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

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

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.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

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 Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

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.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘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.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

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. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

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.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

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.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

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.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

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.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

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.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

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

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.

Monsters and Marriage at the Aix Festival

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.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

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.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

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).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

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’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Ryan Molloy as Gabey (ENO -- On The Town)
09 May 2007

On The Town – English National Opera

In a season that will conclude with a new production of Kismet, ENO has once again come under criticism for the number of non-operatic works on the bill.

Leonard Bernstein: On The Town

English National Opera, 23 April 2007
All photos by Laurie Lewis, courtesy of English National Opera

 

Jude Kelly’s energetic production of Leonard Bernstein’s 1944 musical was originally seen here in 2005 to an extended run of full houses, so it can at least be said to have already proved its worth.

Let loose for 24 hours of shore leave in New York City, three young sailors go in search of some sightseeing and, more importantly, some female company. Small-town boy Gabey (Ryan Molloy) falls in love with a picture of the subway beauty queen (‘Miss Turnstiles’) Ivy Smith and sends his two friends out on a mission to make his romantic dream a reality. En route, virginal Chip (Sean Palmer) and the more worldly Ozzie (Joshua Dallas) quickly manage to land themselves a pair of nymphomaniacs, the taxi-driver Hildy Esterhazy and the archaeologist Claire de Loone – and the group set out ‘on the town’ for the evening before returning to ship.

June Whitfield as Mme. Dilly and Helen Anker as Ivy Smith (ENO -- On The Town)That’s basically it, as far as the plot goes. For all its brass, sex and comedy, the show is a vignette depicting the transience of pleasure in a world where any or all of the young sailors might soon lose their life in battle.

It’s a difficult piece to categorise, almost as much a ballet as it is a musical; the high-octane comedy numbers are balanced by romance and poignancy in songs including ‘Lucky to be Me’, ‘Lonely Town’ and ‘Some Other Time’. The dance numbers didn’t work too well in 2005, but this time Stephen Mear’s choreography is slick and energetic. Simon Lee’s conducting also seems snappier and more together than on the first hearing.

Coney Island scene (ENO -- On The Town)The three ladies all returned from the previous run. Caroline O’Connor’s Hildy was a ballsy dominatrix with a voice to match. As Claire, the American Lucy Schaufer, a very versatile performer (she’s also a Handelian mezzo) combined slinky dance moves with a glorious vocal range including some terrific operatic high notes, and Helen Anker’s Ivy was sweet, graceful and ingenuous. Conversely, the three male leads were new to the production and, despite energetic performances and some attractive singing, were left somewhat in the shade of the ladies – in fact the only really memorable performance came from ENO regular Andrew Shore as Lucy’s long-suffering fiancé, Judge Pitkin W. Bridgework.

Also new was the veteran British comic actress June Whitfield, in a memorably brilliant performance as Ivy’s bohemian alcoholic voice teacher Madame Dilly, while Janine Duvitski returned to give a touching comic account of Lucy Schmeeler, Hildy’s homely roommate who eventually finds a perfect match of her own.

Robert Jones’s ingenious sets rely mainly on outline forms to capture every situation - the dockyard, Hildy’s cab, the subway, the Museum of Natural History, Hildy’s and Claire’s tiny apartments crammed together in typically urban style, the sequence of night-spots, Coney Island.

Ruth Elleson © 2007

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):