Recently in Performances
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!
At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.
By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.
In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.
Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.
Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.
Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.
Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.
11 Aug 2010
Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto at Chicago Opera Theater
Although productions of Gioachino Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto
are infrequent, the lively debate on successive versions of the work has
generally led to questions of priority and to informative discussions on
For the first opera during its Spring 2010 season Chicago
Opera Theater staged a production based on the new critical edition of
Mosè by Charles S. and Patricia B. Brauner. As Philip M. Gossett
indicates in his notes accompanying the program for this production, the
Italian Mosè, originally performed in Naples, “is a work of
great value” which “contains some of Rossini’s finest
music.” The present production, with strong vocal contributions from a
convincing cast, gave ample support to these statements.
Under the direction of Leonardo Vordoni the brief orchestral prelude set a
tone both stately and somber, in which the distraught court of the Pharaoh and
the plight of Moses and his people are alternately depicted. Darkness has
fallen over the land, and Faraone determines to free the camp of Moses in order
to release Egypt from such a plague. When he sends for Moses and makes known
his intention, the captive leader calls out to God and, with the gesture of his
staff, causes light to return to the land. The two opposing leaders were sung
by bass-baritone Tom Corbell as Faraone and bass Andrea Concetti as Mosè. Mr.
Corbell showed admirable facility in his delivery of rapid notes whereas Mr.
Concetti struck an imposing figure with declamatory weight in his delivery of
Mosè’s opening lines. In the ensemble showing varied reactions to this
change, brought about by Mosè, Faraone and his consort Amaltea are joined by
the Egyptian heir and Prince Osiride along with Aronne, the compatriot of Mosè.
Faraone declares that the Hebrews will, in return for this gesture, be set free
and Amaltea supports the decision. Corbell as Faraone was joined in his florid
statement with the equally challenging line composed for Amaltea, here sung
admirably by Kathryn Leemhuis, a member of the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera
of Chicago. Leemhuis gave a strong individual impression in her careful
decoration yet blended with the others to yield a memorable and dramatic
ensemble. The final lead member featured in this group was the Osiride of
Taylor Stayton. Mr. Stayton shows great promise as a tenor able to project with
dramatic lyricism the challenging dramatic line featured in this and comparable
pieces by Rossini. Here Osiride expresses his disagreement concerning the
release of the Hebrews, since his secret beloved Elcia is one of the people of
Mosè, now scheduled to depart in freedom.
After the others leave, Osiride plots with the high priest Mambre and
suggests that the latter use his powers to sow discord once again between Mosè
and Faraone. Elcia now joins her lover Osiride in order to bid farewell as she
expects to leave Egypt with Mosè. In their moving duet Siân Davies sang the
part of Elcia with great urgency and proved to be an appropriate match for Mr.
Stayton’s compelling depiction of the Egyptian prince. Upon the exciting
conclusion to their duet, Amaltea appears and chides Mambre for his attempts to
dissuade Faraone from releasing the Hebrews. Her words go unheeded, for
Osiride’s plan has succeeded, Faraone declares his decision revoked, and
the Hebrews feel themselves betrayed. At the close of the act Mosè invites
further storms to fall upon the land of Egypt.
Taylor Stayton as Osiride
After an intermission, Acts II and III were performed without pause in this
production by Chicago Opera Theater. Attempts to resolve the imprisonment of
the Hebrews are fueled by Amaltea’s independent negotiations with Mosè.
At the same time Faraone resolves to marry off Osiride to an Armenian princess
and to proclaim him co-ruler of Egypt. The dismay of Osiride was expressed in
Stayton’s fervent delivery, in which he maintained hopes still to retain
Elcia’s love. When the latter enters among the imprisoned Hebrews, she
advised Osiride to seek an equivalent love in his official betrothed. Ms.
Davies’ moving expressiveness and exquisitely secure pitch in this aria
remained one of the highlights of the performance. Osiride then threatens
violence to Mosè but he is, instead, struck dead by a lightning bolt; as the
act concludes, both Faraone and Elcia mourn his loss.
Jorge Prego as Aronne, Andrea Concetti as Moses and Siân Davies as Elcia with the Israelites
In the brief Act III on the banks of the Red Sea the famous prayer delivered
by Mosè calms his people, who fear that they will be sacrificed to the anger of
Faraone’s troops. Elcia is encouraged to continue her journey with the
other Hebrews. In this Mr. Concetti as Mosè delivered a fervent declamation in
the concluding piece of the opera. The Red Sea parts and his people cross, just
as Faraone and the high priest are swallowed up as they attempt to pursue. The
dramatic moment received an appropriately conclusive orchestral flourish.