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

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

Samantha Hankey wins Glyndebourne Opera Cup

Four singers were awarded prizes at the inaugural Glyndebourne Opera Cup, which reached its closing stage at Glyndebourne on 24th March. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup focuses on a different single composer or strand of the repertoire each time it is held. In 2018 the featured composer was Mozart and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompanied the ten finalists.

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):