 London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre  commissioned the newly famous Verdi to write this opera for the London debut of Swedish soprano Jenny Lind.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Donnie Ray Albert as Simone and Tatiana Pavlovskaya as Bianca in Alexander Zemlinsky's Eine florentinische Tragödie (A Florentine Tragedy) Photo by: Robert Millard
13 Mar 2007

LA Opera “Recovered Voices”

Just about halfway though his first season as music director of Los Angeles Opera, James Conlon has already made himself an endearing and appreciated figure.

Above: Donnie Ray Albert as Simone and Tatiana Pavlovskaya as Bianca in Alexander Zemlinsky's Eine florentinische Tragödie (A Florentine Tragedy)
Photo by: Robert Millard

 

He likes to speak to early-comers to the Dorothy Chandler as part of the “lecture” events, and his work with the orchestra so far, and their response to him, indicates a solid relationship being established.

He has also brought with him a passion for the music of a particular set of the composers who were exiled, banned, or killed by the Nazi regime. He expressed his happiness at having Brecht and Weill’s Mahagonny as part of this season, and he also helped find the support (primarily from Marilyn Ziering and the Ziering Family Foundation) for two concert evenings called “Recovered Voices.” At the second performance, March 10th, he appeared before both halves of the program to speak with enthusiasm and erudition about the composers and their works. The evening, it seems, is a preview of repertoire that Conlon intends to bring to the regular LAO season schedule. In fact, next season he makes a start, with a double-bill evening of Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg and Ullman’s Der Zerbrochene Krug.

The first half consisted of a sort of suite that Conlon devised from the music of six composers. The conductor asked the audience to hold its applause until the end of the final segment, and they dutifully did so. First came the dark swirl of textures in Franz Schreker’s prelude to Die Gezeichneten. Somewhat ironically, this opera recently appeared on DVD in a performance conducted by Kent Nagano, Conlon’s predecessor at LAO.

Stacy Tappan, a soprano who has specialized in high-lying roles so far (she sang the Dew Fairy in LAO’s recent Hansel und Gretel), appeared first on the bare stage, with a screen for projections behind her. Maiko Nezu designed the tasteful images that evoked the moods if not always the settings of the various selections. Ms. Tappan sang a charming aria from Walter Braunfels’ Die Vogel, left and then reappeared with a pianist (uncredited in the program) for a number from Ernest Krenek’s Jonny spielt auf. A huge hit in its day, even in this short excerpt one could hear why the opera has become a curiosity today - the jazz elements not very well incorporated into a timidly modernistic fabric.

Donnie Ray Albert (the father in that same Hansel und Gretel) sang “The Emperor’s farewell” from Viktor Ullamn’s The Emperor of Atlantis. Out of context, the aria still managed to create a mood of wistful resignation, an amazing achievement for a man writing in a concentration camp, and too soon to die there.

Tenor Roderick Dixon took on an aria from Erwin Schulhoff’s Flammen, a discursive affair that gave a more prominent role to orchestral texture rather than to the vocal line.

All of this music boasted to one degree or another a power and sweep to the orchestration, but rather less in the way of memorable thematic material. That cannot be said of the final segment, from Erich Korngold’s Die tote Stadt. Unlike the other operas represented, Korngold’s has managed to keep a precarious hold on a place on the fringes of the standard repertory. It helps that the opera features two smashing arias. First Tatiana Pavlovskaya sang “Marietta’s lied,” with Mr. Dixon joining her. Although her top grew a little wild, Ms. Pavlovskaya had the warm sensuality needed for Korngold’s exquisite tune. Then the fine baritone Martin Gantner, currently singing Wolfram in the new Tannhäuser at LAO, sang a poignant “Pierrot’s Tanzlied.”

After intermission came a one-act opera from Alexander Zemlinsky, with only minimal direction for the singers and a few chairs as props, while the projections became a bit more literal in an attempt to convey the essence of Oscar Wilde’s A Florentine Tragedy. Speaking before the audience, Conlon detailed Zemlinsky’s unhappy love affair with Gustav Mahler’s future wife Alma, and suggested that Zemlinsky at least took that pain as a form of creative inspiration. Basically a psychological battle of wills between a gruff merchant and a young nobleman over the merchant’s wife, the piece ends with the sort of “twist” which smacks a bit too much of a Freudian-era Twilight Zone episode. Never short on drama and formal invention, the score would probably be better known if it had more memorable melodies. And that was true of most of the evening’s fare. Albert, Pavlovskaya, and Anthony Dean Griffey as the nobleman had to work against the minimal staging and the story’s claustrophobic nature, and all managed to deserve the audience’s respect for their efforts.

Much of this repertory was written in the first third of the last century, and in an opera world eager for fresh material, it seems unlikely that an undiscovered masterpiece lies among the works of these composers. The works must stand on their own, regardless of the tragic fate of their composers. Conlon’s passion, however, makes him a brilliant advocate, and Los Angeles Opera audiences will at least know that a steady diet of Traviata and Bohème will be interspersed with the dark, sometimes acerbic work of these composers over the coming seasons.

Chris Mullins

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):