Recently in Performances
‘Mack does bad things.’ The tabloid headline that convinces Rory
Kinnear’s surly, sharp-suited Macheath that it might be time to take a
short holiday epitomizes the cold, understated menace of Rufus Norris’s
production of Simon Stephens’ new adaptation of The Threepenny
Opera at the Olivier Theatre.
On May 25, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of the Herbert Ross production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La bohème. Stage director, Peter Kazaras, made use of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s wide stage by setting some scenes usually seen inside the garret on the surrounding roof instead.
On May 21, 2016, Ars Minerva presented The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles (Le Amazzoni nelle Isole Fortunate), an opera consisting of a prologue and three acts by seventeenth century Venetian composer Carlo Pallavicino.
While Pegida anti-refugee demonstrations have been taking place for a while
now in Dresden, there was something noble about the Semperoper with its banners
declaring all are welcome, listing Othello, the Turk, and the hedon Papageno as
Opera houses’ neglect of Leoš Janáček remains one
of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the
‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas
would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa,
Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely
hook most for life.
It’s not easy for critics to hit the right note when they write about musical collaborations between students and professionals. We have to allow for inevitable lack of polish and inexperience while maintaining an overall high standard of judgment.
Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on
Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so
given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to
see three different productions within little more than a couple of
Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.
George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.
Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.
‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’
Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is
wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.
This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.
As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.
From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the
Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the
appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic
dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today,
‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in
genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.
On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.
A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.
Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.
Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.
What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.
01 Nov 2010
Cervantino stages rare Graun opera — The Mexican national opera?
Clearly, there isn’t one. Yet, Carl Heinrich Graun’s 1755
rarely-performed Montezuma is of special importance in a country
celebrating 200 years of Independence from Spanish rule and 100 years since the
Revolution that ultimately toppled dictator Porfirio Díaz.
was thus an obvious choice as the operatic centerpiece of the 2010
International Cervantino Festival, staged in Guanajuato, a major station on the
march to Mexican freedom that began in 1810.
Although he was his contemporary, Graun was no Handel, and thus
Montezuma, even when performed with the dedication obvious in the
production seen in the historic Teatro Juárez on October 14, is more
conversation piece than masterwork. The libretto by Graun’s employer,
Prussia’s music-loving, flute-playing Frederick the Great, was performed
in Guanajuato in Italian translation.
Christophe Carré countertenor as Panfilo de Narvaes
The somewhat simplistic plot reflects Frederick’s desire to be seen as
an apostle of the Enlightenment — despite his own absolute power.
Montezuma is an embodiment of the monarch’s philosophical
leaning vis-à-vis the Noble Savage. (Recall that this is also the age of
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, with Voltaire being in residence at Frederick’s
Mexico’s opera Wunderkind Claudio Valdés Kuri brought all the
excesses of Regietheater to the minimalist staging, trying too hard to
make more of Montezuma than is really there. Intent of fitting the
work into the theme of the season, Kuri employed all the techniques of
Brechtian alienation to combine in the production a picture of Mexico’s
inhuman suffering with a vision of hope for the future. Thus in the title role
countertenor Flavio Oliver frequently swapped Aztec loin cloth with T-shirt,
and in Act III Kuri changed the entire 26-member Elyma Ensemble, an able but
undistinguished early-music group, into “civvies” and moved them
onto the stage. This act concluded not with Graun’s original score, but
with a dramatic scene by Mexican Baroque composer Manuel de Sumaya. As
Montezuma died, half the stage was wrapped in a modern Mexican flag. The
substituted finale seemed to suggest an eventual and successful synthesis of
cultures. Yet one wondered— to cite only one from many examples—
whether Cortés on-stage rape of heroic Montezuma did not detract from the
figurative rape of ancient Mexico that is the true subject of the Graun’s
Oliver, by far the finest voice— and actor— in the cast, was a
virile Montezuma in the minimalist staging, designed by Herman Sorgeloos. As
conqueror Cortés Adrian’s George Popescu, an equally able countertenor,
was the embodiment of the Absolute Evil that brought about the end of Aztec
As Montezuma’s mate, soprano Lourdes Ambriz grew in stature as she
suffered ever-greater abuse throughout the performance. She made her lament in
Act III a memorable moment in an otherwise often tedious evening of opera.
Without distorting the figure, Kuri took advantage of Ambriz’ talent to
bring a hint of feminist thought to the production. Gratefully, Kuri trimmed
his staging to three hours from the original four. It was also to Kuri’s
credit that he corrected Frederick’s idealist picture of Montezuma with
an opening scene that showed that his hands too were soiled with the blood of
A co-commission Germany’s Theater der Welt and the Edinburgh Festival
(it was staged by both earlier this year), the Cervantino, Madrid’s
Teatro, where it recently played. It is yet to be seen in Mexico City.