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 Reviews

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

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.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

Billy Budd in Madrid

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.

A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw

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.

English song: shadows and reflections

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.

A charming Pirates of Penzance revival at ENO

'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.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

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.

Johan Reuter sings Brahms with Wiener Philharmoniker

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.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

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.

Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker

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.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher in Lyon

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.

A New Look at Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio

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.

Giasone in Geneva

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.

Falstaff in Genoa

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.

Traviata in Seattle

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.

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

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,

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part I: Stölzl’s Psychedelic Parsifal

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: Temple Song Series

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.

Fortepiano Schubert : Wigmore Hall

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.

Baroque at the Edge: London Festival of Baroque Music, 12-20 May 2017

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Kathleen Keske as Amelia and Francis Liska as Riccardo [Photo courtesy Brooklyn Repertory Opera]
24 Jun 2009

A Masked Ball by Brooklyn Repertory Opera

Amato Opera went to the netherworld of expired extravaganzas this spring, a one-man operation whose one man was weary. As New York’s oldest down-the-block and semi-pro company, it’s loss was regrettable — though it’s many years since Amato gave up doing interesting repertory.

Giuseppe Verdi: A Masked Ball

Amelia: Kathleen Keske; Oscar: Pamela Scanlon; Ulrico: Nicholas Tamagna; Riccardo: Francis Liska; Renato: Charles Karel, Sam: Ilberto Lagana; Tom: Ernest McCoy. Couducted by Stephen Francis Vasta. Brooklyn Repertory Opera, performance of June 14.

Above: Kathleen Keske as Amelia and Francis Liska as Riccardo

All photos courtesy of Brooklyn Repertory Opera.

 

Agreeable — and surprising — to find that several other shoestring companies are flourishing, despite these bad financial times, and that venues pop up in the unlikeliest parts of town — well, the rent is lower if the address is stranger.

The Brooklyn Lyceum, for example, is a 1910 public bathhouse on Fourth Avenue at President Street — they used to call it Flatbush, and now the rebuilders say “Lower Slope,” but for many decades the plain between the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Greenwood Cemetery was several miles of vacant. Today it is reviving, there are tidy homes and restaurants, and you can stroll by night and jitter-free. The Lyceum, tattered brick and the remains of tile, contains a performing space about the size of a basketball court — you could fit a dozen Amatos there — on a stage built over the former pool. The look recalls the BAM Harvey (which was left to look that way on purpose), but the stairs aren’t so steep at the Lyceum and the bathrooms far easier to find. I strolled by one recent day for the last of Brooklyn Repertory Opera’s four performances of Verdi’s A Masked Ball — Brooklyn Rep always performs in English — and I was delighted I had done so.

Full disclosure: The company prima donna, Kathleen Keske, is an old friend whose voice I have admired in such roles as Weber’s Rezia but had not heard in several years. I was eager to hear her Amelia, and she assured me the rest of the cast was good. I had misgivings — I’ve been to a lot of these little companies across the years — sometimes thrilled, sometimes appalled. You never know. And Ballo is tricky, five big roles and intricate orchestration. (Most such companies use a piano or two — not Brooklyn Rep.)

karel-scanlon-masked-2.gifPamela Scanlon as Oscar and Francis Liska as Riccardo

To my delighted surprise, the cast was solid, mature enough for Verdi, and eager to sing out; the orchestra, under Stephen Francis Vasta, professional and clear, making Verdi’s points. The chorus was on the small side, and overly weighted towards ladies, but costs were really cut on sets (mostly projections of the royal palace in Stockholm) and costumes, haphazard at best. The wince-making translation was uncredited in the program — I wouldn’t admit to it either. (But I found I could shut my eyes and think of the Italian, and let the voices carry the show.)

I’m delaying things: To my regret, Keske was not at her best in this role. Amelia has two personalities, the defeated subject of domestic tragedy and the full-throttle Verdi passionista; Keske did not possess the weight or the well-supported power for those grand arching phrases. In her quiet aria, however — the one that, in Italian, begins “Morrô, ma prima in grazia” — she sang with well-placed tone and great feeling for a woman in despair, facing with resignation the loss of everything dear to her.

The other soprano, the boy Oscar, was sung by Pamela Scanlon, whose strong, bright soprano and clear, certain coloratura impressed me as a voice ready to tackle Violetta and likely to give a good account of it. Her acting, as called for by this trouser role, was on the cute side — but not a garish, gender-mocking space alien, as in the current Met production. Riccardo — promoted to king here but not Swedished as Gustav — was sung by Francis Liska, with a graceful lyric line and the right air of narcissistic indifference to the deep emotional waters in which he treads. Charles Karel sang Renato with a sturdy, genuine Verdi baritone, warm, heartfelt and — ultimately — grim.

murderer-caught.gifA scene from A Masked Ball

Then out came Ulrica — you know — the fortune teller — the Marian Anderson/Ewa Podles role. Already there had been intimations of surprise, in references in the first scene, to a “magician” named “Ulrico.” (Why not just Ulrich?) I seized the program and, staggered, read the name: Nicholas Tamagna. “You sprang that on me! You didn’t warn me!” I later accused Madame Keske, who smiled. “Would you have come if I’d told you?” “Maybe not.” “And did you like him?” she went on smiling.

Mr. Tamagna, a countertenor who usually sings roles like Orfeo (last April at the Brooklyn Rep, sorry I missed it) and Handel’s Cesare (in D.C. in the fall), earned his Book of World Records (and Wikipedia) moment as the first man ever to sing this diehard mezzo role in a full performance of Verdi’s opera. A slim figure with a shaven head and satanic contact lenses, he sang it all — in a room of considerable size, remember — in a seamless top-to-bottom alto with no hootiness, no doubtful support, loud as anyone (and everyone) else in a healthy cast, the phrases as beautiful as their eldritch import allowed. (Verdi didn’t want his witches to sound too beautiful, you know.) It was a totally astonishing performance, and in five minutes conquered what reservations I had — and I’m a stickler for certain traditions. Tamagna’s has an alto in which I wished to bask.

But the joy of the entire afternoon was being in a big room where big, healthy voices were singing big, healthy Verdi — up close, full throttle, no electronics, no cutting corners. Pleasure of operatic caliber. This is not lip-service lyric but a company that knows what it’s doing.

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):