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

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

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.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

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.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

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.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Shu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio-San [Photo by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera]
29 Mar 2010

Madama Butterfly, NYCO

Once again, as in L’Etoile, Mark Lamos’s staging and Robert Wierzel’s lighting nearly steal the show in the City Opera’s revival of Madama Butterfly.

Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly

Cio-Cio-San: Shu-Ying Li; Suzuki: Nina Yoshida Nelsen; Pinkerton: Steven Harrison; Sharpless: Quinn Kelsey; Goro: Jeffrey Halili; Sorrow: Eddie Schweighardt. Production by Mark Lamos. New York City Opera chorus and orchestra conducted by George Manahan. Performance of March 25.

Above: Shu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio-San

All photos by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera

 

It says a great deal in her favor that in her sensitive and passionate account of the title role, Shu-Ying Li holds her own against such competition. For example, a great circle dominates the backdrop — red against white for the rising sun or the Japanese flag as the opera opens, turning black against red when the Bonze denounces his errant niece for renouncing her ancestral gods, then white against serene blue for moonlight during the great duet that closes the act.

2010Butterfly0024.pngQuinn Kelsey as Sharpless, Eddie Schweighardt as Sorrow and Shu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio San

There are few props on the wide, bare stage, and therefore those we see possess greater significance. The tiny ancestral gods that Pinkerton scorns as “dolls” are placed stage center, as on an altar, during later acts of the story — first for Butterfly to ignore them, preferring the wide-awake American god, then for her to atone before them by hara-kiri when she has lost honor, child and everything else. A fleet of tiny red “warships” floats like a flock of birds above the stage at curtain-rise — to be echoed in Act II by the toy ship Sorrow plays with. A telescope is not merely functional, permitting Butterfly to stare at the empty harbor of Nagasaki, but also symbolizes her undying hopes.

The traditional screen behind which the heroine kills herself does not appear — instead she shows her gumption (and forfeits a pathos playwright David Belasco and composer Puccini both wished to claim) by turning about to slash her throat in her faithless lover’s face, precisely as Pinkerton enters and after his desperate, perhaps repentant cries of “Butterfly!” This confrontational death is an excess. Butterfly, as Belasco and Puccini conceived her, may be a convenient myth, a construction of the guilty Western colonialist conscience, but that is how they created her; to turn her final act into an expression of vendetta, a spitting in the face of her oppressor — the man she has entirely loved hitherto — seems an intrusive modern afterthought. We may have been patronizing when we took Cio-Cio-San to our hearts — but this resentful figure, this image of hate, will not win our hearts at all.

2010Butterfly0005.pngShu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio San and Steven Harrison as B.F. Pinkerton

Shu-Ying Li has a large and genuine Puccini soprano of great beauty, but there is a certain unsteadiness until it warms up. Her entrance was not luminous, but the duet was, and many other soaring phrases as well. Her Cio-Cio-San was a complete portrait, each line part of the whole, not the collection of pretty excerpts it can become. She is a tall woman and does not move like a small one, and in her enormous wedding kimono she all but dwarfs her Pinkerton, but the robe is soon removed — it is present, hanging on rods, for the rest of the opera, a visible symbol of her past — and in slimmer robes she manages to appear becomingly frail.

2010Butterfly0039.pngJessica Klein as Kate Pinkerton, Nina Yoshida Nelsen as Suzuki, Quinn Kelsey as Sharpless, and Shu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio San

Broad-shouldered Steven Harrison was, like most modern Pinkertons, cast in the shade by his Butterfly. The role may be thankless, an exemplary cad, but he should be a robust cad and Harrison sounded provincial. Nina Yoshida Nelsen sang an effective Suzuki, especially impressive in the Flower Duet and the penultimate trio. Quinn Kelsey’s Sharpless possessed — not only because of his size — a real presence, so that one accepted the judgments of this involved, sympathetic observer as more than the official boilerplate they can seem. Little Eddie Schweighardt made one of the liveliest Troubles I’ve seen, whacking Jeffrey Halili’s Goro with a fan and chasing about the stage with his toy boat.

George Manahan drew a precise and lustrous account of the score from his orchestra, full of Italian Wagnerism in the way melodies were foreshadowed, then foregrounded, then fragrantly recollected to remind us of joys past or hint at doom to come.

John Yohalem

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):