Recently in Performances
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.
Director Richard Jones never met an opera he couldn’t ‘change,’ and Canadian Opera Company’s sumptuously sung Ariodante was a case in point.
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.
Canadian Opera Company has assembled a commendable Norma that is long on ritual imagery and war machinery.
“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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
“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.
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.
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 took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
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.
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.
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.
28 Aug 2007
The Dream of Gerontius Opens Elora Summer Festival
Written in 1900, Elgar’s Gerontius expresses the universal and existentialist struggle of death and rebirth. The allegorical significance of the piece touches on a need for faith, self-discovery, and acceptance of the world around us.
The Elora Festival, noted for the collaborative efforts of
many great performers and organizations opened its 2007 festival with
Elgar’s magnificent creation. Noel Edison masterfully directed the Elora
Festival Singers, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and the Elora Festival
Orchestra with brilliance, aesthetic dedication, and a tender yet strict
hand. The sensitivity he allotted the soloists is to be commended and his
understanding of the deeper meaning of this piece brilliantly shone in his
exquisite control of the orchestral fabric. The overture began with warm and
burnished hues, painfully weeping celli and well-balanced dark
ombra. The Elgarian timbres were specifically expressed by each
orchestral section, most specifically in the strings as they exemplified the
ethereal and transcendent space Elgar demanded in order to create the
vastness of his masterpiece. Edison paid intelligent heed to the dynamic
inflection and allowed the orchestra to create layered effects leading to
Gerontius’ beautiful entry cry of “Jesu, Maria—I am near to
Noel Edison, Artistic Director of the Elora Festival
Gerontius, sung with elegance and the purity of lyricism by Irish-Canadian
tenor, Michael Colvin, is a taxing role that requires an almost Verdian
thrust but also the most expansive sense of lyrical control. Colvin’s
diction was brilliant and his use of text was especially moving. A free and
impressive upper register, the squillo of his tenore bruciato added
to the dramatic presence of Gerontius. Although this is a concert work,
Colvin was continually in character and indeed most musically presented.
Tenor, Michael Colvin was a sensitive and believable Gerontius.
The combined choruses blended well, with precise diction. Each section
represented an individual unit that contributed to the larger whole and there
was never a sense of unbalance. Edison led them beautifully toward their
inflection of “Of all that makes me man….and crueler still, a fierce and
restless fright begins to fill the mansion of my soul,” where Elgar at once
transforms the music by imbuing atonal suggestions, with turbulent and
exciting orchestration leading into an ethereal moment of relaxation.
The entrance of the priest was significant and wonderfully approached by
bass-baritone, Tyler Duncan. Perhaps the most impressive performer of the
group, his voice spun almost impeccably and was never pushed but floated on
the breath with precision and musical inflection. Impressive indeed for a
lower voice type to exude this type of elegance, there was never any
heaviness and if so it was created by timbre, not pushing or sometimes, what
I call, “barking” baritones.
Tyler Duncan (bass-baritone) was the surprise of the evening.
A most memorable moment at the point where Gerontius’ words mimic those
of Christ in his last moments, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, into Thy
hands…” was so utterly moving that every hair on one’s head stood
completely erect. Duncan’s expression of the Priests, “Go forth in the
name…” was well-expressed as one of Elgar’s most majestic melodies.
Canadian mezzo, Kimberly Barber astonishingly represented God’s Angel.
Part II offered a most expressive response to Part I and much of that is
owed to the performance of the Angel by mezzo-soprano, Kimberly Barber. Her
presence on-stage was riveting and even though she was not in costume one saw
her presence as the Angel, purely and physically. Her eyes never wavered in
their expressive depth and she captivated. Her’s was the presence of calm
and salvation. Her voice blended liquidly with the chorus of Angelicals her
inflection and diction was precise. Her sound was never pushed and her rich
and luscious mezzo was used in a dramatic way, never singing just to project
but rather to express the meaning of the musical lines and the Angel’s
important message. Her “Softly and Gently,” was truly one of the most
compassionate and hair-raising moments of the entire performance. As she
sang, “In my most loving arms I now enfold thee, and o’er the penal
waters, as they roll, I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee,” she
moved many in the audience to tears. Barber enfolded us with her eloquence
and in the end one forgot that this was a singer performing a musical role,
but really Elgar’s Angel.
Mary-Lou P. Vetere, 2007