Recently in Performances
It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.
With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.
Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.
If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”
Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?
Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.
On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.
Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.
Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.
Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.
The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s ﬁrst great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.
The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.
This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.
Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’
Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.
Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by
the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.
19 Jun 2007
La Clemenza di Tito – English National Opera
An increasing lack of substance and imagination behind ENO’s season scheduling means that a revival of a theatrically impressive recent production of a repertoire piece is to be welcomed, especially when that production comes with a cast of superior calibre.
Mozart’s late masterpiece is one of the most serious operas I have seen David McVicar direct,
and although this production contains plenty of allusions to his distinctive directorial style, it is to
his credit that he does not try his trademark trick of trying to turn the piece into a black comedy.
His interpretation here is truthful and largely gimmick-free. The choreography (originally by
Leah Hausmann, revived by Kai’a Lane) and sets (by Yannis Thavouris) are Japanese-inspired,
and beautiful in their simplicity. The curved walls of the set move on and off in graceful arcs,
creating light-and-shade effects, while the stage direction has a fluid, balletic quality. It helps that
there are so few people on stage; the chorus sing from the pit, so the large stage is populated only
by soloists and dancers.
Many of the cast returned from the original run. Paul Nilon repeated his impressively sung
account of the title role, but there is still a feeling that he hasn’t found a great deal of complexity
within the character. Emma Bell’s vocal performance as Vitellia was once again grippingly
dramatic, though some of her characterisation verged on caricature (the most vengeful of her
recitatives even raised a laugh from the audience).
New to the cast, Alice Coote was announced as suffering from a chest infection and although she
showed a little vocal fatigue, she sang Sesto with remarkable breath control and sense of line.
She also brought a refreshing sense of cohesion to the character development: ‘Parto, parto’ was
no blazing showpiece but an impassioned piece of extended dialogue, all very much in context.
In fact, all the scenes between Sesto and Vitellia.had an unusually palpable sense of dramatic
As Annio, Anne-Marie Gibbons gave an amiable and charming performance though her singing
was a little monochromatic, and her voice was mismatched with Sarah-Jane Davies’s weightier
In the pit, Edward Gardner kept the ensemble tight but the performance lacked energy and drive,
especially in the more turbulent passages.
Ruth Elleson © 2007