Recently in Performances
Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.
It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.
Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.
Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.
Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.
The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.
On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.
There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.
It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.
At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.
Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican,
London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony
Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating
a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens
or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?
Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.
Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.
Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.
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]’.
An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.
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.
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.
On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.
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.
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