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It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.
With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.
Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.
If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”
Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?
Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.
On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.
Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.
Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.
Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.
The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s ﬁrst great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.
The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.
This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.
Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’
Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.
Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by
the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.
30 Aug 2009
Lehär: Die Blaue Mazur
As the detail-filled booklet essay to this CPO set reminds its readers, Franz Lehär's operettas enjoyed widespread, though rarely lasting, success, with the music theater world of the time eager for each successive work.
Of course, part of the interest lay in anticipating a work that might match the magic of The Merry Widow (1905). Premiering in 1920, Die Blaue Mazur had a nice run but has slipped into obscurity, where most of Lehär’s works keep it company. The booklet’s essay writer, Stefan Frey (as translated into English by Susan Marie Praeder), posits that the score featured a “new way of harmony and ultimate color appeal” that Lehär found in the music of Franz Schreker and Korngold. The orchestration has its moments, but as heard on this recording, Die Blaue Mazur sounds very much as one would expect any Lehär work to sound. Even by 1920, it must have felt dated.
Even Frey doesn’t attempt to describe the plot as anything but formulaic. It does begin with a marriage, where other stories might end. Undoing an inevitable misunderstanding between the newlywed Julian and Blanka, instigated partly by Julian’s former love Gretl, occupies the tired complications that ensue before the happy ending. As Julian, Johan Weigel’s pliant, lyrical tenor suits Lehär’s music well, but his character lacks one breakout number (the entire operetta does, actually). Johanna Stojkovich’s Blanka gets a wider range of emotions, and she puts them across attractively. A few unpleasant squawks do come from Jan Kobow in a minor tenor role. Otherwise, conductor Frank Beermann and the Singakademie Frankfurt musicians provide the most enjoyable work here. All three acts ends with finales where Lehär seems to be trying out any number of tunes. He never does find one great one, but a couple of them are attractive enough.
CPO provides no libretto. A comprehensive synopsis does feature tracks numbers that help the listener follow the action. Lovers of super-sweet Viennese trifles may find some pleasure in the set.