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

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

David Carlson: Anna Karenina
20 Sep 2009

Anna Karenina: An Opera by David Carlson, Libretto by Colin Graham

Reading the articles in the booklet for this set, it becomes clear that librettist Colin Graham was the driving force behind this opera's creation.

David Carlson: Anna Karenina
Libretto by Colin Graham

Anna Karenina , wife of Alexei Karenin: Kelly Kaduce; Dolly (Princess Darya Oblonskaya), sister of Kitty Scherbatsky: Christine Abraham; Stiva (Prince Stepan Oblonsky), Anna’s brother and Dolly’s unfaithful husband: William Joyner; Levin (Konstantin Levin, called Kostya), in love with Kitty: Brandon Jovanovich; Betsy (Princess Betsy Tverskoy), a famed St. Petersburg hostess: Josepha Gayer; Vronsky (Count Alexei Vronsky), an officer in love with Anna: Robert Gierlach; Kitty (Princess Ekaterina Scherbatskaya), Dolly’s younger sister, infatuated with Vronsky: Sarah Coburn; Prince Yashvin , Vronsky’s friend: Nicholas Pallesen; Countess Lydia Ivanovna: Dorothy Byrne; Karenin (Alexei Karenin), Anna’s husband: Christian Van Horn; Aga FIa Mikhailovna , Levin’s old nurse: Rosalind Elias; Seriosha , Anna’s son: David Tate; Ann ushka , Anna’s maid: Kimberly Wibbenmeyer; A doctor: Mike Dowdy; Mikhail , Seriosha’s tutor: Brad Lewandowsky. Opera Theatre of St Louis. St Louis Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Stewart Robertson.

Signum Classics SIGCD154 [2CDs]

$41.98  Click to buy

Yet the protocols of the opera business dictate that under the title Anna Karenina on the jewel case cover, the first line states “An Opera by David Carlson,” followed by Graham’s credit. Tolstoy’s name only appears on the back cover. The singers’ names, truly unusually, do not appear on either cover, but only inside the booklet - on page 9!

This has the order of commendation quite backward. A young cast, headed by soprano Kelly Kaduce in the title role, works with energy and authority to try and bring the music drama to life. The grim essence of Tolstoy’s tragedy only makes itself felt intermittently, as librettist Graham works to capture more of the novels’ complexity than earlier adaptations had, while meeting the needs of the operatic stage.

All these admirable efforts, worthy or not, are sunk under the teeming waves of sound that composer David Carlson pours forth. The orchestra always seems to be more excited about the story than the characters. Moments of repose and reflection are too few as strings nervously scatter this way and that, brass barks, and the winds twitter nervously. Some moments might be identified as “aria-like,” if not actually arias, but Carlson has no gift for sustained melodic invention. As conductor, Stewart Robinson (leading the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra), manages all the challenges Carlson’s music presents, but he can’t make it interesting to hear.

The large cast features some names that will become more familiar in the coming years, it is safe to assume. Kaduce works to make Karenina sympathetic, as the condensed nature of an opera libretto flattens much of Tolstoy’s characterization. Christian Van Horn as Anna’s unfortunate husband sings with muted nobility. Robert Gierlach as Vronsky does not have the vocal charisma to suggest the reason’s for Anna’s infatuation, but perhaps live on stage would be a different matter. In smaller roles, Brandon Jovanovich and Sarah Coburn establish attractive vocal identities.

Whether in Carlson’s impatient, hectic music or Graham’s too literal adaptation, the opera Anna Karenina makes the classic mistake of telling, not showing, as the characters and the score always seem to proclaim their feelings without actually conveying them. This would be, then, only for the most committed fans of any contemporary opera, or those already following some of these young singers’ promising careers.

Chris Mullins

[Editor’s Note: Please refer to Kelly Kaduce sings Anna Karenina for an interview of Kelly Kaduce regarding the role of Anna Kareninia.]

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):