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Macbeth, LA Opera

On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.

COC’d Up Ariodante

Director Richard Jones never met an opera he couldn’t ‘change,’ and Canadian Opera Company’s sumptuously sung Ariodante was a case in point.

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

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Canadian Opera Company has assembled a commendable Norma that is long on ritual imagery and war machinery.

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Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

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At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

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English Touring Opera: Xerxes

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With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

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English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

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Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

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Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.



Elizabeth Maconchy: The Sofa; The Departure
23 Aug 2009

Maconchy: The Sofa & The Departure

The two one-act operas - operettes? - on this disc play something like mediocre episodes of The Twilight Zone set to music, though without the quirky memorability of that show's opening theme.

Elizabeth Maconchy: The Sofa; The Departure

Independent Opera

Chandos CD CHAN 10508

$18.99  Click to buy

Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994) comes across here as a well-trained, skillful composer of music in the approved idiom of mid/late 20th century academic composition. She employs tonality ironically, for fractured waltzes, eerie lullabies and overripe romanticism. Around that music she weaves the familiar textures of twittering winds, cacophonous percussion outbursts, and scratchy strings.

The Sofa, Ursula Vaughan Williams’s adaptation of Le Sofa by Crébillion Fils, gives Maconchy the opportunity to compose arias, with several set pieces. Maconchy seems to want these sections to have inverted commas around them - “Here is your ‘aria’ for you.” But that is not inappropriate for the shallow, even dismal characters of this story. Prince Dominic, a “Duke of Mantua” wannabe, seduces women at his parties, frequently on the title furniture. His grandmother casts a spell on him, turning him into the sofa. He can only be brought back to human shape by having a couple make love on top of him (unknowingly, of course). This couple turns out to be the prince’s steady ladyfriend and an acquaintance. The prince returns to human form in outrage, and then realizes he needs to make a commitment to Monique to be happy. Operette and sermon over.

At about 40 minutes, this trifle could well make for an entertaining show, but the score doesn’t repay repeated listenings. The sour, acerbic setting makes its points early, and then often. Dominic Wheeler conducts the musicians of Independent Opera at Sadler’s Well, surely doing as creditable a job with the music as any other group, who cared to make the effort, would. Nicholas Sharratt as the Prince and Sarah Tynan as Monique, the girlfriend, sing with apparent ease music that may well be more difficult than it sounds.

The Departure is even briefer, at 31 minutes, but it feels longer. This precursor to the film The Sixth Sense has a woman wake to find herself both inside and outside of her surroundings - and as she sings with her husband, she realizes that she is dead and slowly leaving the mortal world. Librettist Anne Ridler doesn’t deepen her characterizations of husband and wife to develop some real interest in their predicament, and when the wife finally drifts off to her reward, we have ours as well. It’s over. At least one section for the husband finds Maconchy in imaginative mode, contrasting sweeter music for an ideal memory of past love with the sharper-edged tones depicting the weird circumstances. The rest of the score is predictable in its effects. Louise Poole as Julia the wife and Håkan Vramsmo as Mark the husband do sing attractively.

So two fairly dry pieces, of most interest to fans of mid-century British music or contemporary opera. As these two short pieces are unlikely to be staged, Chandos deserves commendation for preserving these performances.

Chris Mullins

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