02 Mar 2008
Mary, Queen of Scots (Maria Stuarda)
San Diego Opera apparently has raided the vaults of Lincoln Center opera companies, circa the 1970s.
A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.
Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.
On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.
Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.
Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.
San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).
San Diego Opera apparently has raided the vaults of Lincoln Center opera companies, circa the 1970s.
The company opened the season with a rebuilt staging of the Metropolitan Opera's Tannhauser production from that era, and for their second production, they figuratively crossed the square for Ming Cho Lee's sets for Donizetti's Maria Stuarda (which San Diego Opera insists on calling Mary, Queen of Scots). The San Diego audience audibly appreciates a decent traditional staging, and even though Ming Cho Lee basically dressed up a spare uni-set with just a shift of platform here and a moody back drop there, the curtain for act one, scene two (after the first of two intermissions) drew a round of applause from the audience. The three scenes of act two came after the second intermission, and each necessitated the dropping of the curtain for a scene change, letting at least some of the drama evaporate. Perhaps a lighting cue would get the audience to shush before the conductor (the reliable Edoardo Müller) brought down his baton to resume the music.
Quibbles aside, San Diego Opera deserves an opera lover's gratitude for putting on Donizetti's historically corrupt but very entertaining spin on the sad fate of Mary. Admittedly, the opera's structure lacks a compelling narrative drive. In the first scene, Elizabeth the queen gives into the request of the Earl of Leicester to meet the imprisoned Mary, only because the Queen is smitten with the Earl. In scene two, Mary exults at a brief taste of freedom in the assigned meeting place. However, her pride will not let her humble herself before Elizabeth, and in one of opera's surprisingly rare cat fights, curses are soon flying through the air between the two ladies. This seals Mary's fate, of course, but the long second act drags it out unmercifully, although when the final scene finally takes the audience to the execution chamber, the opera's best music follows.
Kate Aldrich as Elizabeth started the show gunning her engines, and if her character didn't disappear after the first scene of act two, might have totally eclipsed Angela Gilbert's Mary. Aldrich sang out with vehement gusto, easily encompassing the role's vocal range. She had the fire for the confrontation scene and the dejected regret when she realizes the man she loves is in love with Mary. Gilbert took a while to warm up. Her chief vocal strength is her top, which she can float quite beautifully. But it is more of a technical feat than an artistic one, and the middle of the voice too often dropped under the orchestral fabric. That being said, Gilbert hit her stride in the long final scene, finding just enough color to hold the audience though the rather anti-climatic set pieces.
Reinhard Hagen's sturdy bass worked well in making a sympathetic Talbot, who tries to support Mary in her suffering. Andrew Greenan, as the "bad guy" Lord Cecil, urged on the audience's boos at curtain, knowing well that they indicated the success of his performance. In the tenor role of the Earl of Leicester, Yegishe Manucharyan pushed his attractive lyric voice to meet the occasionally forceful demands of Donizetti's writing, with intermittent success. A vertically challenged tenor in the classic mode, Manucharyan as costumed often looked as if he were the adolescent prey of two middle-aged female predators.
Word is that at the Metropolitan Opera, Peter Gelb has plans to revive not only this opera but the other two in Donizetti's "Three Queens" trio. After the rapturous applause that followed this San Diego performance of Mary, Queen of Scots, perhaps General Manager Ian Campbell will consider beating the Met to the punch.