Recently in Performances
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
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.
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.
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.
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.
24 Aug 2010
Aspen makes Corigliano’s Ghosts classic
When it debuted at the Met in 1991 John Corigliano’s overwrought and somewhat all-too comic Ghosts of Versailles was praised largely as a vehicle for the long-celebrated artistry of Teresa Stratas and Marilyn Horne.
The Met production journeyed to the Chicago Lyric — and then the work
disappeared. Happily, Ghosts returned to life a year ago when John
David Earnest’ s revised and trimmed-down version was premiered by the
St. Louis Opera Theater and then exported to Ireland for the festive opening of
a new house in Wexford.
Still scored, however, for 60 singers and a full-sized orchestra, the
demands made by Ghosts places the work beyond the reach of many
professional companies, while making it a field day for student opera
enterprises. Northwestern University staged the work last season, and a third
totally new production by the Aspen Opera Theatre Center brought down the
certain on the 63rd season of one of the nation’s major summer festivals
late in August. Edward Berkeley, Juilliard mentor who has directed the Aspen
Center for three decades, built the 2011 season around the figure of Figaro.
Ghosts was preceded by both Rossini’s Barber of Seville
and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, the first two parts of Pierre
Beaumarchais’ 18th-century account of the Almavivas. (Northwestern staged
the same “trilogy” during its past season.)
“Ghosts fits a festival well,” said Berkeley, who
directed the production, seen on August 19 in Aspen’s historic Wheeler
Opera House. “And in this context it gave students a look at how
different composers treat the same group of characters.” “It also
gave our audience a chance to compare how they have used the same
Although the reduced version — with a single intermission it runs
slightly less than three hours — contains enough plot and calls for
singers sufficient for three operas, the Aspen staging made clear that
Ghosts is a success now worthy of entering the standard repertory. The
central figure of the story is Marie Antoinette, who 200 years after she was
beheaded in the French Revolution, wants to return to life. In an
opera-within-an opera the story moves back to 1793 and offers a complex picture
of the Almaviva family, familiar from Rossini and Mozart.
For the libretto William M. Hoffman relied heavily on The Guilty
Mother, the third part of Beaumarchais’s Figaro trilogy.
But instead of merely re-writing the story Beaumarchais, author the original,
becomes the central figure of Ghosts — author, director and
major figure of the inner opera, in which he and the late Empress fall in love.
Although it is still more opera than can be absorbed in a single performance,
Ghosts is now effective and often moving theater. (Small wonder that
one heard voices in the Aspen audience express the wish to see the work
Top vocal honors in Aspen went to South-African soprano Golda Schultz, now a
student at Juilliard, who sang Rosina. Her tender duet with Korean mezzo
Chorong Kim, now — as Beaumarchais tells it — the loving father of
Léon, was the highlight of the Aspen staging. As Beaumarchais, the man who
makes everything move in Ghosts, tall and lean bass-baritone Andreas
Aroditis, a further Juilliard student, was amazingly adept and versatile.
Christin Wismann, cover for the role in St. Louis and a member of the
supporting cast in Wexford, was a delicately tragic Marie Antoinette, an ideal
object for Beaumarchais’ affection. As ill-intentioned Begéarss Julius
Ahn, a regular with Boston Lyric Opera, was delightfully malicious in his Aspen
debut. David Williams, a recent studio artist with Berlin’s Komische
Oper, left one with a strong desire to hear him as the “real”
Figaro, the role that he sang with such professional aplomb in the Aspen
Ghosts. And Aspen provided him with a vivacious Susanna in Kim
Sogioka, a mezzo with impressive credentials in the oratorio world. Tenor
Michael Kelly, highly regarded as a song recitalist, sang an aristocratic
— if dissolute — Count Almaviva, while Lauren Snouffer was
thoroughly engaging as his illegitimate daughter Florestine.
Major credit for the success of Aspen’s Ghosts goes, however,
to Michael Christie, who conducted both the St. Louis and Wexford performances
of the revised score. Still in his mid-’30s Christie, now music director
of the Phoenix Symphony, began his career as assistant to Franz Welser-Möst at
the Zurich Opera. Earlier in the summer he identified himself as a future
Wagnerian of promise in a concert with Jane Eaglen at the Colorado Music
Festival in Boulder.
Conducting an orchestra that overflowed into the Wheeler Green Room,
Christie’s total command of the score was impressive; he further showed
that rare balance of concern for both singers and ensemble under his command.
Handsome — and ghost-like — sets were by John Kasarda; lavish
period costumes were the work of Marina Reti.
Finally, Ghosts could profit from further reduction. If excised,
the entire scene built around Samira, the hoochie-cochie dancer at the Turkish
embassy bash, would not be missed — even if this was the role on which
Marilyn Horne squandered her talent at the Met.