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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



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

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