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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’.
Time was when many felt compelled to ‘make allowances’ for ‘smaller’ companies. Now, more often than not, the contrary seems to be the case, instead apologising for their elder and/or larger siblings: ‘But of course, it is far more difficult for House X, given the conservatism of its moneyed audience,’ as if House X might not actually attract a different, more intellectually curious audience by programming more interesting works.
24 Sep 2009
Incomparable Schubert — Goerne at the Wigmore Hall Part 2
This programme of mostly solemn, elevated music based around songs on such themes as Evening, Death and Immutability was part of Matthias Goerne’s ‘Journey with Schubert’ during which he is recording the songs on eleven CDs and presenting the series in recitals all over the world. If the singing on this occasion is anything to go by, these recordings are set to become the standard to which other singers should aspire.
Goerne’s unwavering legato, at once intimate and yet redolent of grandeur, is, frankly, matchless - no other singer, recorded or currently active, can sustain the long, flowing lines of songs such as ‘Nacht und Träume’ and ‘Im Abendrot’ with his ease, intensity and phenomenal breath control: this recital displayed that unique ability to tremendous effect. He began with the former song - daring as an introduction, but a wonderful way to establish the atmosphere of this sombre, deeply philosophical evening. Of course he respects the marking of langsam as few other singers can, yet he still sustains the inner rhythm of the lines: it was a pity that Alexander Schmalcz’ playing was a little on the heavy side.
I must have heard ‘Im Abendrot’ at least a hundred times in recital, but never like this - sehr langsam is the instruction, and Goerne intones the spacious, expansive melody with such quiet fervour that you find yourself holding your breath: the silence in the hall after ‘In mein stilles fenster sinkt’ was like the lull before a huge storm, far away yet imminently expected. Superb.
Graham Johnson wrote of ‘Die Sterne’ (Schlegel) that the singer with the breath control needed to execute its phrases ‘seems synonymous with someone who has ‘seen the light’ and this most unusual of Schubert’s ‘star’ songs indeed presents lofty challenges, to each of which Goerne rises with great skill, his shimmering high notes displayed to as much advantage as his warm, bass-baritone depths.
‘Der liebliche Stern’ has been described as a ‘humdrum’ song, but not here - Goerne’s tender, earnest phrasing and Schmalcz’ wistful playing of the ostinato accompaniment made for an intense experience, ‘Es zittert von Frühlingswinden’ living up to Gerald Moore’s requirement for the singer to ‘love each phrase’ and to sing with ‘the smoothest calmest line.’
‘Totengräbers Heimweh’ is the song of which it was once said that Goerne’s interpretation of it was ‘incomparable - his singing comes from inside’ and this was amply illustrated by this evening’s performance of it. From the fervid questioning of the start - ‘Wohin? o wohin?’ through the anguished depths of ‘Ich stehe allein! - so ganz allein!’ to the spellbinding mezza-voce of ‘O Heimat des Friedens, Der Seligen Land!’ in which the long phrases were given in one seemingly effortless arch of sound, this truly was singing with which it is very difficult to find anything to compare. The single encore, ‘An den Mond’ (‘Fullest wieder Busch und Tal’) was a fitting conclusion to this evening of peerless singing.