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800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power. Under the neon-glare of laboratory strip-lights, the scientists and literary archeologists rout through the relics, scrape away palimpsests, shatter the printing presses, and uncover a shocking tale of violence, sex, suicide and cannibalism. ‘Strip the cities of brick,’ they cry; ‘Cancel all flights from the international airport.’ Yet, despite its ‘distance’ - both historical and aesthetic - this disturbing juxtaposition of innocence and monstrosity unsettles and seeps into our modern consciousness, like ink staining parchment.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.
As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus
tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra
from the depths of her soul.
Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.
08 Mar 2010
Love Triumphs in L’Elisir d’amore at Lyric Opera of Chicago
In its current revival of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production showcases the strengths and foibles of humanity, while assuring the ultimate triumph of love.
The bright and festive staging featured, in its opening cast, Nicole Cabell and
Giuseppe Filianoti as the pair Adina and Nemorino, whom love finally unites.
The rival to Nemorino in his courtship of Adina, Sergeant Belcore, was sung by
baritone Gabriele Viviani. Whereas both suitors of Adina are making their debut
this season at Lyric Opera, the pivotal role of Doctor Dulcamara, who produces
the elixir allegedly causing love, was portrayed by familiar baritone
Alessandro Corbelli. The orchestra was conducted by Bruno Campanella.
In it performance of the overture the Lyric Opera Orchestra yielded a firm
balance of strings and woodwinds, with the oboe and flutes especially standing
out. Campanella led with tempos that allowed for motivic expression of
individual segments while maintaining an overall conception of the orchestral
flow. The first scene of the opera in this production is bathed in sunlight;
the Lyric Opera chorus in its opening number gives the impression of a
nineteenth-century village gathering. Nemorino threads his way through the
crowd of peasants and townspeople in order to snag a glimpse of his beloved
Adnia. She seems to be lost in her reading and, with book in hand, she ascends
to an elevated balcony and seeks out space for concentration. In his first solo
number, “Quanto è bella,” [“How beautiful!”] Nemorino
details his infatuation with ardent lyricism. Mr Filianoti truly gave such an
impression while lacing his verses with an admirable sense for legato.
In his appeals to gain access to Adina’s attentions Filianoti relied,
perhaps more than needed, on forte expression, a more even balance
showing itself once interaction with the other performers began. During the
following, parallel aria Adina reveals that the subject of her reading is the
story of “Tristan and Isolde” whose boundless love was engendered
by a potion. Here Ms. Cabell indicated Adina’s absorption in the tale of
the magical love by, at first, an understated approach with spare use of vocal
decoration. As Adina continues to muse and wishes that she knew more about the
potion, a troop of soldiers enters under the direction of Sergeant Belcore. In
his introductory aria he offers a token of admiration to Adina and sings of his
own love being tantamount to that of a Classical or mythological model of
amor. Mr. Viviani worked his way into this entrance so that his
elaborate decoration was securely applied to suggest an image of
self-importance by the close of his declaration. Adina does not commit herself
as a result of this paean, yet Nemorino feels that he could lose any chance to
win her love. By the point of the trio ending this scene all three principals
had achieved a vocal and dramatic characterization of their roles and
interacted well to express the hauteur of the Sergeant, the desperation of
Nemorino, and the coyness of Adina. The duet which follows this exchange
features the latter two characters in their first scene alone together. As
Adina attempts to dissuade Nemorino from further displays of devotion, he seems
willing to neglect even the fortunes of an ailing uncle. Filianoti sang
graceful arching lines in his description of the unstoppable flow of the river,
in order to describe the futility of trying to stay his emotions [“Chiedi
al rio perchè gemente dalla balza” (“Ask of the river why it parts
from its source and fountain”)]. Ms. Cabell’s voice seemed to bloom
here as she matched the touching bel canto decoration of her suitor,
even though her response to Nemorino essentially denied his entreaties.
In a shift suggesting the scene at the start of the opera numerous villagers
collect around the cart of Dr. Dulcamara, who enters from his travels with
great spectacle. Mr. Corbelli inhabits the role in all its facets convincingly.
From this point until the close of the act Dulcamara’s personality and
his influence have an effect on Nemorino’s hopes and behavior. At first
Dulcamara brags to the villagers of selling a panacea for any possible ill. Mr.
Corbelli handles the doctor’s rapid monologue with idiomatic ease, and he
infuses the words with believable posture. Once the townspeople leave, Nemorino
asks if a potion to induce love is also sold by the doctor. True to
expectations of Dulcmara, a potion akin to Isolde’s is produced: the
doctor sells Nemorino a bottle of wine and suggests that he allow a days’
time for the elixir to take effect. In the well-known duet including
“Obbligato!” [“Much obliged!”] both Filianoti and
Corbelli maintain and enhance their characterizations of a lovelorn youth and a
self-serving charlatan. Their challenging vocal lines were delivered crisply
and with sufficient independence so that each made a distinct impression while,
at the same time, being caught up audibly in the sense of a progressive duet.
Nemorino imbibes from the elixir as instructed and he becomes, of course,
emboldened in his sense of confidence. When he next sees Adina, Nemorino seems
disinterested and he declares that her emotional response will surely be
kindled before long. Ironically Belcore enters and presses his suit again. In
the trio which concludes Act I Adina agrees, at first, to give her consent to
Belcore by the following day. When reminded of the sergeant’s imminent
departure, she agrees to a marriage on this very day. Mindful of the
doctor’s prediction, Nemorino is now aghast that sufficient time will not
have elapsed for Adina’s love to be awakened by the potion. Accompanied
by increasingly rapid tempos, all three principals in this production sailed
toward the finale while communicating individual emotions as part of a larger
canvas in the ensemble. The well-rehearsed chorus contributed to the picture of
unexpected dilemmas at the close of the act.
At the start of Act II festivities for the wedding between Adina and Belcore
have been set up. While Belcore waits for the marriage document to be signed,
Adina regrets the absence of Nemorino. The crowd is entertained by a song
performed in duet by Dulcamara and Adina. At this pont Ms. Cabell and Mr.
Corbelli engaged in play-acting to suggest the amorous tone of the song, a
skillful maneuver which enhanced the tension of love as gradually depicted here
in its development. Once the notary arrives to seal the marriage, Adina finds
further reason to delay her agreement. She leaves Dulcamara alone at the
banquet until Nemorino appears to beg more of the elixir. Since he has no cash
to buy the potion, Nemorino sells his time to the army: Belcore gives him
twenty crowns in exchange for military service. In these two scenes Filianoti
showed a skillful application of vocal colors, first in his exchange with
Dulcamara followed by the pointed duet with the sergeant. Once the news that
Nemorino’s wealthy relative has passed away is communicated by the
village girl Giannetta, the youth returns under the influence of the elixir. In
the role of Giannetta, Angela Mannino gave full-voiced lyrical expression to a
memorable characterization. Now many of the women in the village vie for
Nemorino’s attentions, as Adina must rely on her own charms to settle the
emotional quandary. In their final solo numbers of the act both Filianoti and
Cabell demonstrated their skills at this repertoire. “Una furtiva
lagrima” [“A furtive tear”] was performed with great pathos,
a superior command of legato, and an effective use of
diminuendo toward the close. Ms. Cabell’s ultimate declaration
of her love was sung with appropriate and well-executed decoration as well as
carefully observed shifts in tempo during the course of the aria. The assembly
of well-wishers provided a happy ending as Dulcamara, initiator of the elixir,
departs upon having completed his task.
Click here for a photo gallery and other information regarding this production.