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‘Mack does bad things.’ The tabloid headline that convinces Rory
Kinnear’s surly, sharp-suited Macheath that it might be time to take a
short holiday epitomizes the cold, understated menace of Rufus Norris’s
production of Simon Stephens’ new adaptation of The Threepenny
Opera at the Olivier Theatre.
On May 25, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of the Herbert Ross production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La bohème. Stage director, Peter Kazaras, made use of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s wide stage by setting some scenes usually seen inside the garret on the surrounding roof instead.
On May 21, 2016, Ars Minerva presented The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles (Le Amazzoni nelle Isole Fortunate), an opera consisting of a prologue and three acts by seventeenth century Venetian composer Carlo Pallavicino.
While Pegida anti-refugee demonstrations have been taking place for a while
now in Dresden, there was something noble about the Semperoper with its banners
declaring all are welcome, listing Othello, the Turk, and the hedon Papageno as
Opera houses’ neglect of Leoš 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.
It’s not easy for critics to hit the right note when they write about musical collaborations between students and professionals. We have to allow for inevitable lack of polish and inexperience while maintaining an overall high standard of judgment.
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
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.
24 Jun 2009
La Traviata in San Francisco
Much ink has been spilled over the failed Marta Domingo production of La
Traviata that San Francisco Opera inexplicably imported for its blatantly
audience baiting summer season (Traviata, Tosca, Porgy and Bess).
the critical intention of finding the positive and ignoring the well publicized
negatives of the production endured only through the first act (overheard
intermission comments “she seems very organized,” “I’ve
The second act, a Verdi masterpiece, was rendered nonsensical, the
storytelling eviscerated — Violetta flippant, Germont deadly cold,
Alfredo happen chance. Flora’s party was the occasion of an extended
ballet of the sort that makes audiences laugh. Violetta’s death was
enacted in the heavens, possibly a reference, maladroit, to the Eurydice
Charles Castronovo as Alfredo [Photo by Terrence McCarthy courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
If there was ever any theatrical integrity to this production it had
evaporated in this strange encounter of Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, a superb
singer and a very particular artist, with the wife of Placido Domingo. Clearly
there was no connection between the emotional immediacy projected by Mme.
Netrebko, her dramatic delivery of text that was high Monteverdi in its
directness and intensity, and the stylized, content-less staging perpetrated by
Mme. Netrebko was in fine form for the June nineteenth performance, the
third of her five performances (Elizabeth Futral takes a further three
performances, Ailyn Perez one more). Her voice filled the theater with an
unusual volume and richness, pitch precision sometimes subjugated to
declamation in infinite tonal and rhythmic colorations. It may be noted that
she did not take the ‘Sempre libera’ high E-flat, nor did she open
the traditional cuts in ‘Ah, fors’é lui’ or her ‘Addio
Mme. Netrebko nearly met her match in American tenor Charles Castronovo who
brought urgency, voluptuously sculpted text delivery, beauty of tone and a
handsome stage presence to this Verdi tenor, though like all of them
Dwayne Croft (Giorgio Germont) and Anna Netrebko (Violetta Valéry) [Photo by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
Dwayne Croft, père Germont, possesses a fine instrument that he uses with
great care, and with commendable musicality. Though naturally commanding his
stage presence and musicianship paled in his confrontations with Violetta and
his son when it needed the immediacy and authority to confuse their youthful
Reveling in this charged musicality erupting from the stage conductor Donald
Runicles melted into a rapport with the stage that is all too rare in opera,
and when it occurs sublime music is sometimes heard. Mo. Runnicles’
mannered tempi and phrasing were elaborated by those mannerisms of his not
particularly Italianate soprano and tenor, and tempered by the stylistic
cleanliness and musical purity of his baritone. Finally the weeping minor
seconds of Violetta’s death rang incisively, with a final agogic
[a slight withholding of the beat] choke from the throbbing violins —
representative of the Runnicles mannerism catalogue.
Anna Netrebko (Violetta Valéry) and Dale Travis (Baron Douphol) [Photo by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
It could have been thrilling indeed, this death, had the stage moved in
concert with the Verdi poetic. Mme. Domingo imposed the forms of the roaring
twenties, a metaphor that does not seem to match the atmospheres of this
mid-nineteenth century morality play, perhaps because art nouveau lines are
overwhelmingly sensual, and flashing, reflective surfaces too sexually
forceful. Finally La Traviata is a simple story of family life that
easily disappears in fanciful images (three ballerinas floated onto the stage
to drape Violetta in a bridal gown during the death scene, as one of many
As this review is for Opera Today and not the Harvard Business
Review the focus is on the art of opera, not the art of business. Perhaps
an evaluation of the business of opera as reflected in this Traviata
and last week’s Tosca would validate some of the artistic
choices, and one hopes, result in more positive terms. Otherwise there can be
no point to San Francisco Opera’s summer season.