Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

La traviata at the Palais Garnier

The clatter of information was overwhelmed by soaring bel canto, Verdi’s domestic tragedy destroyed by director Simon Stone, resurrected by conductor Michele Mariotti, a tour de force for South African soprano Pretty Yende.

San Jose Pops the Cork With Fledermaus

Opera San Jose vivaciously kicked off its 2019–2020 season with a heady version of Strauss’ immortal Die Fledermaus that had all the effervescence of vintage champagne.

Tempestuous Francesca da Rimini opens Concertgebouw Saturday matinee series

Two Russian love letters to the tragic thirteenth century noblewoman Francesca da Rimini inaugurated the Saturday matinee series at the Concertgebouw.

Immortal Beloved: Beethoven Festival at Wigmore Hall

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park 2019

Lyric Opera of Chicago presented this year’s annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park. The evening’s program featured a range of selections from works to be presented in the 2019–2020 season along with arias and scenes from other notable and representative operas.

Prom 74: Uplifting Beethoven from Andrew Manze and the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover

Ceremony, drama and passion: this Beethoven Night by the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover under their Chief Conductor Andrew Manze had all three and served them up with vigour and a compelling freshness, giving Prommers at this eve-of-Last-Night concert an exciting and uplifting evening.

Prom 69: Elena Stikhina’s auspicious UK debut in a dazzling Czech Philharmonic concert

Rarely can any singer have made such an unforgettable UK debut in just twelve minutes of music. That was unquestionably the case with the Russian soprano, Elena Stikhina, who in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, sang with such compelling stage magnetism and with a voice that has everything you could possibly want.

Prom 68: Wagner Abend - Christine Goerke overwhelms as Brünnhilde

Wagner Nights at the Proms were once enormously popular, especially on the programmes of Sir Henry Wood. They have become less so, perhaps because they are simply unfashionable today, but this one given by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Marc Albrecht steered clear of the ‘bleeding chunk’ format which was usually the norm. It was still chunky, but in an almost linear, logical way and benefited hugely from being operatic (when we got to the Wagner) rather than predominantly orchestral.

Prom 65: Danae Kontora excels in Mozart and Strauss

On the page this looked rather a ‘pick-and-mix’ sort of Prom from the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis, who was making his Proms debut. In the event, it was not so much a Chinese take-away as a Michelin-starred feast for musical gourmands.

British Youth Opera: Rossini's La Cenerentola

Stendhal (as recorded in his Life of Rossini) was not a fan of Rossini’s La Cenerentola, complaining that after the first few bars of the Introduzione he was already suffering from a ‘faint feeling of nausea’, a condition which ‘never entirely dissipated, [recurring] periodically throughout the opera, and with increasing violence’.

La traviata at the Arena di Verona

There is esoteric opera — 16,500 spectators at this year’s Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, and there is pop opera — upwards of 500,000 spectators for the opera festival at the Arena di Verona, one quarter of them for an over-the-top new production of La traviata, designed and directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner brings Benvenuto Cellini to the Proms

Berlioz' Benvenuto Cellini is quite rarity on UK stages. Covent Garden last performed it in 1976 and English National Opera performed it for the first time in 2014 (in Terry Gilliam's riotous production), and yet the opera never quite goes away either.

Prom 58: varied narratives from the BBCSSO and Ilan Volkov

There are many ways and means to tell a story: through prose, poetry, sounds, pictures, colours, movement.

Prom 53: Elgar’s emotionally charged Music Makers

British music with an English and strong European accent marked this Prom featuring three well-wrought works, stylistically worlds apart but each characterised by a highly individual musical personality.

Scoring a Century: British Youth Opera at the Peacock Theatre

‘It is well known that Eisler was a master of the art of self-contradiction, using non-sequitur, change of tack and playing devil’s advocate in a brilliantly ironic way in an attempt to look at a problem from every angle, to expose it fully to the gaze of his interlocutor. For an ordinary person to take part in this, let alone keep up with the pace and fully appreciate the wide range of references, which his enormous reading threw out, was wonderfully stimulating, and exhausting.’

Prom 55: Handel's Jephtha

‘For many it is the masterpiece among his oratorios.’

Opera della Luna's HMS Pinafore sails the seas at Wilton's Music Hall

The original production of HMS Pinafore opened at the Opera Comique in London on 25th May 1878 and ran for an astonishing 571 performances. Opera della Luna’s HMS Pinafore, which has been cresting the operatic oceans for over twenty years now, has notched up almost as many performances.

Spectra Ensemble present Treemonisha at Grimeborn

‘We see him now as one of the most important creators of his generation, certainly comparable to Schoenberg.’ T.J. Anderson, who reconstructed the score of Scott Joplin’s only surviving opera, Treemonisha, for its first staged production in 1972, was probably rather over-enthusiastic in his assessment.

Fortieth Anniversary Gala of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro

Earlier this month I reported from the Macerata Opera Festival – a largely Italian affair frequented by few foreigners. One week later I attended the 40th anniversary gala of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, about 100 km north in the same region of Le Marche and a prominent stop on the international circuit. One one hears much English, French, German and Japanese, and the printed program features a long list of non-Italian financial sponsors.

Berthold Goldschmidt: Beatrice Cenci, Bregenzer Festspiele

Berthold Goldschmidt’s Beatrice Cenci at last on DVD, from the Bregenzer Festspiele in 2018, with Johannes Debus conducting the Wiener Symphoniker, directed by Johannes Erath, and sung in German translation.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Child Dream by Gil Shohat
02 Feb 2010

Shohat’s The Child Dreams — A mature work

Gil Shohat, now 35 and Israeli’s top classical composer, was 15 when in the ‘80s he saw Hanoch Levin’s The Child Dream on stage in his native Tel Aviv. Shohat, of course, knew Levin’s work well, for throughout early decades in the history of Israel he — its outstanding dramatist — had served somewhat as the conscience of a nation tormented defining itself within its pain-wrought beginnings.

Gil Shohat: The Child Dreams
Libretto based on a play by Hanoch Levin

Click here for cast information.

 

“I knew then that I would compose Dream, said Shohat in a post-performance interview in the Tel Aviv Opera House, where the premiere of the opera had taken place on January 18. Shohat’s plans were seconded by Israeli Opera general director Hanna Munitz, who had also sensed the operatic potential of drama when she saw it on stage.

Touched by the deep despair of the story and the genuine poetry of the text, Munitz commissioned Dream for her company. It is the first opera composed on any Levin text. Point of departure for Levin was the 1977 film Voyage of the Damned, the story of the St. Louis, the ship unable to attain landing rights for its fleeing refugees during World War II. But this, it must be stressed, is no more than raw material for what is now Child Dream.

True, the opera underscores the degree to which the Holocaust remains today a defining experience for the Israeli consciousness, yet the local critic who placed the new opera “among the most depressing and despair-radiating operas of the repertoire” missed the point of the transformation of the story through music achieved by Shohat and his director Omri Nizan. (Nizan, an old hand at the Cameri Theater, helped Shohat with minor changes in the text — nothing was added — and then served in the vastly more important role as director of the production.)

For through music the child at the center of the drama becomes much more than a single child and his story is far greater than the tale of one individual example of injustice. The Child is now a young Everyman with hopes for a better and more just world. That this world is closed to him — and not just by the near-criminality of captain of the ship that might have brought salvation — elevates Dream to the level of mythic universality. The story is quickly told. The Mother hopes to escape with her son on the ship. The Captain demands payment “in the flesh.” The ship reaches a ghost-like island, but passengers are not allowed to disembark by the despotic governor, the second evil figure in the story.

In one of the most moving moments in the score — 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission — a crippled child — mezzo Shira Raz — comments:

I’m a poet.
I write about you who come out of the fog
and return and disappear in it. I weep over your fate
and sketch it.
your faces approaching tell the tale of delusion;
but all human failure is stamped on the back of your
departing neck.

The Crippled Child speaks above and across the play for Levin himself who sees little but frustration and failure in the attempted escape.

The final act — an apotheosis of sorts — breaks with the seeming realism of the earlier three acts (and it was wise, therefore, to insert the intermission at this point). Dozens of “dead” children suspended above the stage whisper of their fate while the female nonet that opened the opera sings again of their sorry situation.

There is a Straussian sadness about this conclusion; it its muted melancholy it recalls the elder composer’s Metamorphosen, the “mourning for Munich” that he wrote after the destruction of his native city. It is deeply felt and moving music that might well become a concert piece in its own right.

And as the many who visit the memorial to children victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem experience not consolation but rather the hope beyond hopelessness so essential in any confrontation with the vast inhumanity of the 20th century, here too there is an elevation beyond meaningless suffering.

Child Dream is an ambitious work calling for a cast of 20, all drawn from the roster of the resident company. Outstanding among them were Larissa Tetuev as the Mother, a role she shared later with Ira Bertman, Hila Baggio as the child and Noah Briger as the Captain.

In only his second season as IO music director, David Stern extracted exemplary playing from the Rishon Le-Zion Orchestra, the company’s pit band. Sets and costumes were effectively designed by Austrian-born Gottried Helnwein. Lighting by Avi Yonah Bueno contributes to making this a colorful show engaging to the eye.

Shohat has documented his superlative command of the composer’s craft in an incredible long and diverse catalgue. In Dream, however, he travels on no new turf, but concentrates rather on giving musical meaning to an unusually demanding text.

Dream is written for reduced orchestra, and outstanding is the manner in which Shohat has woven the piano into the ensemble to achieve unusual effects. (The composer is a concretizing pianist as well.)

It is unavoidable that some find the opera with its focus on the death of children depressing and even morbid. In so doing, they overlook the strong element of empathy that Shohat’s music brings to Levin’s turgid story. In the final analysis, Child Dream is an affirmative work that deserves to be seen outside Israel.

The production celebrates the 35th anniversary of Israeli Opera; it further marks the 10th anniversary of Hanoch Levin’s death and the centennial of the founding of Tel Aviv.

Wes Blomster

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):