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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.
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.
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!”
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.
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
Following Garsington Opera for All’s successful second year of free public screenings on beaches, river banks and parks in isolated coastal and rural communities, Handel’s sparkling masterpiece Semele will be screened in four areas across the UK in 2017. Free events are programmed for Skegness (1 July), Ramsgate (22 July), Bridgwater (29 July) and Grimsby (11 October).
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.
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.
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.
The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.
Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.
Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.
Details of the Royal Opera House's 2017/18 Season have been announced. Oliver Mears, who will begin his tenure as Director of Opera, comments:
“I am delighted to introduce my first Season as Director of Opera for The Royal Opera House. As I begin this role, and as the world continues to reel from social and political tumult, it is reassuring to contemplate the talent and traditions that underpin this great building’s history. For centuries, a theatre on this site has welcomed all classes - even in times of revolution and war - to enjoy the most extraordinary combination of music and drama ever devised. Since the time of Handel, Covent Garden has been home to the most outstanding performers, composers and artists of every era. And for centuries, the joyous and often tragic art form of opera has offered a means by which we can be transported to another world, in all its wonderful excess and beauty.”
Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.
Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner
Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a
stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he
embodied a perfect Rodolfo.
Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of
watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It
scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you
can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its
A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.
18 Aug 2010
Mozart and Rossini Finales at Grant Park, Chicago
During a recent concert at the Grant Park Music Festival, held on this
occasion in the adjacent Harris Theater, members of the Ryan Opera Center of
Lyric Opera of Chicago presented ensembles from four operas, two each by Mozart
and by Rossini.
The finales from Act I of Rossini’s La
Cenerentola and Act II of Don Giovanni were featured in the fist
half of the program; after intermission, the finales from Act I of
L’Italiana in Algeri and Act II of Le Nozze di Figaro
concluded the program. Carlos Kalmar conducted the Grant Park Orchestra.
Already in the first ensemble from La Cenerentola a strong impression was
made by the individual voices and their abilities to interact in the collective
spirit of the composition. Tenor René Barbera and baritone Paul La Rosa began
the famous “Zitto, zitto: piano, piano” [“Hush, hush: softly,
softly”] as the characters Don Ramiro and Dandini evaluate
Cinderella’s step-sisters. Both men showed appropriate dramatic
sensitivity, just as the sisters Clorinda and Tisbe, sung by Jennifer Jakob and
Katherine Lerner, entered with their frenetic appeals and comments. Ms. Jakob
and Ms. Lerner acted well with their accomplished voices, with the others all
leading to an announcement by Alidoro that a “dama incognita”
[“an unknown woman”] had arrived at the festivity. In the role of
Alidoro, Evan Boyer displayed a sonorous and eloquent bass-baritone voice which
he used to good effect in this important role. Attention then centered on the
Cenerentola of Emily Fons, who entered the stage with both lyrical and physical
grace. As her presence increased, Ms. Fons enhanced the impression she gave
with an assured vocal technique and a mezzo-soprano range with an upper
extension equal to the demands of so many female Rossinian lead roles. Her
decorations on “Sprezzo” [“I scorn”] and
“rispetto” [“respect”] were impeccable and sung with a
florid and clearly traced line. Don Ramiro’s reaction to the unknown
woman led to a well-rehearsed conclusion in which all delivered their
impressions of confused gaiety.
In the finale from Don Giovanni several of the above singers were
joined by additional members of the Ryan Center. After a bright orchestral
introduction under Kalmar’s direction Mr. La Rosa gave a lyrical and
confident assumption of the role of Don Giovanni. His Leporello was sung by Sam
Handley, whose deeper and equally well-schooled bass-baritone made him a
believable foil to the Don. Ms. Fons took on the role of Donna Elvira with
superbly dramatic top notes in her fervent appeals; Amanda Majeski sang Donna
Anna with an exquisite sense of pitch and believable dramatic poise, both
qualities so vital to the wronged noblewoman. Craig Irvin gave solid and even
intonation to the role of the statue, and Ms. Jakob was a sprightly, memorable
In the second half of the program several singers shifted to leading roles
in the excerpt from L’Italiana in Algeri. Ms. Lerner delighted
as Isabella with her combination of acting and descent to a lower register,
while Ms. Fons and Ms. Jakob sang smaller yet important roles contributing to
the atmosphere of the Eastern court where Isabella, the Italiana, is captive.
Perhaps most impressive in this scene was Mr. Handley’s fluid, seamless
approach to the bass role of the Mustafá. So often taken simply as a comic
part, it is refreshing to hear a truly fine, young basso cantante give
lyrical expression to the ruler’s yearnings. The onomatopoetic conclusion
received a dramatically disciplined and comic touch.
The final selection from Act II of Le Nozze di Figaro featured Mr.
La Rosa as the Count and Ms. Majeski as the Countess. Both sang committed,
believable performances as the noble couple caught in their own
misunderstandings and comic, marital deceptions. The supporting characters,
especially the Susanna of Ms. Jakob, lent a sense of collective confusion in
the spirit of Mozart’s delightful ensemble writing. The Grant Park Music
Festival is to be commended for showcasing the talents of these performers who
have distinguished themselves in such a variety of operatic roles.