Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.

La Vestale, La Monnaie, Bruxelles

In the first half of the 19th century, Spontini’s La Vestale was a hit. Empress Josephine sponsored its premiere, Parisians heard it hundreds of times, Berlioz raved about it and Wagner conducted it.

Shattering Madama Butterfly Stockholm

An intelligent updating and outstanding performance of the title role lead to a shattering climax in Puccini's Japanese opera



Mary Dunleavy (Constanze) and Matthew Polenzani (Belmonte) [Photo by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
13 Oct 2009

Abduction from the Seraglio in San Francisco

Some of the more memorable achievements of San Francisco Opera occurred in the brief life-span of its Spring Opera season, 1961-1981.

W. A Mozart: Abduction from the Seraglio

Constanze: Mary Dunleavy; Blonde: Anna Christy; Belmonte: Matthew Polenzani; Pedrillo: Andrew Bidlack; Osmin: Peter Rose / Andrea Silvestrelli (9/29); Pasha Selim: Charles Shaw Robinson. Conductor: Cornelius Meister / Giuseppe Finzi (10/17, 10/23). Director: Chas Rader-Shieber. Designer: David Zinn. Lighting Designer: Christopher Akerlind.

Above: Mary Dunleavy (Constanze) and Matthew Polenzani (Belmonte)

All photos by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera


This long ago April-May season embraced the lesser known and experimental repertory, premieres and advanced staging style looks at nearly anything that might be called opera.  And sung in English, the language of its audience.  Thus almost immediately (1962) Spring Opera gave San Francisco Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio — it readily qualified as lesser known, it was an experiment — Mozart’s own experiment into singspiel, and with its dependence on the spoken work it was not really opera.      

Spring Opera’s headier moments happened in its later years at the Broadway-style Curran Theatre, and among these moments again was Abduction (1975) this time in the hands of jack-of-all-theatre-trades Jack O’Brien (but that handle is now, back then it was his first, experimental foray into opera).  O’Brien’s first revelation was that Abduction was not about its story told in spoken words, it was about its music, thus he slashed its dialogues to the absolute bone, and let them sing.  One of Spring Opera’s slickest productions resulted.

BidRosTMC.gifAndrew Bidlack (Pedrillo) and Peter Rose (Osmin)

But these days Abduction is big-house stuff, not only in repertory weary San Francisco but around the world.  Just last March Lyric Opera of Chicago unveiled a new production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail that is currently on the War Memorial stage.  Only in Chicago the spiel was in German (well, there was one German in the cast) while in San Francisco the dialogues were mostly in American though the sing fortunately was in German — the one German in sight was a very important one, the young maestro Cornelius Meister.  This uncomfortable language duality left he ear confused.  It also gave rise to the trivial critical question as to whether Mozart's opera should have been entitled Entführung in San Francisco, or Abduction as preferred by the SFO program booklet.

But the answer is easy — it was an Entführung.   It all happened in the pit, the San Francisco Opera Orchestra rising magnificently to the occasion of the American debut of 29 year-old, wunderkind Cornelius Meister.  This fine orchestra responded to the warmth and to the joyous overflow of rare and new Mozartian colors imparted by the young German maestro, and played with a beauty of string tone that gave the evening (2/10) its considerable musical luster.   

Mozart’s simple singspiel has two monster roles, that of the abducted Constanze and her rescuer Belmonte.  Matthew Polenzani, an alumnus of Lyric Opera’s young artist program and now a highly credentialed Mozart singer, brought urgency, beauty of tone and perfect phrasing to the considerable amount of singing Mozart’s hero must accomplish.  Mary Dunleavy, a recent SFO Gilda, took on the fiendishly difficult Constanze and succeeded gracefully enough, appropriately displaying her quite beautiful voice, considerable technique and solid high notes in the opera’s grand soprano showpiece Martern aller Arten.

ChrMen_CW.gifAnna Christy (Blonde) and the Pasha's guards

Unfortunately Es lebe die Liebe, Mozart’s famous tour de force reunion quartet, did not succeed in musically uniting its four singers  —  though Anna Christy acquitted herself handsomely as Blonde throughout the evening, Adler Fellow Andrew Bidlack was over parted as Pedrillo, not yet a match for arrived artists.  Bass Peter Rose was a vocally pale Osmin, his smooth voice and soft presence an uncomfortable match to Mozart’s sharper buffo demands.  The Pasha of actor Charles Shaw Robinson made no effect.

While Mr. Rose’s Queen’s English inflected speeches were no more at odds with the character of the Turkish lecher Osmin than Hochdeutsch might have been, his Samurai wig was, as was his most fanciful Papageno-like costume, not to mention his retinue of little, bare chest Samurai eunuchs.  In fact one was not sure what was supposed to be happening on the Baroque stage within the War Memorial stage.

Accounts of the Chicago performances talk about an old Pasha who began imagining this episode of his lost youth during the overture, about a trap door that opened into the false stage where Belmonte then climbed out, and soon a young Pasha appeared as well, explaining that this was a performance within a performance.  None of this or anything else of the Chas Rader-Shieber Chicago concept made it to San Francisco.  What we saw in San Francisco was inexplicable.  

Besides Blonde’s jaunty yellow hat the quartet of lovers costumes were elaborately period, including Constanze’s wigs.  So it was costume opera, take it or leave it.  The crowd gamely took it, and applauded young Mozart’s Italianate attempt at singspiel that belonged in a much smaller theater, and cheered the appropriately attractive youthful cast and conductor. 

Michael Milenski

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):