Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

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.



Jessica Coker as Shawntel [Photo by Ben Krantz Studio]
24 Oct 2010

Jerry Springer, The Opera in San Francisco

The fall opera season in San Francisco has been dealt a wild card — Jerry Springer, The Opera! Not exactly material for SF’s august opera company . . .

Richard Thomas: Jerry Springer, The Opera

Jerry: Patrick Michael Dukeman; Steve: Wilkos Keith Haddock; Security: Bill Tankovich, Tom Farris, Tracy Camp; Baby Jane: Rebecca Pingree; Shawntel/Eve: Jessica Coker; Zandra/Irene Mary: Jordan Best; Andrea/Archangel: Mia Fryvecind; Jonathan/Satan: Jonathan Reisfeld; Dwight/God: Steve Hess; Montel/Jesus: Manuel Caneri; Tremont: Timitio Artusio; Valkyrie: J. Conrad Frank. Stage Director: M. Graham Smith. Music Director: Ben Prince. Choreogroapher: Chris Black. Scenic Desigh: Maya Linke. Costume Design: Margaret Shitaker. Lighting Design: Dustin Snyder. Sound Design: Sound Productions.

Above: Jessica Coker as Shawntel [Photo by Ben Krantz Studio]


but just right for SF’s Ray of Light Theatre!

This charming piece was once famous for its shock and disgust value. These days these values are little more than innocent subject matter for a shock and disgust theater genre. How riled up can you get when the little biscuit that is the symbolic body of Christ is thrown onto the floor, or Jesus is told to put his f***ing clothes back on, or for that matter witnessing God beg Jerry for his guidance? Plus the ca ca doo doo pee pee factor is non-stop as is every sexual proclivity you can imagine and then some, not to forget the swell of awe one felt when Jerry threw the Gettysburg Address into the general blasphemy.

All this is old hat, and was old hat even before Jerry Springer, The Opera took London by storm back in 2003, and entered the British cultural mainstream in 2006 through a kingdom-wide BBC telecast. Jerry Springer, The Opera is very British, our chic British cousins finding no one more appropriate for making fun of than us Americans. It is true, we are open and we let it all hang out (well, we don’t have a queen to look up to as an example of discretion).

It is very well made theater, operatic in theme — infidelity and forgiveness with a big dose of revenge. It is operatic in structure with an earthy exposition (see above) that thrusts the wounded Jerry (he was shot) into a hospital purgatory. It culminates in heaven (which serves also as hell) where Jerry’s death is truly operatic, i.e. too long and utterly implausible that anyone so close to death has so much breath. [N.B. the real Jerry Springer is still on the air.]

It is well made music, its structures and harmonies complex in the extensive choruses. The huge ensembles were crowned by above-the-staff voices, the duets were bona fide Baroque contests, the extensive vocal ornamentation was dramatically motivated, and the crooning was silken.

Not yet a repertory piece (only now does it have this U.S. west coast premiere) and it may never attain such status, such is the fate of the shock and disgust genre. It is however pointedly deserving of this status as it offers challenging roles for performers, from the spoken-only role of Jerry, the crooning of his nemesis, the Valkyrie voice of his conscience, the devotion of his goons, to the comic and quite complicated and delightfully wrecked humans beings whom only a Jerry can understand. Roles that could be developed in infinite levels of vocal and histrionic sophistication.

So how did Ray of Light Theatre fare with such material? Pretty f***ing well based on the resources of San Francisco’s equivalent of Off-Broadway. Patrick Michael Dukeman was a convincing, even moving Jerry Springer (though I confess I have never laid eyes on the real thing for comparison). The ensemble roles were thoughtfully cast and when finesse was lacking (often) it was compensated by volume. The twenty-six choristers executed their music with aplomb and infused a joie de vivre appropriate to responsive voyeurs.

The slick production was directed by M. Graham Smith and was moved along adroitly by music director Ben Prince. These gentlemen kept us on the edge of our seats for nearly three hours (though the program booklet warned us there would be an overly long intermission as an overflow of folks (300 plus) would need to piss [sic] in but two stalls).

Michael Milenski

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):