Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

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.



Miriam Ryen as the Queen of the Night and Jennifer O’Loughlin as Pamina (Volksoper Wien, 1 May 2007)
30 May 2007

Die Zauberflöte at the Volksoper

Serpents, abduction, magic flutes, a sacred priesthood and, of course….love, are a few of the elements Mozart used to comprise his mason-influenced collaboration with Emanuel von Schikaneder.

W.A. Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Wiener Volksoper, 1 May 2007

Above: Miriam Ryen as the Queen of the Night and Jennifer O’Loughlin as Pamina


The Wiener Volksoper’s 2007 production of Die Zauberflöte is rich with visual effects, including a large mechanical dragon that emerges from the depths of the stage, a vibrant rotating set complete with “living” statues who are elevated high above the stage; a gargantuan telescope and fire set the scene for what was unfortunately a mediocre production, other than a few glimmering aspects.

The Overture was well-effected but somewhat mechanical and it lacked in the necessary colours and shading that Mozart’s music demands. Conductor, Elisabeth Attl seemed to have little influence over the orchestra that in some moments seemed to be just going through the motions. The three ladies, sung by Edith Lienbacher, Sulie Girardi, and Andrea Bönig looked fabulous in matching gowns and hats (and later clad in leather and tattoos) complete with walking canes, however their singing was often strident and in what should be a unified harmonic ensemble there were inconsistencies in unity.

Die Königin der Nacht (Queen of the Night) was eloquently sung by Miriam Ryen, who had a brilliant and laser-like upper tessitura and beautiful agility in her coloratura passages, however the orchestra often overpowered her and thus obscured her musicality. Her Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen was visually exciting with an electric red sky from which hung an enormous crescent moon. Some intonation problems affected her performance of this aria, that also lacked the tremendous rage that Mozart expected here.

Papageno was performed by Mathias Hausmann who possesses a lovely burnished baritone to match his consummate dramatic abilities. His Der Volgelfänger bin ich ja was not only amusing, but sung with much inflection and attention to detail. Unfortunately, the following entrance by Daniel Behle, as Tamino, left much to be desired. His Dies Bildinis ist bezanbernd schön lacked the brilliant sound that the aria requires and his acting was somewhat superficial throughout the opera. One wondered if he was really in love with Pamina or not.

Pamina’s entrance was visually wonderful, as she was dragged in by Monostatos (played by Wolfgang Gratschmaier) in a large net. American Soprano, Jennifer O’Loughlin’s Pamina was artistically beyond the rest of her cast. She effected every entrance with lovely spinning tones in a deep golden hue in her middle voice, and her musicality was well-suited to the lyricism Mozart demanded of a superb Pamina. The orchestra, however, was highly insensitive to Ms. O’Loughlin’s middle and lower registers and failed to match her musical nuances. A sensitive and believable actress, her Ach, ich Fühl’s es ist verschwunden was luscious and effected with impeccable diction, and well-floated pianissimi that give credit to her vocal technique.

Lars Woldt, in the role of the Sprecher, possessed a strong and well-projected voice, and his presence added to the overall dramatic impetus of the production. In addition, Kaiser Nkosi’s Sarastro opened Act II with strong dramatic and vocal qualities. His middle register was a lovely purple hue, however he lacked resonance in his lower tessitura, an unfortunate detail that affected the strength of Sarastro’s character.

Jennifer O’Loughlin and the Wiener Sängerknaben

Some of the most comical moments to which the audience responded belonged to Papageno and Papagena (comedically played alla Lucille Ball by Renée Schüttengruber). Complete with hot pink wig, and the whiniest fabricated voice, Papagena stole Papageno’s heart, and the audience’s as well. If anything stood out in this production it was the musicality and unity of the “Three Boys” who were played by the Wiener Sängerknaben. Mozart’s opera is imbued with many numerical elements in groups of three and these trios (the three spirits, the three ladies, and three priests in the temple) should be unified textually and harmonically. The three boys were perhaps the most precise musically and kudos go out to them for stealing the show. Although a visually interesting production, the orchestra often marred the musicality of the singers, and most bothersome was how members of the orchestra got up and left the pit during the opera and then returned to later, not only disturbing the dramatic action but also creating a general lack of continuity in the musical fabric.

Mary-Lou Vetere-Borghoff
PhD (ABD), M.A., Mus.B

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):