Recently in Reviews
On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.
Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement,
but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment
“is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga
Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.
Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.
Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.
On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.
Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.
You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.
If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.
Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.
For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.
Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.
Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.
David Little composed his one-man opera, Soldier Songs, ten years ago and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas of New Haven, Connecticut, premiered it in 2011. At San Diego Opera, the fifty-five minute musical presentation and the “Talk Back” that followed it were part of the Shiley dētour Series which is held in the company’s smaller venue, the historic Balboa Theatre.
On Saturday evening November 12, 2016, Pacific Opera Project presented Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville in an updated version that placed the action in Hollywood. It was sung in the original Italian but the translation seen as supertitles was specially written to match the characters’ Hollywood identities.
A Butterfly for the ages in a Butterfly marred by casting ineptness and lugubrious conducting.
In 1964, 400 years after the birth of the Bard, the writer Anthony Burgess saw Cole Porter’s musical comedy Kiss Me, Kate, a romping variation on The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare’s comedy, Burgess said, had a ‘good playhouse reek about it’, adding ‘the Bard might be regarded as closer to Cole Porter and Broadway razzmatazz’ than to the scholars who were ‘picking him raw’.
Beat Furrer's FAMA came to London at last, with the London Sinfonietta. The piece was hailed as "a miracle" at its premiere at Donaueschingen in 2005 by Die Zeit: State of the Art New Music, recognized by mainstream media, which proves that there is a market for contemporary music lies with lively audiences
Franz Schreker Die Gezeichneten from the Opéra de Lyon last year, now on arte.tv and Opera Platform. The translation, "The stigmatized", doesn't convey the impact of the original title, which is closer to"The Cursed".
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.