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The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.



Brian Anderson as Frederic, Curt Olds as Pirate King and Korby Myrick as Ruth [Photo by Tim Fuller / Arizona Opera]
24 Oct 2010

Gilbert and Sullivan opens Arizona Opera

On 16 October 2010 in Tucson, Arizona Opera opened it’s 2010-2011 season with an operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.

Gilbert and Sullivan: The Pirates of Penzance

Mabel: Sarah Jane McMahon; Frederic: Brian Anderson; Pirate King: Curt Olds; Major General: Stephen Condy; Police Sergeant: Craig Phillips; Ruth: Korby Myrick; Sam: Kevin Wetzel; Edith: Rebecca Sjöwall; Kate: Stephanie Foley. Conductor: Joel Revzen. Director: David Ira Goldstein.

Above: Brian Anderson as Frederic, Curt Olds as Pirate King and Korby Myrick as Ruth [Photo by Tim Fuller / Arizona Opera]


Although the work had been seen once in Britain for copyright purposes, it was officially premiered on New Year’s Eve of 1879 at New York City’s ‘Fifth Avenue Theatre,’ which was actually located at 28th street and Broadway. Reviews were extremely favorable even though some critics noted that Gilbert had used some story elements from his one act piece, Our Island Home, and Sullivan took the music for the chorus, ‘Climbing over Rocky Mountain,’ from his earlier composition, Thespis. In December 1879, Sullivan wrote: ‘I think it will be a great success, for it is exquisitely funny, and the music is strikingly tuneful and catching.’ He may not have been all that modest, but over a century later the statement is still true.

Since, at that time there was no copyright protection in the United States, having the official premiere there allowed Gilbert and Sullivan to keep American theatrical companies from assembling their own productions and stealing the creators’ profits. Of course, American companies did eventually tour with the operetta, but at least the first production’s profits went to the work’s librettist and composer. The Pirates of Penzance opened at the Opera Comique in London on 3 April 1880 and ran for an entire year.

David Ira Goldstein, who has headed The Arizona Theater Company for the past nineteen years, directed Arizona Opera’s presentation. In this, his first stint with an opera company, he told the story in a manner that put a great deal of emphasis on visual values and there were times when he had his singers executing complicated moves while singing. For example, Sarah Jane McMahon who sang Mabel turned cartwheels during an aria. She has a fine voice, however, and her parody of Lucia di Lammermoor made one wonder what she could do with a serious rendition of that role. Brian Anderson has a rich, clear tenor voice and he was a good-looking Frederic who did not perform any acrobatics but proved to be a skilled swordsman. The best dancer of the cast was Curt Olds as the Pirate King who also sang with excellent diction and a secure line.

The real revelation of the evening was hearing veteran mezzo Korby Myrick, who often sings comprimario parts, in the major role of Ruth. Her smooth chocolate tones enveloped the audience in a wonderful elixir while she made use of her precise comic timing to put her zany character across. Hers was definitely the biggest voice on that stage. Baritone Steven Condy, well known for his ability with ‘patter’ songs and his portrayal of buffo characters was a stentorian Major General Stanley who sang the final stanza of his aria at incredible speed. With a bright red jacket covering a well-upholstered figure, he was the picture of a military man who directs his soldiers from afar. Bass baritone Craig Phillips made an impressive debut as the Police Sergeant. In a role that demanded excellence in both dancing and singing, he proved to be the master of both.

With their strong performances in this show, Arizona Opera’s Pullin Studio artists: Rebecca Sjöwall, soprano, as Edith, Stephanie Foley-Davis, mezzo-soprano, as Kate and Kevin Wetzel, tenor, as Sam proved that they are worthy heirs of the operetta stage. We can look forward to hearing Sjöwall as Frasquita in next month’s Carmen. Foley-Davis will be Mercedes in Carmen and Emilia in the March performances of Otello. One of the true joys of this performance was the outstanding choreography by Melissa Lowe, a professor at the University of Arizona School of Dance. The movements she designed melded perfectly with both story and accompaniment. Joel Revzen led twenty-six instrumentalists of the Arizona Opera Orchestra in a virtuoso rendition of Sullivan’s score. Although the players had less rehearsal than usual, they played with admirable precision and brought out the many romantic colors of this venerable work.

Maria Nockin

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