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I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.
“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”
A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.
Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure,
this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish
hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably
Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left
much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang
bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars
lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano
Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera
Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night
of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.
On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
05 Mar 2010
Ariadne auf Naxos, New York
As the first familiar themes of Ariadne came from the pit, I felt
myself sinking — sinking from a tense, dreary, daily world into a sort of
ecstatic fantasy — a place where all was happy, funny, romantic, inane,
fateful and surprising all at once — Sarah Connolly superb, Kathleen Kim
charming, Nina Stemme full-throated,
Kyrill Petrenko bringing out all the
elegant, edgy Schwarmerei of a score that is supremely sophisticated
without being too sophisticated to believe in fanciful dreams, and the
production, for once in a long while, was a production of the opera being
performed, so that all the parts fit together instead of sticking out like
bleeding, inefficiently amputated limbs. All was bliss. I can’t remember
the last time I so thoroughly enjoyed being at the Met.
You remember the colorful Elijah Moshinsky production, with its vertiginous
three-story farthingales on the earth spirits, its rather overdone acrobatics,
its sky map giving way to shipscape giving way to setting (or is it rising?)
sun? Well it’s as charming as ever. Laurie Feldman’s redirection
has no doubt been hampered by having a cast of comparatively slim singers for
once — her Brighella, has to wear a false tummy to live up to
commedia expectations — but all were game, and the clowns tossed
Zerbinetta about in the air in mid-roulade without hampering her breath
control. (Diana Damrau, over in La Fille du Régiment, take notice.)
Kathleen Kim as Zerbinetta and Sarah Connolly as the Composer
Sarah Connolly, who sang the Composer radiantly, is not a pretty woman, and
she makes her looks work for her in her frequent assumption of trouser roles
(Giulio Cesare, Romeo, Ariodante). As a lover, she is sometimes less than
convincing, but she was irresistibly right this time for the adolescent,
idealistic musician, Strauss’s tribute to his beloved Mozart:
clumsy-charming and visibly a-quiver when a seated Zerbinetta casually leaned
on his knee. Connolly sang the little air to Cupid and the fervent hymn to
Music (the two gods, one might say, who preside over this opera) with a fervent
delight that reminded more than one listener of Troyanos and was certainly the
most enthralling account of the part to be heard at the Met since her day.
Lance Ryan as Bacchus
I think I’ve never heard a bad Zerbinetta — they’re either
good or terrific in my experience, which goes back to Reri Grist — and
Kathleen Kim (if not quite Swenson or Dessay) was on the terrific end of the
spectrum. She is one of the tiny Zerbinettas (a group including Grist
and Dessay), and she makes use of her size and agility to boss big
folks to great comic effect. Her bewitchment of the hapless Composer is quite
believable. In the early scenes her trills were on the colorless side, but all
was in place by the time her “Grossmächtige Prinzessin” began. In
that bravura number, where the cascades of ornament can often lack color, she
made the notes identifiable notes and brought down the house.
Nina Stemme is too rare a visitor on these shores, as the great dramatic
German roles are currently in disfavor here or tend to be performed by
second-rate Americans. She sang Ariadne with torrents of earth-deep sound in
colors of cognac and sherry, rising to superb heights, rich with frustrated
— and then idealized — emotion. She is also as slim as any lover of
the opera could desire, and plays a glamorous send-up of a diva.
The trio of “earth-spirits” were charming — and in the
higher reaches of the house, I’m told, blended with unusual delicacy.
Though all very decent, the men were not quite so fine as the women in the
cast. This is not a tragedy in Strauss, who would have done without male voices
entirely if he’d been permitted to do so. Lance Ryan sang the high-lying
role of Bacchus without a squall or a crack, in itself an achievement, but with
a dryish color that did not always give pleasure. Jochen Schmeckenbecher sang
an admirable Music-Master, and the comedians were ably handled by Markus Werba
as Harlekin — one has heard more sensuous serenades — Mark
Schowalter, Joshua Bloom and Sean Panikkar. In this staging, Scaramuccio and
Truffaldino have very little to do and no distinction, but Panikkar gave
Brighella a distinctive sound and antics.
Michael Devlin — surely not the man I heard sing Ptolemy to
Sills’s Cleopatra forty years ago! And the Count to Te Kanawa’s
Countess thirty years ago! But yes, it was he — performed the speaking
role of the Major-Domo with archducal hauteur, a man so snooty he regards
singing in an opera as beneath his dignity.
Kyrill Petrenko demonstrated clarity and genuine feeling for Strauss’s
mingling of delirious motifs, and produced not just a musical fabric but a
philosophic statement. The singers all found him easy to work with — they
went about their comical antics without appearing to pay him any attention, but
they were always together and he was always having fun. So were we.