Recently in Performances
Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.
The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.
Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.
If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.
Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.
With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.
Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.
Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.
The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.
One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.
That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.
Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.
‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.
The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.
In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.
High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.
The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.
‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough
and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy
will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.
It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?
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.