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Macbeth, LA Opera

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.

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … 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.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“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!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

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.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

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.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

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.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

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.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

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.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

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.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

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.

English National Opera: Tosca

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.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

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).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“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.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

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.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

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.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

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: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

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.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

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.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

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.



Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quixote and American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves is Dulcinea. [Photo © Cory Weaver]
22 Feb 2009

Massenet's Don Quichotte at San Diego Opera

Ferrucio Furlanetto apparently loves the temperate climes of San Diego in California's equivalent of late winter.

Jules Massenet: Don Quichotte

Ferruccio Furlanetto: Don Quixote; Eduardo Chama: Sancho Panza; Denyce Graves: Dulcinea; Bryan Register: Juan. San Diego Opera. Karen Keltner, conductor. Ian Campbell, director.

Above: Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quixote and American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves is Dulcinea. [Photo © Cory Weaver]


In recent years he has brought to the San Diego Civic Center his celebrated King Phillip (Don Carlo) and Boris Godunov. His appearance this season in Massenet’s little-seen late opera Don Quichotte, however, may be the performance that cements his reputation as an artist cherished by San Diego’s opera-loving community forever. His triumph on opening night overcame any niggles — some surely deserved — about the ultimate merit of Massenet’s Cervantes adaptation.

Even with an intermission, the performance ran just two hours and twenty minutes, evidence of the crude reduction the libretto (by Henri Cain) makes of the literary masterpiece. Act one starts with a dance, then Dulcinea warbles a pleasant aria somewhat similar to Carmen’s first number. Eventually Don Quichotte appears, only to be derided by the townspeople, and Dulcinea sends him off on a seemingly hopeless mission, to recover a stolen necklace. Act two basically consists of the encounter with the windmill, and in act three the robbers capture the Don and are about to execute him when his pathetic nature moves their larcenous hearts of gold, and they not only release him, but give him his beloved’s necklace. In act four he returns it in triumph, and Dulcinea, while grateful, has to gently let him know that she can never match his idealized picture of her. So in act five, he dies.

Ian Campbell directed this new production, with scenic design by Ralph Funicello and costumes by Missy West. Each act required curtain drops for set changes. A production with a more creative approach that eliminated the pauses between acts might not even need an intermission. San Diego Opera audiences have been known to reward traditional sets they enjoy with waves of applause, but Funicello’s designs, rather like slightly classier versions of those that might be constructed by an elite high school’s drama department, didn’t elicit much if any on opening night. The choice to have the Don and Sancho Panza wheeled on atop a horse and mule, respectively, that appeared to have been stolen from a carousel could have been a sly wink at the cartoonish goings-on; your reviewer suspects it’s all a part of the compromises imposed in trying to present naturalistic stagings of an art form that at its heart is not about naturalism. The tree the robbers tie the Don too, for example, probably wouldn’t have such wobbling branches in a film version.

Nonetheless, the artists behind the evening deserve credit, for their efforts threw into relief the greatness of Furlanetto’s performance. The singer is in fantastic shape, and physically embodied the role. More importantly, he caught the foolishness and the grandeur, the pathos and the pride. His voice, secure and full, conveyed all the romantic longing and aspirational passion of the man. And Don Quichotte, it turns out, is one of Massenet’s most melodic operas, with fine tune after tune. Surely with a more substantive libretto, the work would be produced with greater frequency.

_MG_0698.pngArgentinean bass-baritone Eduardo Chama as Sancho Panza and Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quixote [Photo © Cory Weaver]

Denyce Graves retains the personality and stage presence on which she has built her career, but any number of other mezzos could have sung a more alluring, distinctive Dulcinea. Eduardo Chama’s Sancho Panza, on the other hand, stood his ground next to Furlanetto’s Don, capturing both the devotion and subservience of his character, and helping to make the anti-climatic final scene as effective as it could be.

The excellent conductor Karen Keltner emphasized dancing rhythms and singing string tones. A company like Naxos would do well to bring these artists together — with a different Dulcinea — for a recording.

Perhaps only an adequate opera, then, but such is Furlanetto’s success that Don Quichotte seems a masterwork. Anyone who can make the final performances of this short run should make every effort to get a ticket.

Chris Mullins

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