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Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

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.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

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.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

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.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

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.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

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.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

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.

English National Opera: Tosca

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.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

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).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“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.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

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.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

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.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

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.

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).



Brian Stucki as Almaviva and Elizabeth DeShong as Rosina [Photo by Tim Fuller / Arizona Opera]
27 Apr 2010

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Arizona Opera

The story of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) is based on Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’ 1775 play, Le barbier de Séville.

Gioachino Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia

Figaro: Marian Pop (April 23, 25, May 2)/Joshua Hopkins (April 24, May 1); Rosina: Patricia Risley (April 23, 25, May 2)/Elizabeth DeShong (April 24, May 1); Almaviva: Victor Ryan Robertson (April 23, 25, May 2)/Brian Stucki (April 24, May 1); Bartolo: Peter Strummer; Basilio: Kurt Link; Fiorello: John Fulton; Sergeant: John Fulton; Berta: Grace Brooks; Notary: Cameron Schutza. Arizona Opera. Conductor: Joel Revzen. Director: Bernard Uzan.

Above: Brian Stucki as Almaviva and Elizabeth DeShong as Rosina [Photos Tim Fuller / Arizona Opera]


It is the first play of a trilogy that includes La folle journée ou Le mariage de Figaro, which was made into the opera Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart, and La mère coupable, which was set by Corigliano as The Ghosts of Versailles. Over the years, various composers of operas and singspiels have used it as the basis of their compositions. Ludwig Benda and Johann André wrote music to it in 1776. Johann Elsperger based a singspiel on it in 1780. Composer Giovanni Paisiello and librettist Giuseppe Petrosellini made Le barbier into an opera and it appeared first in Russian translation at the imperial court of St. Petersburg in 1782.

In 1783, The Barber’s story appeared as Die unnützige Vorsicht, a translation of the subtitle, The Useless Precaution. In 1794, The Spanish Barber by British born composer Alexander Reinagle was sung across the ocean in the brand new United States. It is said to have been a favorite of George Washington. In 1796, Nicolas Isouard, an organist from Malta who had moved to Paris to compose, set the story to music and it was presented at the Opéra Comique. When Rossini and librettist Cesare Sterbini chose that story and premiered their opera in 1816, Paisiello’s fans heckled the performance. At the second performance, however, the audience realized that Rossini’s version was well worth hearing, and from then on it became at least as popular as Paisiello’s work, which was also played for many years.

On April 24, Arizona Opera presented the last opera of its 2009-2010 season, a rousing rendition of Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, at Phoenix Symphony Hall. The traditional production was by Bernard Uzan with detailed and functional sets by David Gano. The costumes by Anna Bjornsdotter were flattering to the artists as well as correct for the time and place. With Artistic Director Joel Revzen in the pit with the excellent Arizona Opera Orchestra, everything was ready for a fine performance. The overture was played with clarity and translucence. It seemed that the players could go as fast as the wind and still play each note precisely.

Unfortunately, after the overture, and while the tenor was singing his most difficult first aria, ushers allowed latecomers into the hall and accompanied them with flashlight beams and whispers.

Tall, good-looking Brian Stucki is a wonderful new coloratura tenor who can sing the most graceful lines of Almaviva’s music in correct style. A good actor, he has all the essentials for comedic timing. As Rosina, Elizabeth DeShong sang with honeyed tones and quite a powerful voice. She also let the audience know from the beginning that she was not about to submissively obey her guardian, Dr Bartolo.

AZ_Barber_6.gifElizabeth DeShong as Rosina, Peter Strummer as Bartolo and Joshua Hopkins as Figaro

This was Joshua Hopkins’s first Figaro, but no one would have known it from his performance. He was an authoritative barber who sang with robust sounds and had both vocal and stage tricks up his sleeve. Bass-baritone Peter Strummer was thoroughly amusing as the self-righteous Dr Bartolo. His slow tones had polish. His patter was understandable and secure. As the conspiratorial Don Basilio, Kurt Link did not wear the traditional hat, but he was a great comic villain whose voice was redolent with colorful deep tones.

Grace Brooks was a Berta who thought both Dr Bartolo and Rosina were crazy. She is still in the AZ Opera Young Artist Program, but she is fast becoming a finished singer and her aria was a delight to hear. Although John Fulton did not have an aria, he portrayed both Fiorello and the Sergeant with thoughtful consideration of their situations.

The all male chorus led by Julian Reed sang with gusto and harmonized accurately. Reed also played the beautifully modulated recitatives on the harpsichord. This was a hilariously funny show and the laughter almost drowned out some of the music, but the Barber is a true comedy and it was good to see it so well appreciated by the Arizona audience.

Maria Nockin

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