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

Prom 54 - Mozart's Last Year with the Budapest Festival Orchestra

The mysteries and myths surrounding Mozart’s Requiem Mass - left unfinished at his death and completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr - abide, reinvigorated and prolonged by Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus as directed on film by Miloš Forman. The origins of the work’s commission and composition remain unknown but in our collective cultural and musical consciousness the Requiem has come to assume an autobiographical role: as if Mozart was composing a mass for his own presaged death.

High Voltage Tosca in Cologne

I saw two operas consecutively at Oper Koln. First, the utterly bewildering Lucia di Lammermoor; then Thilo Reinhardt’s thrilling Tosca. His staging was pure operatic joy with some Hitchcockian provocations.

Haitink at the Lucerne Festival

Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music. His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.

BBC Prom 45 - Janáček: The Makropulos Affair

Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.

Two Tales of Offenbach: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.

Britten Untamed! Glyndebourne: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?

Salzburg encores

A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert.  Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.

Leah Crocetto at Santa Fe

On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.

Angela Meade at Sante Fe

On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.

Turco in Italia in Pesaro

When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.

Proms Chamber Music 5: Shakespeare at 400

It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.

La donna del lago in Pesaro

Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.

Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at …’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.

Santa Fe: Straussian Sweet Nothings

With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe’s Civil War Gounod

When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.

Coolly Elegant Vanessa in the Desert

Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.

Le Comte Ory, Seattle

Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.

Racette’s Golden Girl in New Mexico

Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.

Santa Fe’s Mozart Cast Sweeps All Before It

A funny thing happened on the way to Andalusia.

Die Liebe der Danae in Salzburg

The tale of a Syrian donkey driver. And, yes, the donkey stole the show! The competition was intense — the Vienna Philharmonic and the Grosses Festspielhaus in full production regalia for starters.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

David DiChiera: Cyrano
02 Mar 2008

Cyrano at The Opera Company of Philadelphia

The Opera Company of Philadelphia’s February production is the second staging of David DiChiera’s new opera Cyrano, a co-production with Michigan Opera Theater and Florida Grand Opera.

David DiChiera: Cyrano
The Opera Company of Philadelphia
February 8, 2008

Marian Pop (Cyrano), Evelyn Pollock (Roxane), Stephen Costello (Christian), Peter Volpe (Deguiche), Daniel Teadt (Le Bret), Mark T. Panuccio (Ragueneau), Kathleen Segar (Duegne), Torrance Blaisdell (Capucin), Stefan Lano (conductor), Bernard Uzan (director).

 

The libretto by Bernard Uzan is based on Edmond Rostand’s famous drama Cyrano de Bergerac, and is written in French. Uzan also directed the production. The score was orchestrated by Mark D. Flint, DiChiera’s frequent collaborator, and the orchestra was conducted by Stefan Lano.

Cyrano is DiChiera’s first opera, written relatively late in his life after a long and successful career as an impresario, particularly as founder of Michigan Opera Theater which premiered this production. He studied composition in the 1950’s and 60’s, but his Puccini-influenced style was not in fashion at that time. In this opera he returns to those musical roots. But like first operas by much younger composers, Cyrano seems a bit derivative. Its style has the feel of music from a century ago with touches of Korngold. But, if it breaks no new ground and shows no great originality, it is pleasing, accessible, and celebrates the singers, which is not always true of other modern works or modern productions. The music is weakest in the over-long first act, which seemed to bog down in dense orchestration and lack of a clear sense of musical direction. Had the opera ended after the first act, it would have been a disappointment. However, in the second and third acts the action focuses on the love story and here DiChiera hits his stride. His music carries the romantic story forward in melodic exchanges between the main characters, capturing the poignancy of Cyrano’s unfulfilled love. In these later acts the music was moving and enjoyable. But I could not escape the feeling that the opera was libretto- driven and lacked identifiable musical high points. In most great operas there are clear moments when the music takes over or dominates the story. After Cyrano I could remember dramatic high points, but not musical ones.

The young Romanian baritone Marian Pop sang Cyrano with a clear tone and lovely color, especially in the upper part of his range, and was affecting in portraying the bittersweet nature of Cyrano’s situation as the mouthpiece for his companion Christian. However, one wished for more vocal heft and bravura acting in the first act to convey what Cyrano calls his “panache”. The other two major characters, Roxane and Christian, were played by former students at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts. Soprano Evelyn Pollack could easily be imagined as the object of Christian’s infatuation and she displayed a bright and agile voice overall. However, she did seem to struggle on occasion with some harshness and insecurity in the upper register. And while convincing as the object of Christian’s love, she was less so as a witty précieuses who so easily and cruelly dismisses the supposedly beloved Christian for the banality of his professions of love. Christian is primarily a foil for Cyrano in the opera, and does not have much opportunity to shine, but tenor Stephen Costello sang the role solidly, if sometimes a bit stiffly. In his brief appearances Eric Dubin showed off a rich baritone and an aristocratic manner as the Marquise de Brisaille, Roxane’s would be seducer. The minor roles were ably filled.

After the music and libretto, the third important element of opera is artistic design, and here this production really shone. It is dominated by ornate and elaborate sets and costumes designed by John Pascoe, which are well-suited to the romantic story and music. On several occasions the audience was moved to applaud the set as the curtain rose. The designs also represent a certain vision of what opera should be that matches that found in the music and libretto.

Where this opera succeeds is in its reverent musical adaptation of a classic play and its well-crafted expression of certain operatic virtues. And these deserve praise and may be enough to bring it long-term success. In this regard it is the antithesis of the modern “concept” production in which the music and story are subservient to a directorial “vision.” But, the ultimate moments in opera are musical—moments when the music doesn’t just serve the story, but elevates or transcends it. And, alas, I cannot say I found many such moments in Cyrano.

Stephen Luebke

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):