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

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

Tristan, English National Opera

My first Tristan, indeed my first Wagner, in the theatre was ENO’s previous staging of the work, twenty years ago, in 1996. The experience, as it should, as it must, although this is alas far from a given, quite overwhelmed me.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

Ever since a friend was reported as having said he would like something in return for modern-dress Shakespeare (how quaint that term seems now, as if anyone would bat an eyelid!), namely an Elizabethan-dress staging of Look Back in Anger, I have been curious about the possibilities of ‘down-dating’, as I suppose we might call it. Rarely, if ever, do we see it, though.

Holland Festival: Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, Amsterdam

Leading a very muscular Dutch Radio Philharmonic, Principal Conductor Markus Stenz brilliantly delivered Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with a superb Florian Boesch in the lead and a mesmerising Asmik Grigorian as Marie his wife.

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

Pietro Mascagni: Iris

There can’t be that many operas that start with an extended solo for double bass. At Holland Park, the eerie, angular melody for lone bass player which opens Pietro Mascagni’s Iris immediately unsettled the relaxed mood of the summer evening.

L’italiana in Algeri, Garsington Opera

George Souglides’ set for Will Tuckett’s new production of Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri at Garsington would surely have delighted Liberace.

Carmen in San Francisco

Calixto Bieito is always news, Carmen with a good cast is always news. So here is the news.

Eugene Onegin, Garsington Opera

Distinguished theatre director Michael Boyd’s first operatic outing was his brilliant re-invention of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo for the Royal Opera at the Roundhouse in 2015, so what he did next was always going to rouse interest.

Bohuslav Martinů’s Ariane and Alexandre bis

Although Bohuslav Martinů’s short operas Ariane and Alexandre bis date from 1958 and 1937 respectively, there was a distinct tint of 1920s Parisian surrealism about director Rodula Gaitanou’s double bill, as presented by the postgraduate students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Lohengrin, Dresden

The eyes of the opera world turned recently to Dresden—the city where Wagner premiered his Rienzi, Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser—for an important performance of Lohengrin. For once in Germany it was not about the staging.

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):