Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.

Puccini Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera House, London

Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Ricky Ian Gordon [Photo Wikimedia]
19 Jun 2010

Orpheus & Euridice at Long Beach Opera

Early Greek writings say that Orpheus was the son of the muse Calliope and either Apollo, the god of prophecy and music or Oeagrus, the river god.

Ricky Ian Gordon: Orpheus & Euridice

Euridice: Elizabeth Futral; Orpheus: Todd Palmer. Concept/Director: Andreas Mitisek. Choreography: Ken Roht. Costumes: Marcy Froehlich. Videography: John J. Flynn. Scenery Designer: Alan Muraoka. Lighting Designer: Dan Weingarten.

Click here for libretto and other information concerning this production.

Above: Ricky Ian Gordon [Photo Wikimedia]

 

References to Orpheus survive from as far back as the sixth century BCE. Pindar called him the ‘father of song’. It was thought that his mother taught him to sing while Apollo instructed him on the lyre.To the Greeks of the classical age, Orpheus was venerated as animportant artist whose music could charm birds, fish and even wild creatures into docility. According to legend, he could change the course of rivers, make the rocks dance and make the gods of the underworld do his bidding. Both Pindar and Apollonius of Rhodes say that he sailed with Jason and the Argonauts. When Orpheus heard the sirens’ voices attempting to lure the ship off course, he played his incredibly beautifulmusic and drowned out the evil witches’ songs.

It was Virgil who told the tale with which we are most familiar. According to him, Orpheus married Euridice who was soon bitten by a snake anddied. He was terribly distraught and sang songs so touching that the nymphs and the gods wept with him. Thus, Euridice was allowed to return to earth provided that Orpheus did not look at her on the journey. As soon as he reached the upper world, however, he turned to her, not realizing that because she was following a few steps behind him, she was not yet on earth. As a result, he lost her forever.

Virgil’s story is the model for Ricky Ian Gordon’s poem, Orpheus & Euridice. As with some nineteenth century writers, Gordon has written both the poem and the music for this opera, which can also be presented as a song cycle, since only one character actually sings. Euridice is both the bride who dies and the narrator, while Orpheus is a clarinetist. As Gordon put it:

‘In books it was a lute
but in my dream
it was a reed not a flute,
something richer, darker, starker...’

To play the part of the musician who could charm the inhabitants of earth, Mount Olympus and the underworld is, of course, a tall order, but clarinetist Todd Palmer was a perfect choice. It was easy to imagine hisexpressive, plangent tones allowing him to bargain with the gods of the nether world.

On Friday 11 June 2010, Long Beach Opera presented Gordon’s Orpheus & Euridice at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach,California. The pool is indoors and is set up with bleacher seating that allows spectators to watch swimming meets. It’s a rather unusual venue for opera, but Long Beach Opera is famous for performing in thought-provoking places. Here the huge pool was the River Styx, which Orpheus has to cross and recross in order to retrieve his beloved Euridice from the underworld. To paraphrase Anna Russell’s Ringanalysis, the scene opens in the river, in it. While soprano Elizabeth Futral who sang Eurydice and Todd Palmer as Orpheus only received an occasional splash, supers and dancers were engulfed by the chilling waters of the Styx for much of the performance.

O&E-055.gifTodd Palmer as Orpheus and Elizabeth Futral as Euridice [Photo courtesy of Long Beach Opera]

Clothed in a tasteful short yellow gown and matching wrap by Emmy-nominated designer Marcy Froelich, Futral was a vision of physical loveliness who sang with equal vocal beauty. At this watery venue, there could have been all sorts of echoes, so the performers had to wear microphones, but the sound design was well done by Bob Christian and Futral’s lustrous silver tones sounded much as they had in the acoustic confines of San Diego Opera. She had a most appealing stage presence while singing her lines with the utmost clarity and conviction. Stage director Andreas Mitisek is LBO’s general and artistic director as well. With capable artists, a minimum of scenery by set designer Alan Muraoka and most inventive lighting design by Dan Weingarten, the pool became the mythical river of the ancient Greek legend.

Palmer had actually commissioned the piece in 1995. He wanted a short work similar to Franz Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, and Gordon agreed to write it despite caring for a seriously ill partner at that time. The composer procrastinated for quite a while until one evening when he dreamed of Orpheus. That same night he wrote the poem and sometime later the music followed. The final work was, however, a great deal longer than expected and had many more ramifications than a simple song cycle for soprano, clarinet and piano. On Friday night, we were treated to the addition of a mellifluous string orchestra as well as the fine piano virtuosity of Melvin Chen. Conductor Stephen White led the ensemble in this dramatically alert, romantic performance and drew sterling contributions from all.

This was a most interesting experiment and it turned out to be a major success. The applause at the end was thunderous, especially when the composer took his bow. He has a show heading for Broadway and commission from the Metropolitan Opera, so we were very lucky to hear his work in such an intimate venue.

Maria Nockin

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):