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 Performances

A sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sketch of Figaro by Marina Reti courtesy of the Aspen Opera Theater Center
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.

John Corigliano: Ghosts of Versailles

Aspen Music Festival 2010

Photos by Alex Irvin courtesy of Aspen Opera Theater Center

 

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 material.”

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.

_AIP2614.gif

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 again.)

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.

_AIP2705.gif

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.

Wes Blomster

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):