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

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

20 Jan 2008

Die Walküre at the Met

The Metropolitan Opera audience loves its Wagner, and the management for the last several decades has, alas, made sure we aren’t spoiled: it’s a rare season that gets more than two production revivals of Wagner, and some years there have been none.

Richard Wagner: Die Walküre

Brünnhilde: Lisa Gasteen; Sieglinde: Adrianne Pieczonka; Fricka: Stephanie Blythe; Siegmund: Clifton Forbis; Wotan: James Morris; Hunding: Mikhail Petrenko.
Metropolitan Opera: conducted by Lorin Maazel. Performance of January 14.

Above: Adrianne Pieczonka (Sieglinde) and Clifton Forbis (Siegmund)
All photos by Marty Sohl courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

 

A dearth of major Wagnerian voices might be, has been, blamed … but other companies do better … or so it seems to us New York Wagnerians.

The current revival of Die Walküre, always the most popular of the Ring operas, is impressively satisfying: none of the singers are bad, some of them are great, only one of them is even stout (Stephanie Blythe, who, however, sings like the goddess she plays and moves in a stately, never clumsy, manner), while an unfamiliar hand on the podium brings out some unfamiliar colors from the depths of this shimmering score.

The weakest link in the cast was Clifton Forbis, the Siegmund — his gravelly, forced quality, an ill-supported top, no lyricism in the “Winterstürme,” all made this a woeful Wehwalt. The only time he sang with much power was the cry of “Walse! Walse!” — something about this shout seemed to align his throat properly for the first — and last — time all night. In rather striking contrast, Adrianne Pieczonka, a slim, girlish Sieglinde, sang with a full tone a bit beyond complete control, and was underpowered only in the “triumph of woman” explosion in Act III. She might be starting on the road to a major interpretation; Forbis, however, seems simply miscast.

James Morris had a Mozart and bel canto background when he first essayed Wotan twenty years ago — and was then widely expected to fail. Instead, he thrilled all ears, and he has owned the part ever since. (Could his bel canto experience be responsible?) Wobbles in his Hans Sachs last year made me wonder if his Valhalla sun had set, but he was in fine voice during the second performance of the run of Walküres, a little dryer than the lustrous hue of old, no doubt, but wobble-free, in command of the full range of notes and dynamics, and an experienced actor of this figure who attains tragic stature through tardy self-knowledge.

Lisa Gasteen, a star of Rings from London to Vienna to Adelaide, made her first essay at the title role of this opera in New York. She sang, it was announced, with a sore throat, and one would like to credit that for the general weakness of her voice above the staff that began with her first war-cry and continued to the end of the night. But Wagner was not a high-note composer, and the rest of her voice was lovely, beautifully produced, full of deep emotion.

Walkure-_scene_Pieczonka___.pngA scene from Wagner's “Die Walküre” with Adrianne Pieczonka as Sieglinde and Clifton Forbis as Siegmund.

She also cuts a handsome figure and bounds about the rocky sets with youthful athleticism, as a hard-riding warrior goddess ought to — but how many do? In the orchestra, I had doubts about the size of the voice when it came to filling the Met, and friends who sat upstairs shared them, but this was an honorable attempt that gave much pleasure. If her health on Monday is not the reason for her weak top, however, she is hardly the woman to sing the higher Brünnhilde of Siegfried. This experience of her made one interested in hearing her under optimum circumstances and in many roles. (A revival of Frau ohne Schatten would suit her nicely — she’s sung both soprano leads in Germany.)

Walkure-_scene_0086.pngA scene from Wagner's “Die Walküre” with (from left) James Morris as Wotan, Stephanie Blythe as Fricka, and Lisa Gasteen as Brünnhilde

Among the smaller roles, Mikhail Petrenko was especially striking — joining the lengthy list of Hundings whom one wishes had more to do, or big juicy roles in something else in the very near future. (Whatever became of Stephen Milling?) Kelly Cae Hogan, a singer new to me, was first off the mark among the valkyries, and one wished her war-cry, clear and focused and bright, had somehow been substituted for Gasteen’s cautious one; the rest of the gang were also happy choices.

The stage direction seemed to have been tightened, and was especially well synchronized at such tricky moments as Siegmund’s death (and Sieglinde’s flight) and the valkyrie ensembles. The diction all around was exceptional, precise without being intrusive. Lighting for this production seems to be getting steadily dimmer — which makes things like the magic fire all the more effective.

Lorin Maazel’s approach to Wagner was vivid and the pace snappier than we are used to, which rather heightened the excitement of a happy occasion. As at every great Wagner performance, one heard things, instrumental colors, one had never noticed before. Consider, for instance, Wagner’s use of kettledrums for everything but beating time: enhancing this, emphasizing that, pointing words or other instruments, a sudden insertion of ominous texture in the midst of a leitmotiv associated with things not ominous — insofar as anything in the Ring is free from shadow.

John Yohalem

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):