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Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
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.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
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.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value
a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.
Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.
Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.
San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).
13 Nov 2008
A powerful, poignant Elektra at the Royal Opera House, London
“This won’t be a total Schlacht of sound” said the director, Charles Edwards, of this production. Instead, it’s a strikingly intelligent interpretation, focusing on the deeper aspects of the drama.
Despite his extensive experience, this is Mark Elder’s first
Elektra. He was adamant that the characterization should reflect the
music. Elektra’s part is surprisingly tender at times. Twisted by fate,
she’s become wild, but beneath the madness still lurks the real woman
Elektra might have been. This makes her tragedy all the more poignant. The
real drama here doesn’t lie in decibels. Orchestrally, this was superb.
Elder understands the inner dynamic of the music, grasping the fine detail
sometimes lost in the vast sweep. Harsh, dry percussion punctuates the
beating of the maids. They, too, are victims of the brutal regime. The fifth
maid, who protests, is destroyed, as Elektra will be. The playing was so well
judged that this would have made a superb recording, even without the
Yet what visuals ! A monstrous Bauhaus monolith is set at an awkward angle
against a Greek temple. These architectural fault lines remind us that
Elektra is powerful political commentary. Klytemnestra murdered Agamemnon to
seize his kingdom, but she can’t enjoy power, her nightmares pursue
her. Elektra is duty bound to avenge her father, but she’s irrevocably
warped by it, and cannot live past retribution. As for Orestes, who will now
be king ? Neither Strauss nor von Hofmannsthal make this explicit in the
opera, but they knew, and their audiences knew, Orestes continues to be
punished by the Gods. This production was conceived at the start of the Iraq
war although it references that turning point in European history, just
before the collapse of the Austrian, German and Russian empires. If anything,
recent events like the failure of the banking system, reinforce the point
that power is an illusion, easily destroyed. Nothing’s stable : Aegisth
whirls round, dying, in a revolving door.
In this palace, family values are dysfunctional. There are disturbing
sexual undercurrents in all relationships. Perceptively, however this
production doesn’t play up the kinkiness, but places it firmly in the
context of the power crazed society around the palace. Everyone is trapped in
this brutal situation. Hence the production accentuates the importance of the
maids and subsidiary characters, expanding them as silent roles.
Susan Bullock as Elektra is outstanding. Because this interpretation makes
her sympathetic, Bullock can develop the more subtle aspects of
Elektra’s personality. She’s no screaming mad harpie. There are
many traces of the woman she might have become. She mocks the maids for
having children, yet understands why Chrysothemis wants babies. The dynamic
between Elektra and Chrysothemis (beautifully realized by Anne Schwanewilms),
is lucidly defined. “Ich kann nicht sitzen und ins Dunkel starren wie
du “, cries Chrysothemis. It helps explain why, at her moment of
triumph, Elektra deflates. She has nothing to sustain her but vengeance and
must die when she achieves it. Her final dance is slow, barely perceptible,
as if she’s sinking into the very ground, carrying the “burden of
happiness” which no longer has meaning.
A scene from Elektra [Photo by Clive Barda]
Orestes is the finest part I’ve seen Johan Reuter play so far, and
it suits him well. So much more can be made of Klytemnestra and Aegisth than
Jane Henschel and Frank van Aken presented, but in theatrical terms this was
no real loss, as it didn’t pull focus away from the sisters and
Orestes, and the wider drama around them. Rarely does lighting merit a
mention, but this time it was exceptionally effective. Agamemnon features
prominently as a silent role, his “ghost” projected onto the
walls of his palace. When Elektra sings to Orestes of “Der milchige des
Monds”, a faint, but persistent light shines on the corrugated panoply
above her. It’s a tiny detail, easily missed, but that moment of beauty
throws the tragedy into high relief. This Elektra becomes more
profoundly moving, the more it unfolds.