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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.
It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.
Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.
American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no
less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series
feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera,
Nixon in China.
Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.
'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.
On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.
In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener
Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.
In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the
Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in
a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.
I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and
Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series
programmes opening the New Year.
There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.
On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.
Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.
A Falstaff that raised-the-bar ever higher, this was a posthumous resurrection of Luca Ronconi’s masterful staging of Verdi’s last opera, the third from last of the 83 operas Ronconi staged during his lifetime (1933-2015). And his third staging of Falstaff following Salzburg in 1993 and Florence in 2006.
One of Aidan Lang’s first initiatives as artistic director of Seattle
Opera was to encourage his board to formulate a “mission statement”
for the fifty-year old company. The document produced was clear, simple, and
anodyne. Seattle Opera would aim above all to create work appealing both to the
emotions and reason of the audience.
Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal,
Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its
focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy
and with a clever twist,
Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) consistently serves up superlatively sung Wagner
productions. This Fall, its productions of Philipp Stölzl's Parsifal and
Kasper Holten's Lohengrin offered intoxicating musical affairs. Annette Dasch, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Peter Seiffert reached for the stars. Even when it
comes down to last minute replacements, the casting is topnotch.
Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.
The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.
On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.
07 Apr 2009
Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci at the MET
The current revival of Cav and Pag at the Met went off like clockwork, with all the comfort and reliability that implies for a repertory house and all the success these tried and true verismo stalwarts merit.
No one was under par but there were very few surprises, few thrills or
chills. But each opera did conceal one surprise — one shock — one
small but significant vocal revelation — that made the evening other than
The spotlight on the curtain just before it rose on Franco
Zeffirelli’s almost too-accurate Sicilian mountain village drew from us
soft gasps of alarm, but it was just an announcement that José Cura, though
suffering from a cold, would be singing both leading tenor roles in any case.
(Domingo, his mentor, used to make such announcements all the time in the
’70s.) In the event, his opening serenade did indeed sound labored
— but when was the last time you heard any tenor, even in the pink of
health, sing that aria of sated love with an easy, leggiero line? For the rest
of the night he was fine, a bit gruff — as he usually is — and with
no ringing at the top, which some might miss. It’s a perfectly decent way
to put these parts over. Gigli fans will mourn, but he’s been dead a long
Ildikó Komlósi as Santuzza and José Cura as Canio in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.
I was interested in the ladies of the evening. Ildikó Komlósi sang the most
mellow-sounding Herodias of my experience last fall — no
eldritch screamer but a chic, handsome hostess having trouble controlling her
adolescent daughter — and I wondered how that enjoyable take on Strauss
would translate to Mascagni’s tormented peasant. Komlósi is a fine
actress, and hurled herself about the story and the stage, but her essentially
lyric instrument (though she also sings Amneris and Eboli, which call for
power) did not at first warm to its task, to the expression of desperation
— Santuzza is always on the verge of hysteria, she says nothing calmly,
she opens her mouth and her whole anguished life is in her utterances.
Komlósi’s beautiful voice and Germanic (okay, Hungarian) vibrato are
pleasing, but she did not become intense until the duets with Cura and Alberto
Mastromarino’s dry, not very threatening Alfio pushed her to forget
herself and go wild. Santuzza has tripped up many experienced singers; I did
not feel she had it quite down, but she is a voice and an artist of
No part is too small for Jane Bunnell to make it interesting — on such
character performers do repertory companies rely, and her dignified Mamma Lucia
was a pleasure. But then out came Lola, a youngster from the Met’s
Lindemann Young Artists’s Program, one Ginger Costa Jackson, tall, slim,
very pretty, a bit too whorish about the sashay (an error made by too many
Lolas — she’s a respectable wife in a prudish small town, and no
one but Santuzza suspects she’s anything else), but — the voice! No
light mezzo here (as one is used to), but a deep, penetrating, perfectly
produced contralto with exciting colors. She would make quite an effect in a
range of Handel roles, trouser or otherwise.
Jane Bunnell as Mamma Lucia and José Cura as Canio in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.
The lady in Pagliacci — there’s only one, remember
— was Nuccia Focile, a charming soubrette in the past (an adorable
Despina in Cosí fan tutte), who sang a mediocre Nedda, the voice
unsupported, the coloratura imprecise in both “Stridono lassu” and
the play-within-the-play. The only time she rose to the demands of this
curious, death-defying figure was during her impassioned love duet with Silvio
— and here was the evening’s second surprise: Christopher Maltman.
This striking and sexy British baritone, a noted lieder singer as well as a
Billy Budd and a specialist in Mozart roles, filled the house with an easy,
dark, focused, thrilling baritone and was an equally thrilling actor. Too, he
sang with the most perfect Italian enunciation of the night. This is a voice
with star quality and a rare musical intelligence, a singer one is eager to
hear again in a dozen roles or in recital. Beside him, Cura and Mastromarino,
the evening’s Canio and Tonio, sounded effective but ordinary —
they wrung no sobs from me.
Pietro Rizzo had a firm hand on the dramatic flow of the evening in the pit;
the resonant celli seemed especially to flower, and I clearly heard echoes of
Wagner in Pagliacci, whenever Tonio was conniving. The Zeffirelli
staging with all its animals and all its children and all its gradual dawn and
sunset lighting changes and all its clowning extras gives audiences a notion of
what grand opera used to be about, and why young directors have been so eager
to change it. A ringing Canio, a gutsy Santuzza and a real Nedda would make it