Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

Henri Dutilleux: Correspondances

Henri Dutilleux’s music has its devotees. I am yet to join their ranks, but had no reason to think this was not an admirable performance of his song-cycle Correspondances.

LA Opera Revives The Ghosts of Versailles

In 1980, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned composer John Corigliano to write an opera celebrating the company’s one-hundredth anniversary. It was to be ready in 1983.

La Traviata, ENO

English National Opera’s revival of Peter Konwitschny’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata had many elements in common with the production’s original outing in 2013 (The production was a co-production with Opera Graz, where it had debuted in 2011).

Idomeneo in Lyon

You might believe you could go to an opera and take in what you see at face value. But if you did that just now in Lyon you would have had no idea what was going on.

Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera

I wonder whether we need a new way of thinking — and talking — about operatic ‘revivals’. Perhaps the term is more meaningful when it comes to works that have been dead and buried for years, before being rediscovered by subsequent generations.

Iphigénie en Tauride in Geneva

Hopefully this brilliant new production of Iphigénie en Tauride from the Grand Théâtre de Genève will find its way to the new world now that Gluck’s masterpiece has been introduced to American audiences.

Tristan et Isolde in Toulouse

Tristan first appeared on the stage of the Théâtre du Capitole in 1928, sung in French, the same language that served its 1942 production even with Wehrmacht tanks parked in front of the opera house.

Arizona Opera presents Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Arizona Opera presented Eugene Onegin during and 1999-2000 season and again on February 1 of this year as part of the 2014-2015 season. In this country Onegin is not a crowd pleaser like La Bohème or Carmen, but its story is believable and its music melodic and memorable. Just hum the beginning of the “Polonaise” and your friends will know the music, if not where it comes from.

Ernst Krenek: Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen, Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Florian Boesch and Roger Vignoles at the Wigmore Hall in Ernst Krenek’s Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen. Matthias Goerne has called Hanns Eisler’s Hollywooder Liederbuch the Winterreise of the 20th century. Boesch and Vignoles showed how Krenek’s Reisebuch is a journey of discovery into identity at an era of extreme social change. It is a parable, indeed, of modern times.

Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new Anna Bolena, a production shared with Minnesota Opera, features a distinguished cast including several notable premieres.

San Diego Celebrates 50th Year with La Bohème

On Tuesday January 27, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. It is the opera with which the company opened in 1965 and a work that the company has faithfully performed every five years since then.

English Pocket Opera Company: Verdi’s Macbeth

Last year we tracked Orfeo on his desperate search for his lost Euridice, through the labyrinths and studio spaces of Central St Martin’s; this year we were plunged into Macbeth’s tragic pursuit of power in the bare blackness of the CSM’s Platform Theatre.

Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Béla Bartók’s only opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, composed in 1911 and based upon a libretto by the Hungarian writer Béla Balázs, was not initially a success.

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Victor Ryan Robertson as Sportin' Life and Indira Mahajan as Bess (Robert Millard, courtesy of LA Opera)
09 May 2007

Porgy and Bess at Los Angeles Opera

Premiered at Washington National Opera, director Francesca Zambello’s Porgy and Bess arrived in Los Angeles May 4th, for a run of 12 performances in just 17 days.

George Gershwin: Porgy and Bess

Los Angeles Opera
5 May 2007

Above: Victor Ryan Robertson as Sportin' Life and Indira Mahajan as Bess
All photos by Robert Millard, courtesy of LA Opera

 

That schedule requires two casts for the main roles, and the second cast performed on May 5th, with your reviewer in attendance.

Peter Davison’s set of a two-story metal framework around a courtyard bears some resemblance to a penitentiary, with sliding doors for the narrow homes of the Catfish Row residences. A smaller frame for Porgy’s room rolls on at crucial points, and the Kittiwah island scene change passes quickly, with the main set pushed to one side and a blue background dropped in. Zambello expertly maneuvers her cast around this set, establishing the tightness of the community and yet also the sense of oppression enforced by its poverty.

Terry Cook as Crown (Porgy and Bess, LA Opera)Dave Kopplin’s forthright program essay covers both the history of the opera’s creation and the issues — controversy, if one must — about the nature of an opera about African-Americans entirely created by whites. Likewise, it is somewhat unfortunate that here in 2007, one’s best chance to encounter the talents of African-American performers on an opera stage remains in a revival of the opera, but at least at this stage of our history, any controversy seems less pertinent than an appreciation for the opportunity to enjoy the greatness of Gershwin’s score.

Zambello can’t do much about the libretto’s monochrome characterization, with the noble residents of Catfish Row beset by trouble created by their much-less than-noble denizens (Crown and Sportin’ Life). The whites are even more crude caricatures, cruelly and capriciously exercising their power, here with unsubtle glee.

Indira Mahajan as Bess and Alfred Walker as Porgy  (Porgy and Bess, LA Opera)On Saturday night, Alfred Walker’s Porgy brought a deeper scale to the drama, fully inhabiting a figure of quiet dignity, not merely self-pitying or helpless. Some may regret how the character’s deformity was muted, with Porgy only reliant on crutches to move his weak legs around. In Zambello’s depiction, Porgy is a man who has let his innate strength go unused, and it makes sense to see him as less crippled physically than emotionally stunted, at least until his desperate love for Bess makes him find that inner core of determination. Walker brought all this out beautifully, and his firm bass-baritone voice rang out handsomely.

As Bess, Indira Mahajan sounded best in her ample middle voice, with the top a bit unsteady and tending to spread. She made for a suitably seductive figure, although Zambello couldn’t find a way to believably dramatize her change of mind when she decides to flee with Sportin’ Life to New York City. Her frantic dashing around here made Bess look possessed. Victor Ryan Robertson acted a wonderfully sleazy Sportin’ Life, but his light tenor needed more projection to really bring home his big solos, especially “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Terry Cook’s Crown veered dangerously close to cartoon villain, making Bess’s attraction to him border on the incredible. Thankfully Cook sang attractively enough to outweigh any quibbles.

Clara’s opening “Summertime” could have used a touch more sweetness from Alyson Cambridge; after that, she sang well and her touching Clara made an appropriate contrast to Bess. Eric Greene partnered her well as her husband Jake. Monique McDonald had the other big female solo, with the most aria-like of the score’s numbers, “My man’s gone now.” McDonald has a big, rich soprano and put this music across with operatic fervor. For your reviewer, the preferred version will always be Sarah Vaughan’s.

Porgy and Bess has a large cast, and they all performed with enthusiasm, although Jennie Ford, choreographer, may have wished for more time in rehearsal (Denni Sayers is credited with the original choreography). John DeMain, long an exponent of the score, conducted the LAO orchestra with professional precision.

The Gershwins’ and Heyward’s opera seemed at home on the Dorothy Chandler stage. Whether one calls it a true opera or not, in a production such as Zambello’s, Porgy and Bess makes for a memorable evening at the opera house.

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):