Recently in Performances
On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.
Director Richard Jones never met an opera he couldn’t ‘change,’ and Canadian Opera Company’s sumptuously sung Ariodante was a case in point.
I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.
Canadian Opera Company has assembled a commendable Norma that is long on ritual imagery and war machinery.
“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”
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.
06 Jul 2008
San Francisco Opera summer season, 2008
David Gockley heard the cries of many an opera fan that Pamela Rosenberg had denied them their 'stars,' so for his summer season, 2008, he brought them Natalie Dessay, Susan Graham, Ruth Ann Swenson, and Stefan Margita.
Stefan Margita? Well he may not be a household name, even in the dwellings of opera lovers, but he dominated the production of Wagner's Das Rheingold, seen in the last performance of its run on Saturday, June 28th. Francesca Zambello's concept, first seen in Washington D.C., supposedly centers on an "American" perspective. Much more of what that might entail appeared in the program essay than on stage. Alberich carried a pickax, so he might have been a prospector. Since his discovery of the gold actually comes by accident, that profile made little sense. The Rheinmaidens looked much as they usually do, and the first stage set of ramps swamped by mist made an amorphous impression. Zambello resorted to rather trite imagery for the film screen back drop, including a mountain stream and space imagery right out of any number of corny science fiction films for the opera's prelude. The prospective tenants of Valhalla came dressed as Gatsby-era upper crust types, with gentlemen in pale linen (Donner carried a croquet mallet). For once, Wotan actually was dozing as Fricka woke him, but since she did it with a TV sitcom swap across the head, Wotan started diminished and really never showed any of the character's grandeur or strength. Mark Delevan, however, gave evidence that he has the voice for the role, and could well grow into a more impressive interpretation.
But the opera became Loge's once the elegant, obsequious figure of Stefan Margita slank on stage. Although his voice failed to carry well anytime he turned away from the audience, he had absolute command of the stage otherwise. And conductor Donald Runnicles sooner or later let the orchestra flood over all the singers. The best of Zambello's invention went to the giants, superbly sung and acted by Andrea Silvestrelli (Fasolt) and Günther Groissböck (Fafner). In an interesting twist, the Freia of Tamara Wapinsky apparently found, as Madeline Kahn did in Young Frankenstein, the "sweet mystery of life" with Fasolt, as she clung to him amorously after her abduction, returned reluctantly to her family, and then was inconsolable when Fafner went in for a little fratricide.
Zambello may yet fully develop the "American" perspective as the cycle continues in future seasons. On Saturday night, the production took a lower profile while the singers and orchestra carried the night.
The Sunday matinee audience for Lucia Di Lammermoor basked in the radiant star power of Natalie Dessay, and at least for the first act, her Edgardo, Giuseppe Filianoti, shone as bright. However, after singing with brilliant tone and force through the sextet, the tenor started to wane in the second act. By his great climatic scene, the voice had grown husky and strained at the top. Nonetheless, he was rewarded for the passion of his efforts with a healthy ovation at curtain.
But Dessay brought the crowd to their collective feet. She did not overplay the character's neurosis, and her mad scene truly put the emphasis on the music's depiction of the breakdown, rather than histrionics. The high notes carried a hint of scratchiness, otherwise, the performance almost appeared effortless. Not so that of Gabriele Viviani, the Enrico, whose stout baritone carried well but without any distinctive qualities.
The production, co-directed by Graham Vick and Marco Gandini, gave an atmospheric sense of the moors, especially in the final scene. Brooding skies and a single blasted, twisted tree served most of the other scenes, with sliding panels quickly establishing new locations. The most effective moment came with Lucia's appearance for the mad scene, a "slow reveal" that frankly acknowledged the central place this scene has in the opera's staying power. Conductor Jean-Yves Ossonce provided efficient, if characterless, support.
Unfortunately, OperaToday reviewers are not immune to transportation difficulties, and a slow leak (which should not a problem for a typical gasbag critic) from a tire prevented your reviewer from making the curtain for Tuesday's night's Ariodante . The last half of act one was caught from orchestra standing room, and then, exhausted, your reviewer slipped out of the War Memorial after act two. The conducting of Patrick Summers, routine to a fault, had not helped matters.
No blame for this whatsoever goes to the excellent cast. Susan Graham and Ruth Ann Swenson both sang exquisitely, with admirable support from Richard Croft and Eric Owens. As the villain of the piece, Sonia Prina hammed it up enthusiastically enough but looked fairly ridiculous. The sets and costumes came from Dallas Opera (direction by John Copley and design by John Conklin ). Tall marble columns slid into different formations for each scene, but it always seemed to be the same set. The lavish costumes only emphasized the barrenness of the staging. Some years ago a video appeared of an ENO production of the opera, featuring Ann Murray, which had much more wit and eroticism than this lame affair. Sadly, as your reviewer left after act two so did quite a few other audience members. Maybe they had tire problems to attend to as well...
So ends the 2007-08 SFO season. But the 2008-09 season premieres in just a matter of weeks, with stars such as Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Anna Netrebko lined up. Gockley should perhaps look into bringing back Stefan Margita soon as well.