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Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.
Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.
It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’
On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.
In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.
Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.
Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.
On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.
English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.
It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).
There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.
In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman
theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or
amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators
or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in
other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.
Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.
Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.
On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.
The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard
Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014
by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine
Goerke in the title role.
Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.
The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings
On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!
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.