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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.
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.
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.
22 Jun 2010
La fanciulla del West in San Francisco
A bizarre rock cliff attributed in the program booklet to one Antonio Nigro was the sole background for San Francisco Opera’s production of Puccini’s version of a play named The Girl of the Golden West by San Francisco born David Belasco (1853-1931).
Over the long evening we got to know this wall’s every nook and cranny in about every color of light imaginable.
Just when you thought San Francisco Opera got its productions from Chicago this one comes from Palermo (Italy) where its stage director, one Lorenzo Mariani, is the artistic director of the Teatro Massimo. The Italianization of San Francisco Opera is amusing. One can even imagine an Italian operatic mafia that promotes only its own when brokering international deals. This could explain and perhaps excuse the otherwise inexplicable and inexcusable.
Salvatore Licitra as Dick Johnson
The star of this San Francisco edition of Palermo’s Fanciulla is, no surprise, conductor Nicola Luisotti whose full throated orchestra sang out with delirious abandon Minnie’s true love for the bandito Ramerrez. He pulls us through this evening with orchestral sweep and dramatic point — typical Luisotti.
Mo. Luisotti is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Minnie, soprano Deborah Voight, and Dick Johnson (aka Ramerrez), tenor Salvatore Licitra had no problem at all. Mme. Voight sings her first Minnie, combining a bona fide Americana persona with convincing Italianate singing, cutting loose with high notes as only a dramatic soprano can and here needs to do. Minnie is not the usual Puccini heroine who accepts her unhappy fate. Minnie’s fate is true love that she gains with true soprano coglioni, three aces and a pair, and high notes that simply wither anything that gets in the way!
Salvadore Licitra cuts a fine figure on the stage, the red flag on the back pocket of his Levi’s convincing, the six shooters on his hips menacing . He also sings. His musicianship is impeccable, his phrasing is elegant, and he soars to high notes with ease in his powerful, baritone colored tenor. He should shut up with his retro ideas about opera staging, voiced in an San Francisco Opera Guild preview.
The unhappy, love sick sheriff, Jack Rance, was perfectly rendered by Roberto Frontali who was appropriately emotionally withdrawn though expressive in his brief but revealing soliloquy, and his pleadings to Minnie were touching too. His fine baritone served him just as well when he got mean. Mr. Frontali’s voice, stance and profile would threaten bandits in any spagetti western.
Of the large supporting cast, Timothy Mix [sic] stood out as Sonora, a fine voice and sympathetic, commanding presence, as did young Adler Fellow Maya Lahyani as the Indian Wowkle, the only female voice in the opera other than Mme. Voight.
Salvatore Licitra as Dick Johnson and Roberto Frontali as Jack Rance with Brian Jadge as Joe, Igor Viera as Happy, Timothy Mix as Sonora, Austin Kness as Handsome, David Lomelí as Harry and chorus members
Fanciulla is pure Italian kitsch. For Puccini California was a faraway colorful myth. Mix this with his beloved pentatonic scale (in his mind the perfect sound for California as well as Japan) and with a play that is like catchy short story (winning a guy in a card game). So no one expects a production of Fanciulla to be particularly California.
Nevertheless, evidently scene designer Maurizio Balò, like Puccini, has never been to California, because he would know that we do not have funny red brown rocks carved out of foam. Those rocks are in Utah and even there they are not carved out of foam. They turned weirdly blue when it was supposed to be snowing, though the snow was bubbles of some sort rather than flakes. Finally when Minnie and Dick were headed off into the sunset the foam wall turned gold, and split apart revealing a painted drop that was supposed to be, maybe, the Sierras as our plein air artists might imagine them. If this was the idea it failed miserably in execution.
Costumes are credited to American designer Gabriele Berry. The miners’ costumes seemed reasonable in the first act, but in the second act the many men of the posse had all donned identical, sinister, vaguely WWI looking raincoats. For her tryst with Dick Johnson in her cabin Mme. Voight was resplendent in a far too grand Victorian dress that she surely would have shed (but did not) to tease Dick a bit more before she rolled herself up (still in the dress) in a blanket to sleep on the floor (she had given Dick the bed).
Director Lorenzo Mariani moved actors on and off the stage as needed, and platforms holding a bar, a bed and a scaffold as well. When it was time for Minnie to rescue Dick he attempted a coup de théâtre with Minnie arriving on horseback — a bored, placid palomino was led slowly onto the stage by two keepers. Com’on, hasn’t he even seen Zefferelli’s white stallion gallop across the stage to rescue Leonora in Il Trovatore in Verona? That’s theater!
Provincial Italian opera surely has better to offer than this Fanciulla del West.