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Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to see three different productions within little more than a couple of months).
Opera houses’ neglect of Janáček remains one of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the ‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa, Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely hook most for life. From the House of the Dead might do likewise for someone of a rather different disposition, sceptical of opera’s claims and conventions.
Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.
George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.
Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.
‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’
Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is
wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.
This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.
As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.
From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the
Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the
appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic
dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today,
‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in
genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.
On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.
A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.
Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.
Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.
What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.
I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s
Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The
Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and
further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic
term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.
Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical
Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the
previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final
at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the
young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.
On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.
Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.
London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.
07 Dec 2008
Glyndebourne on Tour — Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Glyndebourne Touring Opera has long been bringing its wares to the further reaches of the southern United Kingdom and its current package of Hansel und Gretel, Carmen and The Magic Flute has been drawing good crowds from Norwich in the east to Plymouth in the south-west.
GTO is all about looking to the future: many of the young singers in the
principal roles are getting their first chance to sing with a company of this
standard, knowing that from here they may, if good enough, progress to not
only the Glyndebourne Festival itself but also other major houses. Also, the
operas are supported by the excellent GT Chorus, and a quick look back
through their rosters over the years will reveal both in the Chorus and the
supporting singers some well known names — the likes of Felicity Lott,
Jill Gomez and Ryland Davies, to name just three who have gone on to
The other great thing about the Glyndebourne “brand” is their
reputation for musical quality and long hours of essential rehearsal time,
both assets that many similarly-sized outfits struggle to achieve in these
straightened times. Young singers need nurturing, and given time to develop
their technical and dramatic skills; I this regard I can think of few better
companies than GTO. What a touring company can also do is teach them the
other vital skill of the successful singer: working to the highest standard
in testing circumstances. Long miles on the road, strange theatres, sometimes
inadequate facilities, unknown audiences and, for many, the need to learn two
or more parts from scratch — and then there is the singing itself.
All these skills were on display recently at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth
where this writer caught both Flute and Carmen playing to
full enthusiastic houses at the end of GTO’s Autumn Tour. Each was
expertly directed, idiomatically conducted and played, and offered a high
standard of vocalism. If Mozart’s renowned pot pourri of fairy-tale,
panto, myth and Masonic ritual relied almost entirely on elegant 18th century
costumes and a clever lighting rig for its effects, GTO brought the versatile
set of guardroom/factory with them for Bizet’s Carmen, plus
the full chorus in traditional Spanish costume. Each worked well, and if the
Plymouth stage seemed a trifle cramped for the latter opera, it was perfect
for Magic Flute. As with many of England’s modern
“one-size-fits-all” theatres, the needs of versatility can
sometimes work against the opera ideal — the Theatre Royal is a good
medium-sized hall, comfortable and modern in its facilities both front and
back stage, but acoustically offers some challenges to unamplified voices.
This showed up most in the recitatives — in both operas — where
more projection was needed than was sometimes supplied. Interestingly, this
was not a problem once the singers actually sang with orchestra in their
With so many excellent young artists on show over the two nights, one
hesitates to mention particular names, as there were absolutely no
“duds” in either pack, but this writer was not alone in noticing
the fine, resonant, easy tone of the South Korean baritone Yonghoon Lee as
Don José in the Bizet. From a hesitant first scene his voice blossomed into
something quite special as he mixed bravura passages with finely-wrought
pianissimos — a name to watch.
Theatre Royal, Plymouth. [Photo courtesy of thisisplymouth.co.uk]
Douglas Boyd (Flute) and Jakub Hrusa (Carmen) directed
the excellent GT Orchestra who never seemed to put a foot wrong in either
ensemble or obbligatos; fine playing on each night.
Sue Loder © 2008