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

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

Jonas Kaufmann : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.

Garsington Opera For All

Following Garsington Opera for All’s successful second year of free public screenings on beaches, river banks and parks in isolated coastal and rural communities, Handel’s sparkling masterpiece Semele will be screened in four areas across the UK in 2017. Free events are programmed for Skegness (1 July), Ramsgate (22 July), Bridgwater (29 July) and Grimsby (11 October).

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus

The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.

Mahler Symphony no 8 : Jurowski, LPO, Royal Festival Hall, London

Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.

Rameau's Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques: a charming French-UK collaboration at the RCM

Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.

The Royal Opera House announces its 2017/18 season

Details of the Royal Opera House's 2017/18 Season have been announced. Oliver Mears, who will begin his tenure as Director of Opera, comments: “I am delighted to introduce my first Season as Director of Opera for The Royal Opera House. As I begin this role, and as the world continues to reel from social and political tumult, it is reassuring to contemplate the talent and traditions that underpin this great building’s history. For centuries, a theatre on this site has welcomed all classes - even in times of revolution and war - to enjoy the most extraordinary combination of music and drama ever devised. Since the time of Handel, Covent Garden has been home to the most outstanding performers, composers and artists of every era. And for centuries, the joyous and often tragic art form of opera has offered a means by which we can be transported to another world, in all its wonderful excess and beauty.”

St Matthew Passion: Armonico Consort and Ian Bostridge

Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he embodied a perfect Rodolfo.

New opera Caliban banal and wearisome

Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its less-than-tragic plight.

Two rarities from the Early Opera Company at the Wigmore Hall

A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

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):