Recently in Performances
It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.
With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.
Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.
If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”
Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?
Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.
On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.
Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.
Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.
Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.
The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s ﬁrst great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.
The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.
This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.
Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’
Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.
Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by
the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.
06 Apr 2008
ANNA BOLENA – English Touring Opera
In a climate in which bel canto opera seems to be enjoying a steady and welcome revival, ETO opened their current season with a welcome production of Donizetti's historically dubious account of the latter days of Anne Boleyn. The company's...
In a climate in which bel canto opera seems to be enjoying a steady and
welcome revival, ETO opened their current season with a welcome production of
Donizetti's historically dubious account of the latter days of Anne Boleyn.
The company's fine Maria Stuarda three years ago is still fresh in the
memory, and one wonders whether the company might be brave enough to complete
the 'set' with a staging of Roberto Devereux before too long.
The basic framework of Soutra Gilmour's versatile set serves all three
productions on the current tour, and for this opera the set's skeleton had
tapestry panels mounted upon it which slid in and out of place to create
different spaces and enable characters to conceal themselves from one
In the title role, Julie Unwin grew in confidence and vocal security as
the evening progressed – at the start her tone, dynamics and vibrato
overpowered the musical line a little, but by the middle of the first act she
had settled into it and she gave a particularly convincing performance in the
lyrical moments of the later scenes.
She was, however, overshadowed by outstanding performances from two
colleagues: Julia Riley's Jane Seymour was rich-voiced, elegant, poised,
passionate and credible – and although Luciano Botelho's dryish tenor is
not quite beautiful, he made almost effortless work of Lord Percy's
stratospherically high-lying passages. I suspect that this is one of those
roles which, when sung even half-decently, is guaranteed to bring the house
down – however Botelho really did deliver it with style and panache.
In fact, while most ETO offerings boast one or two particularly strong
performances, I forget the last time they fielded such a strong all-round
cast. Former ENO principal Riccardo Simonetti was a commanding Henry VIII,
while Jonathan Pugsley's Lord Rochford and Serena Kay's Smeaton were also
Performing in an orchestration which suits the forces available (and with
several cuts to the score) the company has put together a fine orchestra this
time around, too, with some particularly good woodwind – Michael Lloyd
ETO's decision to perform in the original Italian – a rare exception to
their usual English-language policy – was perhaps a wise one, as this
repertoire benefits from the Italian vowel sounds combined with the bel canto
melodic lines. However the scrolling surtitles were laughable, full of
misspellings and oblivious to what might unintentionally cause amusement. But
overall this is a creditable account of an opera which has been unjustly
neglected in the country from which it takes its inspiration.
Ruth Elleson © 2008