Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Commentary

Bampton Classical Opera's Young Singers' Competition - Winner Announced

Bampton Classical Opera is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2019 Young Singers’ Competition is soprano Lucy Anderson. The runner-up prize has been awarded jointly to soprano Daniella Sicari and mezzo-soprano Carolyn Holt. The winner of the accompanists’ prize, a new category since 2017, is Dylan Perez, who accompanied Lucy Anderson.

Soprano Eleanor Dennis performs Beethoven and Schubert at the 2019 Highgate International Chamber Music Festival

When soprano Eleanor Dennis was asked - by Ashok Klouda, one of the founders and co-directors of the Highgate International Chamber Music Festival - to perform some of Beethoven’s Scottish Songs Op.108 at this year’s Festival, as she leafed through the score to make her selection the first thing that struck her was the beauty of the poetry.

Mark Padmore reflects on Britten's Death in Venice

“At the start, one knows ‘bits’ of it,” says tenor Mark Padmore, somewhat wryly, when I meet him at the Stage Door of the Royal Opera House where the tenor has just begun rehearsals for David McVicar’s new production of Death in Venice, which in November will return Britten’s opera to the ROH stage for the first time since 1992.

Annilese Miskimmon appointed as English National Opera’s Artistic Director

English National Opera has appointed Annilese Miskimmon as Artistic Director.

An interview with Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Oxford Lieder Festival's first Associate Composer

“Trust me, I’m telling you stories …”

GSMD and ROH announce Oliver Leith as new Doctoral Composer-in-Residence 2019-2022

Guildhall School of Music & Drama in association with The Royal Opera today announces Oliver Leith as the fourth Doctoral Composer-in-Residence, starting in September 2019. Launched in 2013, the collaboration between Guildhall School and The Royal Opera is one...

In conversation with Nina Brazier

When British opera director Nina Brazier tries to telephone me from Frankfurt, where she is in the middle of rehearsals for a revival of Florentine Klepper’s 2015 production of Martinů’s Julietta, she finds herself - to my embarrassment - ‘blocked’ by my telephone preference settings. The technical hitch is soon solved; but doors, in the UK and Europe, are certainly very much wide open for Nina, who has been described by The Observer as ‘one of Britain’s leading young directors of opera’.

2019 Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera International Song Competition

Russian bass-baritone Mikhail Timoshenko has won the top prize at the 2019 Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera International Song Competition.

An Englishman in Vienna: Stephen Storace

When his first opera, Gli sposi malcontenti, premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 1st June 1985, the 23-year-old Stephen Storace must have been confident that his future fame and fortune were assured.

Stendhal on the Rossini Revolution

Some Details concerning the Revolution inaugurated by Rossini

Louise Jeffreys to become Deputy Chair of ENO

English National Opera (ENO) is pleased to announce that Louise Jeffreys is to become Deputy Chair of English National Opera and the London Coliseum. She replaces Nicholas Allan. Louise is currently Artistic Director of the Barbican where she leads...

Verdi Treasures from Milan’s Ricordi Archive make US debut

Rare testimonies to the history of Italian opera from the Milan-based, Bertelsmann-owned Ricordi Archive will now be shown in the United States for the first time. Fans of classical music and literature can look forward to the exhibition “Verdi: Creating Otello and Falstaff - Highlights from the Ricordi Archive”, which will be on view at the renowned Morgan Library & Museum in New York from September 6, 2019 to January 5, 2020.

Odyssey Opera Resurrects Henry VIII

BOSTON, MA (For Release 07.18.19) — One of the nation’s most adventurous opera companies, Odyssey Opera, begins its seventh season with a concert performance of Henry VIII (1883) by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns based on El cisma en Inglaterra (The schism in England) by Pedro Calderón de la Barca.

Glyndebourne Announces the Return of the Glyndebourne Opera Cup in 2020

Glyndebourne’s major new international singing competition returns in 2020 with a renewed commitment to supporting diversity in opera. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup - the international competition for opera singers is designed to discover and spotlight the best young singers around the world, offering a top prize of £15,000 and a guaranteed role at a leading international opera house. The final will once again be broadcast live on Sky Arts on 7 March 2020 and the series is produced by Factory Films.

Garsington Opera: Five Young Singers Win Prestigious Awards

Winners of this year’s prestigious Leonard Ingrams Foundation awards are mezzo-soprano Bianca Andrew and tenor Oliver Johnston. These awards support, encourage and nurture the best young artists involved in the creative process of bringing opera to the stage, and are made in memory of Garsington Opera’s founder Leonard Ingrams, to ensure the continuity of his vision.

Bill Bankes-Jones on the twelfth Tête à Tête Opera Festival

“We need to stop talking about ‘diversity’ and think instead about ‘inclusivity’,” says Bill Bankes-Jones, when we meet to talk about the forthcoming twelfth Tête à Tête Opera Festival which runs from 24th July to 10th August.

The Italian Opera Connection at ‘The English Versailles’: The Duchess of Buccleuch and the Georgian Stage at Boughton House

As part of its annual programme of events, Boughton House in Northamptonshire hosts ‘A Passion for Opera’, a rare exhibition portraying the musical life of Lady Elizabeth Montagu (1743–1827) and the world of Georgian operatic culture.

An interview with composer Dani Howard

The young Hong Kong-born British composer Dani Howard is having quite a busy year.

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycle

Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced both schedules and cast-lists for is Spring 2020 performances of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Given the series of individual productions already staged by the company since Fall 2016, that pave the way for the complete cycle, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s complete production should affirm the artistic might of the great composer.

Irish mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy on Salzburg, Sellars and Singing

For Peter Sellars, Mozart’s Idomeneo is a ‘visionary’ work, a utopian opera centred on a classic struggle between a father and a son written by an angry 25-year-old composer who wanted to show the musical establishment what a new generation could do.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

Memminger Auditorium (Charleston, SC)
09 May 2008

Spoleto USA revives opera, hall

Operas do not often get a second chance. A new work is premiered and — if it’s a co-commission — it moves on to another company or two.

Above: Memminger Auditorium

 

Then the score retreats to libraries, waiting to be listed in the next edition of the Grove Dictionary of Opera.

Recent successes such as Mark Adamo’s “Little Women” and “Dead Man Walking” by Jake Heggie are happy exceptions. Thus it’s good news that Anthony Davis’ “Amistad,” premiered by the Chicago Lyric Opera late in 1997, is being revived by Spoleto USA, the Charleston, South Carolina, all-arts festival that has a special “feel” for unusual works. Now it’s being revived in a greatly revised version by the composer to re-open Charleston’s Memminger Auditorium, the city’s former arts venue that had fallen upon hard times until that Spoleto “feel” sensed its value as a unique performance space.

A gala performance of “Amistad” opens the 2008 Spoleto season and inaugurates the rebuilt hall. When Davis accepted Chicago’s commission to write “Amistad,” the mutiny of heroic Africans about to be sold into slavery was a story whose time had come. Steven Spielberg’s film version also appeared in 1997, and it led — in turn — to David Pesci‘s novel on the mutiny and the court case that was a first step toward the abolition of slavery in this country.

Yet in the original version of the opera Davis seemed — so to speak — to have missed the boat. Critics were not kind to the work. Davis and his librettist cousin Thulani Davis, some felt, had “leached” a great story of its energy. The Trickster God, an African folk deity, did too much of the talking, allowing one-dimensional characters little opportunity for meaningful exchange. The opera was too long; it was static and did not excite the audience. The Amistad case — the Spanish owners of the ship tried to claim the Africans as their property — had gone all the way to the Supreme Court. Yet, one observer wrote, the scene that focused on John Quincy Adams's courtroom defense of the captives was “a snore.”

Nonetheless Spoleto general director Nigel Redden saw “Amistad” as a work of particular relevance for Charleston and decided to bring it back to life in a theatrically and musically vital way. It would be ideal, he felt, for the inauguration of the re-built Memminger. “I was at the Chicago premiere,” Redden says, “and I thought of “Amistad” immediately when we started making plans for Memminger. “It’s important to me that people feel this is a theater for everyone, and I wanted a work that would attract a wide spectrum from the community.”

Although only minutes away from King Street, the Charleston’s major downtown shopping artery, Memminger stands in the middle of a very mixed neighborhood off the regular path of festival visitors. The city’s once-active and well preserved slave market is a horror of history close at hand. “ ‘Amistad’ was an obvious choice for Memminger,” Redden says. “It’s a work that belongs here.” Redden sat down with Davis, who gained early fame for his “Malcolm X,” and made suggestions for the revision of the opera.

“It’s a work that relates to a major issue in Charleston’s history,” says Spoleto director of opera and concerts Emmanuel Villaume, “and staging it in Memminger underscores the impact that Spoleto has — and has had — on the city.” Villaume will be on the podium for all six performances of “Amistad.” And Villaume is pleased that the opera is open minded and without a narrowly defined political position.

“Anthony had been hoping for a chance to return ‘Amistad’ to the stage,” he says. “He has put a lot of effort into the new version, shortening the work and making it more concentrated. “It’s now for smaller forces used more efficiently, and it’s far more intimate than it was in Chicago.” “‘Amistad’ will gain from the location and the legacy of Charleston,” Davis says. “It’s now shorter and tighter, and there will be a better balance between singers and orchestra.”

A totally new cast has been recruited for the Memminger production, which will be directed by Sam Helfrich with costumes by Kaye Voyce and an imaginative set by Caleb Wertenbaker. Leading the list of 21 singers are Gregg Baker, Stephen Morscheck, Mary Elizabeth Williams and Michael Forest.

Redden points out that 2008 is of particular significance for “Amistad,“ for it marks the bicentennial of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. “This brings a particular resonance to the Spoleto production,” he says. Spoleto has planned numerous events related to the opera, including artist talks and roundtables at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, guided tours of the newly-renovated Old Slave Mart Museum, followed by a walking tour of sites related to African-American history in Charleston and screenings of related films. The Freedom Schooner Amistad – a replica of the slave ship currently on an 18-month transatlantic voyage – will be docked at the Charleston Maritime Center from May 16 through the opening weekend of the season.

****************

It is, however, not only Amistad that is getting a second chance at Spoleto this season. Memminger Auditorium, once Charleston’s major arts venue, has undergone a $6-million renovation, and will reopen on May 22 with a gala performance of “Amistad.” Designed by the Charleston architect Albert Simons, Memminger was completed in 1939 as a Federal Works Agency. It was home to the Charleston Symphony Orchestra prior to the opening of Gaillard Auditorium in 1968. It was also the site of high-school basketball games. Neglected after Gaillard was built, Memminger lost its roof in Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Emergency repairs saved the structure, which was filled with pigeons and cobwebs when Nigel Redden envisioned the ruin as the site for Spoleto extravaganzas. With makeshift air conditioning and miles of duct tape to save the audience’ clothes from splintered seats, Memminger reopened with a performance of Heiner Goebbels’ massive “Surrogate Cities” in 2000. Mahler symphonies and China’s “Peony Pavilion” — complete with a moat for live ducks — followed. The 2004 staging of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” was so successful that it was repeated in 2005. It also prompted the decision to rebuild Memminger as a black-box theater. “Memminger has an edge to it,” Redden says. “Frankly, it’s fabulous. It makes a very strong statement.”

Memminger-Balcony-%28before%29.pngThe balcony of Memminger Auditorium prior to renovations.

This season Memminger will also be home to Spoleto’s twice-daily chamber-music recitals, the most popular events of the festival, while the historic Dock Street Theatre is remodeled. Memminger is now handicap accessible and it has an attractive lobby with upgraded restrooms. The stage now has wings, and a garden will welcome audience members during intermissions.

****************

The second opera of the 2008 Spoleto season is Rossini’s “La Cenerentola,” which opens in Gaillard Auditorium on May 23. Charles Roubaud, whose Spoleto credits include a shimmering “Lakmé” and a rollicking “Ariadne auf Naxos,” directs; Matteo Beltrami is the conductor. Sandra Piques Eddy sings the title role; others in the cast are Victor Ryan Robertson, Tim Nolen and Bruno Taddia.

For complete information on Spoleto USA, visit www.spoletousa.org.

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):