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On May 25, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of the Herbert Ross production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La bohème. Stage director, Peter Kazaras, made use of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s wide stage by setting some scenes usually seen inside the garret on the surrounding roof instead.
On May 21, 2016, Ars Minerva presented The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles (Le Amazzoni nelle Isole Fortunate), an opera consisting of a prologue and three acts by seventeenth century Venetian composer Carlo Pallavicino.
While Pegida anti-refugee demonstrations have been taking place for a while
now in Dresden, there was something noble about the Semperoper with its banners
declaring all are welcome, listing Othello, the Turk, and the hedon Papageno as
Opera houses’ neglect of Leoš Janáček remains one
of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the
‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas
would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa,
Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely
hook most for life.
It’s not easy for critics to hit the right note when they write about musical collaborations between students and professionals. We have to allow for inevitable lack of polish and inexperience while maintaining an overall high standard of judgment.
Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on
Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so
given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to
see three different productions within little more than a couple of
Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.
George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.
Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.
‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’
Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is
wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.
This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.
As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.
From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the
Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the
appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic
dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today,
‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in
genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.
On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.
A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.
Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.
Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.
What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.
I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s
Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The
Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and
further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic
term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.
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.