Recently in Performances
It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.
On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.
Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to
explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs
that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and
theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.
Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.
It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.
Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.
Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.
Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.
The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.
On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.
There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.
It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.
At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.
Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican,
London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony
Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating
a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens
or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?
Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.
Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.
Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.
Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me
I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.
An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.
On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.
27 Oct 2010
Piotr Beczala: Roméo et Juliette, Royal Opera
Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette is almost more musical than opera. Everyone knows the story, and it would be hard to compete with Shakespeare. Gounod wisely focused on music, rather than drama.
Hence the reputation of this opera has rested on its showpiece arias, and on
good performances. Piotr Beczala defined this production at the Royal Opera
House, London with an excellent Roméo, well shaped vocally and expressively
full of character.
Piotr Beczala as Roméo
Beczala is relatively new to Roméo, having created it at Salzburg in 2008,
and again in August 2010. Nino Machaidze sang Juliette at Salzburg this year
too, at later stages of the run, which started with Anna Netrebko and Beczala.
Pairing Beczala and Machaidze for the London production was an inspired choice.
Although the productions in Salzburg and London are completely different,
Beczala and Machaidze carried over what they’d built previously.
The London production is Stephen Barlow’s revival of Nicholas
Joel’s production, revived only for the second time since 1994.The sets
are like picture postcards, and the pace of movement staid, almost unnatural.
It’s worrying when the most vivid scenes are choreographed by the Fight
Director, Philip Stafford. Admittedly, Gounod’s treatment of Roméo et
Juliette doesn’t lend itself to intellectual depth, but fortunately
Beczala amd Machaidze injected enthusiasm into the production.
Nino Machaidze as Juliette
Beczala’s Roméo defined the performance. Excellent pitch control,
luscious timbre. A wonderful and deeply expressive “L’ amour, oui,
son ardeur a troublé tout mon être!”. The love duets were beautiful, even
if Beczala overshadowed Machaidze’s Juliette. Still, that’s not
surprising, as he’s just more experienced. With Netrebko he must have
been superb. In the last act, Beczala’s “Salut, tombeau sombre et
silencieux!,” was well modulated, emotionally profound. marred very
slightly when he had to turn backwards, projecting sound awry. I loved
Beczala’s Shepherd in Szymanowski’s Król Roger and enjoyed
hearing him develop over the years. Romantic Heroes are now his forte, but he
has the depth, I think, to eventually tackle Heldentenor territory.
Alfie Boe as Tybalt
Machaidze looks like Olivia Hussey in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film of Romeo and Juliet, which adds piquancy to her portrayal. Her voice is light and agile, the brightness of her timbre expressing Juliette’s youthful innocence, her firm lower register expressing the wilder parts of Juliette’s character. Like many 14 year olds, Juliette does extremes, as Shakespeare observed. Machaidze may not have the polish of many much more famous and experienced singers but she’s convincing
enough. When she sings of waking too soon, holding Tybalt’s bloodstained hand, she sings with such fervour that you realize that this Juliette knows what risks she’s taking. Sweet as she is, Machaidze’s Juliette has a brain.
Good performance standards all round. Darren Jeffrey as Capulet towers
physically over the other players, which is as well, for Gounod develops the
part well. Vitalij Kowaljow’s Frère Laurent was also notable and Stéphane
Degout as Mercutio.
Ketevan Kemoklidze’s Stéphano, Roméo’s Page, makes a delightful
impression in the song about doves and vultures, but artistically the vignette
Alfie Boe as Tybalt received prolonged applause which he acknowledged as if
he were a principal. He has a huge following because he does popular song but
that adulation might be his undoing. Not long ago a fan complained when he was
unwell and couldn’t adequately be replaced. That kind of audience
isn’t into opera as such, but in chasing celebrity.
Piotr Beczala as Roméo and Nino Machaidze as Juliette
Gounod’s choruses are justly celebrated and the Royal Opera House
chorus responded well. Here they were directed to maximum advantage, and as
usual, their performance was well executed.
For more information, please see the Royal Opera House