Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

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):