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

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

William Bolcom
04 Dec 2007

Bolcom’s ”View” brilliant at WNO

The American Dream and the tragic vision of ancient Greece are miles and millennia apart; yet they merge seamlessly in William Bolcom’s “View from the Bridge,” on stage in November at the Washington National Opera.

Above: William Bolcom
© 2006 Katryn Conlin for VocalEssence

 

The mythic dimension, of course, was already there in Arthur Miller’s 1957 drama, a true-to-life story, in which the author detected “some re-enactment of Greek myth that was ringing a long-buried bell in my subconscious mind.” In the play Bolcom too sensed the mythic horizon behind life in the New York Sicilian community of which Eddie Carbone had long been a pillar. And working with Miller and long-time collaborator Arnold Weinstein to “translate” the drama into opera the composer amplified the mythic resonance of the story by adding a chorus that functions as it did in classic tragedy: it comments on — rather than taking part in — the events at hand.

Commissioned by and premiered at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1999, “View” moved — with the addition of two arias to the score — to the Metropolitan Opera in 2002 . And this third staging of the original production — directed by Frank Galati with sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto — by a major company confirms that this is indeed an American classic.

Three singers in the WNO cast who created their roles in Chicago and then repeated them at the Met contribute greatly to the WNO success: Kim Josephson as stevedore Eddie Carbone, Catherine Malfitano as his wife Beatrice and Gregory Turay as relative Rodolfo newly-arrived from Italy.

It is a coincidence perhaps that this trio returns to “View” for a third time. Yet their presence in the cast speaks of a commitment to the work that came across clearly in the performance at Washington’s Kennedy Center on November 14. It is, of course, Malfitano, now looking back on an international career spanning three decades, who amazes. The dramatic power and the beauty of her voice remain undiminished. Her delivery of “When am I gonna be a wife again?” — one of the added arias — expresses the pain she feels as she watches her husband’s growing obsession with her orphaned niece, portrayed with all the innocence of the ‘50s by Christine Brandes.

This illicit passion that turns this account of life in a community still committed to an Old-World code of honor into tragedy defines Eddie as the central figure in “View,” and Josephson has fully mastered the complexity of the role. He violates this code first in his passion for his niece and then in reporting his wife’s illegal immigrant relatives in to authorities. But of far greater consequence is the kiss that he gives his rival Rodolfo.

It is a violation of a taboo that determines the outcome of the drama. What makes the scene doubly compelling is that up to this moment Eddie was not consciously aware of the sexual attraction that Rodolfo held for him.

This kiss, comparable in its force to that embrace in the Garden of Gethsemane, is at the very heart of “View,” and Bolcom has set it with a master’s hand. Backed by the black-white bleakness of the photographs projected on the rear of the stage, it reaches beyond the story as a violation of such dimensions that it demands action from the gods. Indeed, in its impact, it stands beside Hagen’s murder of Siegfried in Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung.” It is one of the great moments in opera.

An outstanding member of the supporting cast is Richard Bernstein as illegal immigrant — “submarine” — Bruno. Bass Bernstein, one of America’s most agile singers, is superb in everything he does, yet he remains among the unsung truly significant voices of his generation. And he makes “A Ship Called Hunger,” the finest and most overpowering aria in the score, a show stopper. Indeed, the bitterly sorrowful line “I do not understand you, America!” is the supreme vocal moment in the opera.

Also impressive is veteran bass John Del Carlo as Lawyer Alfieri, a man intimately familiar with the characters in the drama, but at the same time an objective observer who leads the chorus that Bolcom has integrated so effectively into the score. And tenor Turay brings bel canto brilliance to Bolcom’s recasting of the hit song “Paper Doll” as a Pucciniesque aria.

John DeMain, now in the senior ranks of American conductors, gives full power to Bolcom’s score with the WNO orchestra. Amy Hutchison directed this re-staging of the Chicago production.

“View from the Bridge” tells a story as poignant as it is bleak of what opera scholar Thomas May describes as “an era that combined lingering innocence with suspiciousness, unjaded faith in the American dream with a shield of cynicism.” Arthur Miller was a major spokesman of that age; with this opera William Bolcom lays bare its emotional heart.

Wes Blomster

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):