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Wigmore Hall has announced the 25 young singer and pianist duos from around the world who have been shortlisted for this prestigious competition, which takes place at Wigmore Hall in September with the generous support of the Kohn Foundation. Details were announced on 27 April during a recital by Milan Siljanov, who won top prize in the 2015 Competition.
Garsington Opera's thrilling new commission for the 2017 Season, Silver Birch, will feature over 180 participants from the local community aged 8-80, including students from primary and secondary schools, members of the local military community, student Foley artists under the guidance of Pinewood Studios and members of Wycombe Women’s Aid.
Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.
On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.
Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
11 Oct 2009
Il trittico in San Francisco
In the otherwise silent sixteen years between La fanciulla del west (1910) and Turandot (1926) Puccini had a flirtation with operetta, La rondine (1917) and with the quick and easy drama of the short story in his three one-acts, Il trittico (1918), composed as a one-evening cycle.
Both light-weight works remained on the fringe of the Puccini repertory for
most of the twentieth century, though in recent years they have been exploited
in opera’s attempt at repertory expansion.
In San Francisco La rondine reappeared in 2007 in a lackluster
production made splendid by the magnetic Rondine of Angela Gheorghiu.
Il trittico was in the 1923 and 1952 SFO seasons (though parts of it
have appeared in many other years), and just now it has dared the War Memorial
stage once again, and succeeded as one of its truer artistic ventures!
The by-now enormous vocal resources of SFO triumphed, led by Merola and
Adler Fellow alumna Patricia Racette as all three heroines — Giorgetta,
Suor Angelica, Lauretta, supported by fifteen other past and present Merolini
and Adler Fellows, notably mezzo Catherine Cook as Frugola, Monitor and La
Ciesca. And not the least of whom was conductor Patrick Summers, a most
distinguished Merola alumnus. Three singers only, of the thirty two singers who
performed the myriad of roles across the three operas, validated the
company’s international pretensions, Italian baritone Paolo Gavanelli as
Michele and Gianni Schicchi, Polish contralto Ewa Podles as the Princess, and
Italian bass Andrea Silvestrelli as Il Talpa and Simone, thus delicately
spicing the otherwise all American brew.
Verismo as an operatic term is applied to the Puccini
oeuvre though verismo per se is much purer than any Puccini
opera ever wanted to be. Puccini was far more entralled by horror theater, the
infamous Grand Guignol, like the blood bath that concludes Madama
Butterfly, her two-year-old son looking on, and particularly in the
revelation of Luigi’s mutilated body in the triptych’s Il
tabarro. Not to mention Suor Angelica’s on-stage suicide
under the gaze of the Virgin Mary, and the Gianni Schicchi
heirs’ horror that their arms be reduced to stumps.
David Lomelí (Rinuccio) and Patricia Racette (Lauretta) in Gianni Schicchi
Paris’ Theatre du Grand Guignol, the world’s original horror
theater (20 rue Chaptal), finally petered out in 1962, the public no longer
titillated by the contemplation of the gruesome. But it was going strong during
and after the first world war, and fashionable for the fashionable. Puccini was
a man of his times, a true Italian with his finger on the pulse of style, and
all style was Parisian just then. Voilà Il trittico.
Nowhere on earth do opera audiences seem partial to high style. Thus when
West Virginia born stage director James Robinson conceived this fairly high
concept production for New York City Opera in 2002 he was careful to imbue its
original cutting edge style with adorable, witty images. The first was even a
caricature, a super-endowed and sexually overripe female alone on the empty
stage slinking alongside a mostly submerged hut. Puccini’s Seine flowed
as bored time and there was little hint of a Parisian dockside, it could have
been near a coal mine as well, but where was not the point as long as it was
dark and low.
Robinson stripped la Frugola of her usual pathos, instead we saw a happy,
giddy floozy with her homey fantasies. Luigi was a lanky American boy, not
smart enough to keep his hands off the boss’s wife, Giorgetta, who was
aching to be touched in her little girl, Butterfly voice, and strangely
dismissive of her baby’s death. At last Michele blew-up in nearly buffo
terms leaving Luigi dead, hanging from his arms like a Michelangelo Pietà.
Robinson rendered Suor Angelica’s seventeenth century convent as a
twentieth century children’s hospital adorable in its sterile detail. Its
diseased and maimed occupants were quietly eating lunch while its custodians
chattered about trivial spiritual concerns. The maiden aunt arrived in
supercilious Protestant outrage and the resulting suicide was somehow rendered
by all this clutter into terms that were softly personal, and heart wrenchingly
tender. The final, blurred vision of an Asian-American boy (Trouble, now seven
years old?) was super witty, hardly maudlin at all.
Robinson made Buoso Donati’s home with a view a shiny white high rise
hospital room, so shiny that its patterned black and white marble floor was
perfectly reflected on the walls and ceiling, the heirs attired in oh-so
impeccably fashionable black and white. Lauretta was a daddy’s valley
girl who got finally everything she wanted, save a good view of Florence as set
designer Alan Moyer’s Duomo dome ruthlessly blocked most of it.
And so the more delicate sensibilities of twenty-first century audiences
were titillated by wit rather than horror. And greatly so by the superb
individual performances of the entire cast. Patricia Racette, without doubt the
world’s reigning Butterfly, was in magnificent voice (9/30). She applied
the wiles of the complex Butterfly role to Puccini’s quickly drawn
triptych heroines with contagious gusto. Though Il trittico had its
world premiere at the Met in 1918 (with three different sopranos), the Met
jumped the anniversary gun by introducing a new production by Jack
O’Brien in 2004. Odds are that even the new, enlightened Met with its
reprise next year (with la Racette) cannot one-up this low budget NYCO
production as it was incarnated just now at SFO.
Notable among many fine performances was American tenor Brandon Jovanovich,
already an SFO Pinkerton (2007), whose rendering of Luigi as a down-and-out
itinerant worker willing enough to appease Giorgetta’s animal needs was
down-right real. Mexican tenor David Lomelí, an Adler Fellow, brought solid
voice, stolid presence and just about enough stature to fill the shoes of
Lauretta’s fiance Rinuccio. Impressive indeed was the contralto voice and
performance of Merola alumna Meredith Arwady as the Abbess and Zita.
And finally Paolo Gavanelli stepped off the stage onto the apron to have the
last word, and beg applause for his vivid performances of two of opera’s
most sympathetic villains, Michele and Schicchi, and for Puccini’s kitsch
operatic novellas of heaven and hell, and purgatory too. There was a mighty
roar, particularly for the responsive, hyper-sensitive conducting of Patrick
Summers who got Puccini just right for this heady concoction.