Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

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):