Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

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):