Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.

Expressive Monteverdi from Les Talens Lyriques at Wigmore Hall

This was an engaging concert of madrigals and dramatic pieces from (largely) Claudio Monteverdi’s Venetian years, a time during which his quest to find the ‘natural way of imitation’ - musical embodiment of textual form, meaning and affect - took the form not primarily of solo declamation but of varied vocal ensembles of two or more voices with rich instrumental accompaniments.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sketch of Figaro by Marina Reti courtesy of the Aspen Opera Theater Center
15 Aug 2010

Michael Christie conducts Corigliano in Aspen

Michael Christie, now 34, was too young to see John Corigliano’s Ghosts of Versailles when it was new at the Metropolitan Opera in 1991.

John Corigliano: Ghosts of Versailles

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

 

Yet he was the obvious choice to conduct the world premiere of the revised version of the work at St. Louis Opera Theater in 2009.

“To celebrate John’s 70th birthday I had done a Corigliano festival with the Brooklyn Philharmonic,” says Christie, who then took James Robinson’s St. Louis production to Ireland to open the new opera house at Wexford. “I had worked with him; I knew his style and I knew his sounds. “Conducting Ghosts was a natural next step.”

This week Christie is on the podium for an all-new staging of the revised version by the Aspen Opera Theater Center, the music-theater wing of the Aspen Music Festival and School. “I’ve now lived with Ghosts for a year,” says the conductor, who has just wound up his 10th season as music director of the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder. “I’m totally at home with the score.”

In addition to that, Christie loves it. “I’ve watched the video of the Met production,” he says. “It’s all about stars Teresa Stratas and Marilyn Horne. “Now John has really tidied things up and made a true opera of it.” Nonetheless, Christie will be working with 60 singers on stage and an orchestra so large that it spill over into the Green Room of Aspen’s historic, 500-seat Wheeler Opera House. (With supers, the Met had 300 on stage for the original production.)

Christie further feels that the revision — it was done by John David Earnest with input from Corigliano — refines the lines of the opera-within-an-opera. “It’s now two acts instead of three and half an hour shorter than the original,” he says. “It holds together much better.”

Central figure of the outer story is Marie Antoinette, who 200 years after she was beheaded in the French Revolution, wants to return to life. The story then moves back to 1793 and offers a hilarious picture of the Almaviva family, familiar to all from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Instead of re-writing the story Mozart’s librettist, Pierre Beaumarchais and the late Empress fall in love.

“Laughter threatens to drown out the music in Act One,” Christie says, “but then comes the love story, and the opera has a very serious side. “Much of it is breathtakingly beautiful!” Although it’s wrong to see the score as “Mozartian,” Mozart, he says, is everywhere in it.

In mid-summer Christie spent three days in Aspen rehearsing singers. “It’s a different ‘take’ on opera,” he says. “Corigliano’s vocabulary is very specific, yet he leaves the orchestra quite free — almost improvisational at times.” In Ghosts the orchestra, he explains, is at the service of what is on stage. It’s up to the conductor to keep the singers moving and to keep the orchestra with them. “It’s an usual role for a conductor,” he says. “If you’re used to being in charge, this opera is not for you.”

Christie focused on opera at the outset of his career, having served for three years as assistant to Franz Welser-Möst in Zurich. With Ghosts he returns to the pit with performances of Verdi’s Traviata and Wuthering Heights by Hollywood master Bernard Hermann at Minnesota Opera. In 2011 he returns to St. Louis to conduct John Adams’ Death of Klinghoffer.

Edward Berkeley, his Juilliard mentor who has directed the Aspen Opera Center for three decades, has built the summer season around the figure of Figaro. Ghosts was preceded by Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. “Ghosts fits a festival well,” say Berkeley, who directs the production “and in this context it gives students a look at how different composers treat the same group of characters.” “It gives our audience a chance to compare how they have used the same material.” He calls Corigliano “very skilled.” “He’s taken these characters beyond Beaumarchais and added his own layer to the story,” he says. He is awed by the dimensions even of the revised score. “It’s an enormous work,” he says. “It may be the biggest thing we’ve ever tried.”

Michael Christie as conductor was for Berkeley “a natural choice.” “I knew his work in Brooklyn,” he says. “He was widely praised for his mastery of Ghosts in St. Louis and Ireland.” Earlier in the summer Christie proved himself a Wagnerian of great promise with a Colorado Music Festival program that featured veteran soprano Jane Eaglen in the “Liebestod” from Tristan and the “Immolation scene” that concludes Götterdämmerung.

John Corigliano based Ghosts largely on The Guilty Mother, the third part of Beaumarchais’s Figaro trilogy. Sets for the production are by John Kasarda; costumes by Marina Reti.

John Corigliano’s Ghost of Versailles is on stage in Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House at 7 p.m. on August 19 and 21. For information and tickets at $25 to $50, call 1-970-925-9042 or www.aspenmusicfestival.com.

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):