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

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Gergiev, Mariinsky

Sergei Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op 74, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus. One Day That Shook the World to borrow the subtitle from Sergei Eisenstein's epic film October : Ten Days that Shook the World.

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):