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

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.

A Merry Falstaff in San Diego

On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.

New Production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.

A Salome to Remember

Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.

L’Elisir d’Amore Goes On Despite Storm

On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.

Boris Godunov in Marseille

There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola, whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Kurt Streit as Idomeneo [Photo by Terrence McCarthy courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
21 Oct 2008

Idomeneo in San Francisco

Munich in 1781 was hardly the big city, not an enlightened Paris where Gluck had recently turned the opera world on its ear, not a European capital like Vienna where Italian operatic imperialism was unassailable.

W. A. Mozart: Idomeneo

Idomeneo: Kurt Streit; Idamante: Alice Coote; Ilia: Genia Kühmeier; Elettra: Iano Tamar; Arbace: Alek Shrader; The High Priest of Neptune: Robert MacNeil; The Voice of the Oracle: Kenneth Kellogg. San Francisco Opera. Conductor: Donald Runnicles. Director: John Copley.

Above: Kurt Streit as Idomeneo

All photos by Terrence McCarthy courtesy of San Francisco Opera

 

But Munich was certainly aware of operatic life in the big city, and did its best to compete, doing so by the commission of an opera called Idomeneo to a bright young composer, an ascending star, W.A. Mozart.

Idamante1.pngAlice Coote as Idamante

No one would know then that this little opera with its big aspirations could become a mainstay of current big house repertory, though truth to tell it sits there a little uncomfortably. While it has the big chorus scenes Paris loved, even the sine qua non ballet that opera companies do not even attempt these days, not to mention the scenic spectacular that universally wows, it inevitably also has the Mozart genius that goes well beyond these old opera stories and their splendid vocalism. It is music that heads straight for the heart and the mind. The Marriage of Figaro is just beyond the horizon (five years away) as immediately after Idomeneo Mozart begins exploring the more nuanced world of comedy first with a singspiel and then two small, unfinished buffa’s.

But meanwhile the serious Idomeneo is built on an already dead operatic irony. To save his own life Idomeneo must sacrifice another life, and to save his people he really has to do so, even though Idamante, his son and his victim, has saved the people from the terrible sea monster that Neptune unleashed when Idomeneo was reluctant. Opera seria is big and bold and improbable. Rossini would again make it so only a few years later, but not the Mozart of Idomeneo, a valiant child of the Enlightenment.

This early Mozart indulges the women who love Idamante in delicate and passionate personal expressions of their love. Mozart places his father in quiet, deep torment, and even his son (in Mozart’s Munich the castrato Vicenzo dal Prato) voices real grief in his often above-the-staff, male-soprano showpiece. And these are only the seeds of discovery for the exposition of human souls in his greatest masterpieces, the Da Ponte comedies — these Idomeneo creations soon enough will become his Countess and Elvira, his Count and his tongue-in-cheek castrato, Cherubino.

IdomeneoArbace.pngKurt Streit (Idomeneo) and Alek Shrader (Arbace)

San Francisco is no longer the big city operatically speaking, certainly not the New York of the renewed Met, or even Munich for that matter, and in the case of the current edition of Idomeneo, San Francisco does not even try to compete with big operatic thinkers, as it did in the 1977 when Jean Pierre Ponnelle made the first San Francisco Idomeneo. Instead San Francisco Opera dusted off its twenty year-old John Copley production, cast it with relatively unknown stars-in-the-making, and entrusted it to the broad musicality of its music director, Donald Runnicles.

The Copley production does indeed provide a comfortable background for this minor Mozart masterpiece. Its settings designed by John Conklin delicately reference antiquity, its costumes coolly incorporate tunics and togas for its choruses with rich, courtly seventeenth century dress for its protagonists. Mr. Copley makes his actors’ movements flow with the music in naturalistic ways, motions that are continuously choreographed, that echo the naturalness of the music rather than illustrate or impose the artificiality of the opera seria genre. Mr. Conklin’s visual images flow in the same fashion, seemingly in continuous movement as the aria follows aria. The entirety of the staging was like a beautiful wallpaper that surrounds voice and music.

Maestro Runnicles brought the entire second act to a timeless, sublime musicality, the departure trio dangling its hopes and fears, the arias melting with emotion. The great third act quartet unfolded grandly, then four graphically magnificent horses rose gracefully from the sea (masking any sort of terrifying sea monster). And the music never faltered. Well, only once — a small moment of real drama when the cue for the deus ex machina was a trifle late and we all had a fleeting moment to laugh at the ridiculousness of such things. This evening in toto was like a perfect recording, we knew the music need never end.

Tenor Kurt Streit provided a fine Idomeneo, his well-produced, clear voice able to encompass the huge range of emotions inherent in this difficult role. The Idamante of mezzo-soprano Alice Coote amply filled the musical, vocal and even histrionic needs of this complex role, a perfect Idamante for this Copley exercise in musical flow. Genia Kühmeier sang beautifully as Ilia, glorious pianissimos flowing into passionate outpourings. Even the smaller scale of the spurned Electra of Iano Tamar seemed perfectly at home in the calm flow of this production. Bass Robert MacNeil was adequate as the High Priest of Neptune, less so the Arbace of Adler fellow Alek Shrader.

Michael Milenski

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):