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

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Hibiki: a European premiere by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Proms

Hibiki: sound, noise, echo, reverberation, harmony. Commissioned by the Suntory Hall in Tokyo to celebrate the Hall’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 50-minute Hibiki, for two female soloists, children’s chorus and large orchestra, purports to reflect on the ‘human reverberations’ of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 and the devastation caused by the subsequent tsunami and radioactive disaster.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

Janáček: The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Grimeborn

A great performance of Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared can be, allowing for the casting of a superb tenor, an experience on a par with Schoenberg’s Erwartung. That Shadwell Opera’s minimalist, but powerful, staging in the intimate setting of Studio 2 of the Arcola Theatre was a triumph was in no small measure to the magnificent singing of the tenor, Sam Furness.

Khovanshchina: Mussorgsky at the Proms

Remembering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this Proms performance of Mussorgsky’s mighty Khovanshchina (all four and a quarter hours of it) exceeded all expectations on a musical level. And, while the trademark doorstop Proms opera programme duly arrived containing full text and translation, one should celebrate the fact that - finally - we had surtitles on several screens.

Santa Fe: Entertaining If Not Exactly (R)evolutionary

You know what I loved best about Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?

Longborough Young Artists in London: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

For the last three years, Longborough Festival Opera’s repertoire of choice for their Young Artist Programme productions has been Baroque opera seria, more specifically Handel, with last year’s Alcina succeeding Rinaldo in 2014 and Xerxes in 2015.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Full-throated Cockerel at Santa Fe

A tale of a lazy, befuddled world leader that ‘has no clothes on’ and his two dimwit sons, hmmmm, what does that remind me of. . .?

Santa Fe’s Trippy Handel

If you don’t like a given moment in Santa Fe Opera’s staging of Alcina, well, just like the volatile mountain weather, wait two minutes and it will surely change.

Santa Fe’s Crowd-Pleasing Strauss

With Die Fledermaus’ thrice familiar overture still lingering in our ears, it didn’t take long for the assault of hijinks to reduce the audience into guffaws of delight.

Santa Fe: Mad for Lucia

If there is any practitioner currently singing the punishing title role of Lucia di Lammermoor better than Brenda Rae, I am hard-pressed to name her.

Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen at Grimeborn

Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can be a difficult opera to stage, despite its charm and simplicity. In part it is a good, old-fashioned morality tale about the relationships between humans and animals, and between themselves, but Janáček doesn’t use a sledgehammer to make this point. It is easy for many productions to fall into parody, and many have done, and it is a tribute to The Opera Company’s staging of this work at the Arcola Theatre that they narrowly avoided this pitfall.

Handel's Israel in Egypt at the Proms: William Christie and the OAE

For all its extreme popularity with choirs, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt is a somewhat problematic work; the scarcity of solos makes hiring professional soloists an extravagant expense, and the standard version of the work starts oddly with a tenor recitative. If we return to the work's history then these issues are put into context, and this is what William Christie did for the performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 1 August 2017.

Sirens and Scheherazade: Prom 18

From Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, to Bruch’s choral-orchestral Odysseus, to Fauré’s Penelope, countless compositions have taken their inspiration from Homer’s Odyssey, perhaps not surprisingly given Homer’s emphasis on the power of music in the Greek world.

Discovering Gounod’s Cinq Mars: Another Rarity Success for Oper Leipzig

Oper Leipzig usually receives less international attention than its Dresden, Munich or Berlin counterparts; however, with its fabulous Gewandhaus Orchestra, and its penchant for opera rarities (and a new Ring Cycle), this quality hotspot will be attracting more and more opera lovers. Leipzig’s new production of Gounod’s Cinq Mars continues this high quality tradition.

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A new La clemenza di Tito at Glyndebourne

Big birds are looming large at Glyndebourne this year. After Juno’s Peacock, which scooped up the suicidal Hipermestra, Chris Guth’s La clemenza di Tito offers us a huge soaring magpie, symbolic of Tito’s release from the chains of responsibility in Imperial Rome.

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Kelly Kaduce as Salome shown with the head of Jokanaan [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis]
03 Jul 2009

Summer Nights with the Stars — OTSL’s 2009 Season Shines

The success of Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ 2009 festival season reflects the intelligent leadership of both the previous triumvirate (Charles MacKay, Colin Graham, and Stephen Lord) and the new recruits Timothy O’Leary and James Robinson.

Giacomo Puccini: La bohème
Richard Strauss: Salome

Click here for cast of La bohème and other information

Click here for cast of Salome and other information

Above: Kelly Kaduce as Salome shown with the head of Jokanaan [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis]

 

This strong season opened with a revival of Tim Ocel’s 2001 production of La Bohème. Puccini’s verismo masterpiece (seen on June 20) has become, as Ocel notes in the program, a ubiquitously recommended “first opera.” In fact, it does Ocel and his collaborators credit to state that I would not steer operatic initiates towards this Bohème. After all, who would introduce themselves to American cinema by watching a Robert Altman film? Ocel does such a wonderful job inspiring specific and beautiful performances from his entire cast that the simple story and famous melodies expand into an incredibly rich evening of theatre in which every shopgirl and supernumerary has a story. This is not a Bohème to be put on the kids’ menu. Rather, it is a production to be savoured.

11_MG_5922a.gifAlyson Cambridge as Mimi and Derek Taylor as Rodolfo [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis]

Among the excellent ensemble cast, Alyson Cambridge was an extremely musical and insightful Mimi. Her radiant singing epitomized the transient beauty that Mimi herself represents; each note blossomed like the flowers opening in spring and it was absolutely charming to see a Mimi with a beautiful smile. When Mimi touches Rodolfo’s outstretched hand in the dark as they search for her key, Cambridge murmured a small “oh.” The simplicity and reality of the moment was perfect.

Derek Taylor, making his OTSL debut as Rodolfo, presented a less sympathetic but more realistic Bohemian than audiences may be accustomed to. In Act I, his Rodolfo’s youthful callowness justified the character’s later insecurity and possessiveness. The other Bohemians of the garret were each as strong individually as they were as an ensemble. Eugene Chan portrayed Schaunard as the baby of the group and a budding ladies’ man. Timothy Mix was strong as a Marcello with van Gogh’s coloring but, thankfully, not his temperament. Above all, Steven Humes as Colline stood out for the refinement in both his singing and acting. (Having also enjoyed Humes’ cameo as the Voice of the Pasha in The Ghosts of Versailles, I am currently of the opinion that even the most wonderful operas can be made even better by Humes’ presence onstage.)

Amanda Majeski’s Musetta sparkled in Act II, although the show-stopping quality associated with the character was lessened by the liveliness of Cambridge’s Mimi. In fact, Majeski and Cambridge represented the two young women as girls in very similar situations. Of all the cast, Majeski’s character arc (from her kittenish fit in Act II to her quiet spirituality in Act IV) most exemplified Ocel’s sentiment in his director’s notes — Bohemia isn’t a profession or a lifestyle. Rather, it is a period in a person’s life when the pipe dreams always outnumber the pennies until hunger or pain forces them to move on.

11_MG_5701a.gifL to R: Timothy Mix as Marcello, Derek Taylor as Rodolfo, Alyson Cambridge as Mimi, Eugene Chan as Schaunard, and Steven Humes as Colline [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis]

Judging by the fun he was having in the pit, conductor Ari Pelto could’ve been cast as a fifth Bohemian. There was a slight misstep when the marcia at the end of Act II dissolved into semi-chaos for a moment. Overall, though, the payoff in the orchestra and onstage was a Bohème to remember equally for its spirited and tender moments. The changes in the production, including the elimination of a large moon in Act I, improved upon the 2001 iteration by making everything less theatrical and more realistic. Robert Denton’s lighting design occasionally clashed with the rest of the naturalistic production. During Act III, despite it being a wintry dawn, strong silhouettes were thrown across the Parisian backdrop.

The Act I moon in Bohème might’ve disappeared, but it returned as part of Paul Pallazo’s stunning lighting design for Salome (seen on June 24). Along with set and costume designer Bruno Schwengl, Pallazo created an ingenious design in which the mesmeric moon was reflected onto the floor center stage and the eye was lead to the back wall. There, a circular opening acted as the entrance to the cistern which, when moved for the entrance of Jokanaan, had an effect like that of an oculus.

11_MG_1319a.gifL to R: Amanda Majeski as Musetta, Timothy Mix as Marcello, Derek Taylor as Rodolfo, and Alyson Cambridge as Mimi [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis]

Choreographer and director Seán Curran (assisted to some degree by dramaturg and “consulting director” James Robinson) used this semi-sterile environment as the playing space for Strauss’ fin-de-siècle psychodrama. As one would expect, the production included a ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ par excellence. The dance was both realistically impromptu and well thought-out. Furthermore, the dance fit seamlessly into the modern-dress context of the production while also referencing the Biblical origins of the story. Each of the veils was used to unique and surprising effect, including one made of Latex. Palazzo’s lighting design became an intrinsic part of the choreography by multiplying shadows one moment and creating a seductive glow the next. The highest compliment I can pay is not to describe this ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ in detail because its effect was transfixing and, ultimately, indescribable.

Of course, the success of the dance was largely due to Kelly Kaduce in the title role. She’s well known in St. Louis as a singing actress, but Kaduce’s Salome pushed the singer well into the realm of a triple threat. In a part that famously requires the singer to look 13 and sound 30, Kaduce fits the bill and would be an entirely believable Salome even in high-definition. Not only are her looks and singing thrilling, Kaduce’s acting reflects the psychology of Strauss’ score in captivating detail. In the moments after Jokanaan is put back into the cistern and before the party of Herod and Herodias enters, Kaduce sits downstage and transforms from a petulant teenager to a dangerous woman using only her face.

11_MG_8051a.gifL to R: Maria Zifchak as Herodias, Kelly Kaduce as Salome, and Michael Hayes as Herod [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis]

Stephen Lord conducted Kaduce and the rest of the cast with his usual panache and verve. The supporting cast acted and sang with style. As Narraboth, Eric Margiore brought level-10 intensity to his role from the moment the lights went up. Maria Zifchak was vocally compelling but she portrayed Herodias more as Herod’s wife than as Salome’s mother. In order to create real tension, it needs to be obvious that Herodias is the ultimate cougar and not a nagging housewife. Then, the instant Herod rips jewels off the mother’s neck and passes them to her own daughter, the Oedipal rivalry between the generations of women becomes shockingly apparent. Zifchak could’ve sung the part with more of the sex appeal obviously at her disposal. Tenor Michael Hayes was perhaps too desperate too soon as Herod. Remember, Herod is a bigwig, a mover and a shaker, as well as a pretty cagey guy. The audience needs to see him in control at first in order to fully register the change when his horror and paranoia “unman” him. Gregory Dahl looked perfect as Jokanaan and sounded nearly as good. Among the featured Gerdine Young Artists, Zach Borichevsky (as the Third Jew) sang particularly well.

Overall, this Salome was a gripping production included in a particularly strong season at OTSL. During this year of transition, OTSL may not have given its audiences the moon, but it definitely brought out some stars.

Alison Moritz

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):