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

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Extravagant Line-up 2017-18 at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany

The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus

The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.

Mahler Symphony no 8 : Jurowski, LPO, Royal Festival Hall, London

Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.

Rameau's Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques: a charming French-UK collaboration at the RCM

Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.

St Matthew Passion: Armonico Consort and Ian Bostridge

Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he embodied a perfect Rodolfo.

New opera Caliban banal and wearisome

Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its less-than-tragic plight.

Two rarities from the Early Opera Company at the Wigmore Hall

A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

G. F. Handel
06 May 2008

The Collegiate Chorale: Jupiter in Argos

Over the years, one tried and true method of packing audiences in to the concerts of Robert Bass’s Collegiate Chorale has been to present concert opera with impressive soloists.

G. F. Handel: Jupiter in Argos

Callisto: Elizabeth Futral; Diana: Heidi Grant Murphy; Iside: Kristine Jepson; Jupiter: Rufus Müller; Osiris: Wayne Tigges; Lycaone: Valerian Ruminski. The Collegiate Chorale directed by Robert Bass. Avery Fisher Hall, performance of April 28.

 

I’ve delighted in their presentations of Weber’s Oberon (Lauren Flanigan as the Caliph’s daughter!), Dvorak’s Dmitry (Martina Arroyo as a Polish princess! — a line that brought down the house), Szymanowsky’s King Roger, and many of the Verdi works that give choral forces a workout. Handel might be a worthy choice for such a group — his dramatic oratorios are terrific music, terrific drama, largely unfamiliar to New York audiences, and give pride of place, not to say a spectacular starring role, to the chorus, though in my experience of Handel chorale, less is usually more, and a proficient choir of two dozen is more effective than a group of fifty or a hundred.

However, bypassing the superb dramatic oratorios heard far too infrequently (Saul, for instance, or Athaliah, or Susannah, or Belshazzar, or — when did anyone last perform Alexander Balas?), Bass chose this spring to give the American premiere of the recently unearthed Giove in Argos (Jupiter in Argos), a pasticcio — that is, a work cobbled together mostly from pre-existing music by contract to a company of musicians while Handel’s true creative attentions were elsewhere. For a group with the Collegiate Chorale’s credentials and Bass’s expertise — undoubtedly fine but with little experience in the once neglected, now tremendously popular area of baroque opera — it may not have been the wisest possible choice.

The choruses were pleasing, but they played a comparatively small part in the evening’s entertainment, while Bass made the drastic decision — defensible thirty years ago, but way out of line today — to snip nearly all the solo arias of their B sections or their da capo ornamented repeats. This may have pleased the unions, but far too often it left hearers unsatisfied by singers who were barely warming to their tasks of characterization and ornament when they were obliged to sit down. Our ears were left wobbling by holes that had been dug in the path and were never to be filled. It was tatterdemalion Handel, even allowing for the high quality of some singing and of many individual arias familiar from other works.

For the pasticcio plot, someone devised a properly pasticcio legend combining the Ovidian myths of two of Jupiter’s amours — Io (transformed into a cow, fled to Egypt, and identified by later Greeks with the cow-headed goddess Isis) and Callisto (transformed, with her son, into bears, and placed among the stars). Setting two myths at once allowed Jupiter (tenor Rufus Müller) to get himself caught by each lady wooing the other, with the usual sitcom shenanigans and a happy-ish end of his going home to his wife and leaving them both alone.

The delight of the evening was Kristine Jepson as Io/Isis; her cool, lovely, hall-filling mezzo was the reason I was glad to be at this concert and nowhere else in New York. She possesses both the crowd-thrilling agility of ornament for Handel’s fiery arias (jealous rage or cries of alarm), she can sing quietly of despair or yearning, the simple, pensive beauty of her perfect technique making time seem to stop. This is the quality all great Handel singers must possess — the ability to draw you within their hearts, to comprehend the emotions being expressed, and Jepson has it.

Elizabeth Futral was, as usual, the most elegantly dressed of the performers; she sang Callisto with her accustomed assurance, a pretty way with runs and ornaments, a light touch on the flowering vocal line. Heidi Grant Murphy’s voice always seems bland and ill-supported; her Diana lacked a goddess’s authority. Rufus Müller, as the hapless king of the gods, drew as much sympathy for his harassed facial expressions as for his facility with Handel’s tenor lines. Wayne Tigges sang a decent Osiris but Valerian Ruminski, whose rich bass rumble I have admired on bel canto occasions, seemed off his game or out of his proper repertory here.

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):