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

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.

Riveting Maria de San Diego

As part of its continuing, adventurous “Detour” series, San Diego Opera mounted a deliciously moody, proudly pulsating, wholly evocative presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s “nuevo tango” opera, Maria de Buenos Aires.

La Walkyrie in Toulouse

The Nicolas Joel 1999 production of Die Walküre seen just now in Toulouse well upholds the Airbus city’s fame as Bayreuth-su-Garonne (the river that passes through this quite beautiful, rich city).

Barrie Kosky's Carmen at Covent Garden

Carmen is dead. Long live Carmen. In a sense, both Bizet’s opera and his gypsy diva have been ‘done to death’, but in this new production at the ROH (first seen at Frankfurt in 2016) Barrie Kosky attempts to find ways to breathe new life into the show and resurrect, quite literally, the eponymous temptress.

Candide at Arizona Opera

On Friday February 2, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Although all the music was Bernstein’s, the text was written and re-written by numerous authors including Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, as well as the composer.

Satyagraha at English National Opera

The second of Philip Glass’s so-called 'profile' operas, Satyagraha is magnificent in ENO’s acclaimed staging, with a largely new cast and conductor bringing something very special to this seminal work.

Mahler Symphony no 8—Harding, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

From the Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, a very interesting Mahler Symphony no 8 with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The title "Symphony of a Thousand" was dreamed up by promoters trying to sell tickets, creating the myth that quantity matters more than quality. For many listeners, Mahler 8 is still a hard nut to crack, for many reasons, and the myth is part of the problem. Mahler 8 is so original that it defies easy categories.

Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday—Angelika Kirchschlager

At the Wigmore Hall, Schubert's birthday is always celebrated in style. This year, Angelika Kirchschlager and Julius Drake, much loved Wigmore Hall audience favourites, did the honours, with a recital marking the climax of the two-year-long Complete Schubert Songs Series. The programme began with a birthday song, Namenstaglied, and ended with a farewell, Abschied von der Erde. Along the way, a traverse through some of Schubert's finest moments, highlighting different aspects of his song output : Schubert's life, in miniature.

Ilker Arcayürek at Wigmore Hall

The first thing that struck me in this Wigmore Hall recital was the palpable sincerity of Ilker Arcayürek’s artistry. Sincerity is not everything, of course; what we think of as such may even be carefully constructed artifice, although not, I think, here.

Lisette Oropesa sings at Tucson Desert Song Festival

On January 30, 2018, Arizona Opera and the Tucson Desert Song Festival presented a recital by lyric soprano Lisette Oropesa in the University of Arizona’s Holsclaw Hall. Looking like a high fashion model in her silver trimmed midnight-blue gown, the singer and pianist Michael Borowitz began their program with Pablo Luna’s Zarzuela aria, “De España Vengo.” (“I come from Spain”).

Schubert songs, part-songs and fragments: three young singers at the Wigmore Hall

Youth met experience for this penultimate instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s Schubert: The Complete Songs series, and the results were harmonious and happy. British soprano Harriet Burns, German tenor Ferdinand Keller and American baritone Harrison Hintzsche were supportively partnered by lieder ‘old-hand’, Graham Johnson, and we heard some well-known and less familiar songs in this warmly appreciated early-afternoon recital.

Brent Opera: Nabucco

Brent Opera’s Nabucco was a triumph in that it worked as a piece of music theatre against some odds, and was a good evening out.

LPO: Das Rheingold

It is, of course, quite an achievement in itself for a symphony orchestra to perform Das Rheingold or indeed any of the Ring dramas. It does not happen very often, not nearly so often as it should; for given Wagner’s crucial musico-historical position, this is music that should stand at the very centre of their repertoires – just as Beethoven should at the centre of opera orchestras’.

William Tell in Palermo

This was the infamous production that was booed to extinction at Covent Garden. Palermo’s Teatro Massimo now owns the production.

The Bandits in Rome

AKA I masnadieri, rare early Verdi, though not as rare as Alzira. In 1847 London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre  commissioned the newly famous Verdi to write this opera for the London debut of Swedish soprano Jenny Lind.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Saint Corentin, évêque de Quimper
21 Oct 2008

Le Roi d’Ys at Avery Fisher Hall

By the time he completed Le Roi d’Ys, in 1888, Edouard Lalo was sixty-five, approaching the end of a successful career as a chamber violinist.

Edouard Lalo: Le Roi d’Ys

American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, on the Great

Above: Saint Corentin, évêque de Quimper

 

Like Massenet, Fauré, Reyer and Debussy, he had been dazzled by the achievement of Richard Wagner, and like them he was anxious to find a way to create an opera that would not owe too much to Wagnerian technique; imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is not the best way to create stage works with lives of their own. Too, in a France still smarting from the Franco-Prussian War, it did not do for anyone hoping to succeed to be too German.

So he took a folk tale about a magical city that sank beneath the waves off the Breton coast, a city supposedly so marvelous (says my old Guide Michelin) that another city named itself “like Ys,” Par-Ys. In the opera, Ys is saved at the last minute, thanks to the intervention of St. Corentin and the pagan self-sacrifice of wicked but repentant Princess Margared, who opened the floodgates in the first place; in the legend, the city was lost, but its bells can be heard in the surf and it will rise again should mass ever be celebrated in the cathedral. (Try chanting and sipping wine while under water. Go ahead, try.) Debussy made that story a tone poem, La Cathedrale Engloutie, but Lalo, after the grand stage spectacle of a city being engulfed, saved it again. (Reminiscences of Der Fliegende Hollander are perceptible in the story and audible in the score.)

If Brittany were a nation (and the inhabitants will assure you that it is), Le Roi d’Ys would be its national opera – if it were in Breton and not in French. The characters are cardboard – the only one with any personality is Margared, a powerhouse mezzo (Dolora Zajick would have fun with it), mixing Ortrud with Senta. The orchestral textures (in which the chorus takes enthusiastic part) give the piece its not inconsiderable charm – the scene-painting of Breton occasions (a wedding, a storm, a flood) is masterful, but the only part of the work that is well known or striking is the matinade, the tenor’s wedding day aria from Act III, which turns up on many a recital disk and, in performance, stands as the one knockout hit in the score.

Leon Botstein insists that the work is a second-rank masterpiece, like Ariane et Barbe-Bleu and Le Roi Arthus – of which his performances, in my opinion, also failed to convince or excite. (His presentations of The Wreckers, Genoveva and Die Ferne Klang were far more persuasive. May one request Spohr’s Jessonda, Chabrier’s Briséis or Janacek’s Excursions of Mr. Broucek for his next novelty?) Except for some messy brass work, the presentation on October 3 –probably the first in New York in thirty-odd years (it was last given here by Opera Orchestra of New York, but some ad hoc company or other actually staged it at the Beacon Theater in (my) living memory) – was propulsive and enjoyable work in the many virtuoso parts of this intriguing score.

The singers were young and, for the most part, impressive and promising. Dana Beth Miller, hitherto a soprano, has made the best of a transition to a lower fach; her Margared, full of hysterical threats, remorseful asides, and heroic repentance, strayed only once – at a moment of shock when a saint’s statue came to life in her face – into the extramusical; otherwise one appreciated her cool control of a sizable and richly colored mezzo in a long, various and demanding part. She was ably supported by Frédéric Antoun, who gave a light, delectable account of Mylio’s matinade that made one eager to hear him in the Offenbach, Mozart and Bellini roles he’s been doing here and there, and Georgia Jarman was charming, as Margared’s bland but happy sister. Curtis Streetman ably held down the small title role and Andrew Nolen introduced the story as a Breton sidekick, then intruded portentously as the saintly statue come to life, both duties that became him well.

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):