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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.

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

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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.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

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

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

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Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

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

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

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.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.



Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth
30 Aug 2009

Verdi's Macbeth at the Sferisterio Opera Festival

The opera venue at Macerata shares some features with its famous counterpart in Verona: both are outdoors, with huge stages that can accommodate spectacular productions.

Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth

Macbeth: Giuseppe Altomare; Lady Macbeth: Olha Zhuravel; Banco: Pavel Kudinov; Macduff: Rubens Pelizzari; Malcolm: Marco Voleri; Il medico: Luca Dall'Amico; Un domestico di Macbeth / I apparizione: William Corrò; Il sicario: Andrea Pistolesi; II e III apparizione: Velia Moretti de Angelis, Valeria Cazacu; Ecate: Anbeta Toromani; Fleanzio: Dario Vinciguerra. Coro Lirico Marchigiano 'V. Bellini'. FORM - Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana. Daniele Callegari, conductor. Pier Luigi Pizzi, stage director, set and costume designer. Filmed at the Sferisterio Opera Festival, Macerata, Italy, 2-5 August 2007.

Naxos 2.110258 [DVD]

$26.99  Click to buy

The stage at Macerata, however, is narrow and long, rather like that used at the Salzburg Festival. For his Macbeth, director and designer Pier Luigi Pizzi makes the most of this configuration. Two long, intersecting black ramps bisect the stage, each covered in red cloth. A large pedestal made of stairs sits off to one side; the thrones of Macbeth and his lady, in garish red, will sit atop that pedestal. All the costumes are in black, gunmetal, or red, usually in shiny fabrics. Verdi’s music for Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy explores the shifting psychological landscape of its twisted anti-heroes, and Pizzi’s dramatic color scheme and athletic use of movement makes this a most exciting staging.

None of the singers’ names may be familiar to U.S. audiences, and none may ever be so. They have all been cast well, however, and make potent contributiions to Pizzi’s success. Giuseppe Altomare sings Macbeth with a rough-edged baritone, but that element of forced bluster plays well for the character. Verdi and librettist Piave did not include the lines about Macbeth seeming too small a man for his royal robes, but Pizzi does have Altomare in a long jacket with train that seems to swallow him up in the last act. The biographical note in the booklet relates that soprano Olha Zhuravel has been singing a lot of Turandots, and has taken on Nabucco’s Abigaille. The voice would be what that suggests - sizable, but not beautiful, with more thrust than elegance. Her ghoulish makeup is a rare misstep for Pizzi’s production; it makes a performance that threatens to be unvaried vocally even less subtle. Zhuravel is strong, it should be said, all the way to her climatic scene, which lacks that touch of pathos the role’s greatest interpreters managed to produce. Rubens Pelizarri in the tenor role of Macduff blasts through his aria without tenderness or sensitivity.

Gheorghe Iancu’s choreography dominates the opening and, quite naturally, the extended ballet. Too much stomping and stamping mars the music in act one. The ballet comes off quite well, though. In its most striking image, the female lead dancer is lifted up and then one by one kicks down a row of soldier/dancers lined up on the ramp.

The Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana responds well to the energetic leadership of Daniele Callegari, although the horns don’t always agree on pitch. Fans of this opera definitely should give this Naxos set a chance. The better-known CD recordings all feature more impressive singing, but the visual power of Pizzi’s work here makes for a very strong Macbeth.

Chris Mullins

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