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Macbeth, LA Opera

On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.

COC’d Up Ariodante

Director Richard Jones never met an opera he couldn’t ‘change,’ and Canadian Opera Company’s sumptuously sung Ariodante was a case in point.

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

Toronto: Bullish on Bellini

Canadian Opera Company has assembled a commendable Norma that is long on ritual imagery and war machinery.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.



Italian soprano Paoletta Marrocu (Leonora) and Argentinean tenor Darío Volonté (Manrico) in San Diego Opera’s production of Verdi’s Il trovatore. Photo © Ken Howard
02 Apr 2007

San Diego Opera — Il Trovatore

Verdi's magnificent melodrama Il Trovatore may be the most masculine of his creations, but the production that San Diego Opera presented as the third opera of its 2007 season was a triumph for the ladies.

Il Trovatore

San Diego Opera
1 April 2007

ABOVE: Italian soprano Paoletta Marrocu (Leonora) and Argentinean tenor Darío Volonté (Manrico) in San Diego Opera’s production of Verdi’s Il trovatore.
All photos © Ken Howard, courtesy of San Diego Opera


The company seemed to know this in advance, when they chose to highlight Paulette Marrocou's Leonora on the posters. A striking woman, she began rather low-key, but by the convent scene of act two, she had found her comfort zone in Leonora's growing desperation. While not conventionally beautiful, Marocou's soprano has an alluring edge, and her top, as heard at Sunday April's first matinee, rang out in the cavernous Civic Center acoustic with power.

American mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti is Azucena in San Diego Opera’s production of Verdi’s Il trovatore. Photo © Ken HowardThe greatest ovation at final curtain, however, went to Marianne Cornetti, who sang Azucena with the sort of wild abandon and penetration of the role's greatest contemporary exponent, Dolora Zajick (there's is also a slight physical resemblance). Unlike Zajick, however, Cornetti's strength lies mostly at the top, and the middle voice has less punch. Furthermore, Cornetti's audience-pleasing contribution did not have the subtler touches of Marrocou's Leonora, but subtlety may not always be what an audience wants from a Il Trovatore performer. In the smaller role of Inez, Priti Gandhi had some affecting moments.

As for the men, the show started with veteran Hao Jiang Tin's Ferrando. His is a solid bass sound, but it takes more fire and drama to make this exposition-heavy first scene truly effective. Alexandra Agache equalled Cornetti in sheer lung power. If only the voice itself were more interesting. "Il Balen" started well enough but soon the monochromatic tone of Agache's baritone dimmed its success. On the other hand, he gave a good physical performance, and his confrontation with Marrocou's Leonora in act four may have been the best scene of the day.

And the title role? San Diego Opera had announced Nicola Rossi Giordani as its Manrico, and only a few weeks ago revealed that Dario Volonté would take the lead. Volonté had sung a creditable Calaf in San Diego a couple seasons back, with the concern then being that he undersang too much of the evening to give his all to the big moments. Sunday's performance, unfortunately, increased that concern. Volonté's basic sound has a warmth and sweetness that makes one want to hear more of it, but he seems unable or unwilling to fulfill that desire. Your reviewer thought he was hoarding his resources for his big act three scene, but even there, the volume did not appear. Nonetheless, a solid, though smallish, high note (reportedly a high C) capping "Di quella pira" earned the tenor a thunderous ovation. The foot stamp that accompanied the note was regrettable, however, and your reviewer would have enjoyed hearing some cries of "Madre infelice!" as well.

Edoardo Müller has led some strong performances for San Diego, especially in the Italian repertory, but Sunday's felt decidedly low-energy. Faced with a cast of varying decibel-level, perhaps this is understandable, but there were also a couple of spots of poor pit-stage coordination.

Indian-born mezzo-soprano Priti Gandhi is Inez and Italian soprano Paoletta Marrocu is Leonora in San Diego Opera’s production of Verdi’s Il trovatore. Photo © Ken HowardThe physical production, by Benoit Dugardyn, is handsome enough (it has also been seen in Los Angeles and Houston). Shifting walls of ragged, burnt wood quickly take us from scene to scene. Otherwise, Stephen Lawless's direction came across as perfunctory, and the choreographed swordfight with clanging blades where anvils should be is still a very silly sight.

So count this Trovatore as a success for Cornetti and especially Marrocou. Next in San Diego, the bold choice of Wozzeck, directed by Des McAnuff. It opens April 14th.

Chris Mullins

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