Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Mahler Songs : Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lorina Gore as Tytania and Joshua Tate as The Indian Prince [Photo by Jeff Busby courtesy of Opera Australia]
06 Dec 2010

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Opera Australia

Transplanting Britten’s Shakespeare opera to an Indian setting seems at first an illogical step by Hollywood director Baz Luhrmann.

Benjamin Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Oberon: Tobias Cole; Tytania: Lorina Gore; Puck: Tyler Coppin; Theseus: Jud Arthur; Hippolyta: Catherine Carby; Lysander: Henry Choo; Demetrius: Andrew Moran; Helena: Lisa Harper-Brown; Hermia: Dominica Matthews; Bottom: Conal Coad; Quince: Richard Anderson; Flute: Graeme Macfarlane; Snug: Shane Lowrencev; Snout: Andrew Brunsdon; Starveling: Samuel Dundas. Opera Australia Children's Chorus. Orchestra Victoria. Conductor: Paul Kildea; Director: Baz Luhrmann (revival director: Julie Edwardson); Designers: Catherine Martin & Bill Marron; Lighting Designer: Nigel Levings State Theatre, The Arts Centre. December 4, 8, 11, 14, 16 & 18, 2010

Above: Lorina Gore as Tytania and Joshua Tate as The Indian Prince

All photos by Jeff Busby courtesy of Opera Australia

 

But the result made for a popular production. Dating from 1993 Luhrmann directed this long before his rise to fame but his flair for exotica and rich visuals was apparent even then. Luhrmann’s relocating of the story from ancient Athens to 1920s India cashed-in on the trend at the time for Bollywood movies and Indian inspired fashion and décor.

The world of Indian mysticism does, however, seem more suited to the mysterious world Britten creates in his score. These spirit beings are to be feared and to enter their realm should therefore be far more disturbing. Ravel did the same in L’Enfant et les Sortileges, his enchanted garden is an alluring but fearful place. So is Britten’s forest.

Having the fairies as Indian gods and the mortals as British Raj may confuse the text and storyline and Luhrmann’s tendency to keep the action busy often spoils the nocturnal, dreaminess of some of the music. An English bandstand set in a park somewhere in India in 1923 dominates the set. The roof becomes a platform where Oberon oversees his magical ministrations while on stage level there is a pond below the bandstand where fairies and mortals meet. The orchestra have been relocated from the pit to the middle level and, dressed in military band uniform, are constantly in view as are the subtleties and inventiveness of Britten’s score.

The loveliest of the opera’s scenes, where Tytania awakens to the transformed Bottom is beautifully done here. Lorina Gore’s increasing ecstatic and extravagant vocal lines float around Conal Coad’s trombone accompanied bellowing and braying as Bottom.

With his genial, rollicking bass, Coad leads the mechanicals in their three scenes with great success. In the guise of an army entertainment troop, the effect is straight out of an English Music Hall parody of Italian opera along the lines that Britten and librettist Peter Pears intended.

The quartet of lovers is superb. Henry Choo’s ardent and honey-voiced Lysander sounds very much in the British tenor tradition. Choo’s first scene with Hermia is beautifully sung. Even more so as he sang the repeated “I swear to thee” phrases running up and down a staircase! Lisa Harper-Brown’s plaintive soprano beautifully contrasts with Dominica Matthews’s mezzo in the famous squabble that, here, becomes a cat-fight ending with both splashing about in the pool. The physical prowess of Opera Australia’s singers often matches their vocal prowess.

The most physical performance of all is Tyler Coppin’s as Puck. Nobody seems to cast a boy in this part anymore as using an adult actor gives greater opportunity to create a character. With his small stature Coppin has the best of both worlds however, looking like an adult trapped in boy’s body. His slapstick performance contrasts nicely with Tobias Cole’s stealthy, almost sinister Oberon. Perched above the stage with waist length dreadlocks, white face, blue, clawed hands and backed by Britten’s melismatic music Cole’s performance reinforces this role as still one of the best in modern operatic literature for a counter-tenor.

MSDN_Australia_02.gifTobias Cole as Oberon and Lorina Gore as Tytania

In a sound-world all of its own, Oberon’s music benefited from Cole’s restrained performance. With their prominence on the stage Orchestra Victoria, lead by Britten authority Paul Kildea, were able to make every nuance of the fairies' scenes as well as the deliberately lumpen scenes for the rustics and their play.

This Midsummer Night’s Dream was a run-away success when first staged and, unlike any other production of a Britten opera, played to full houses. The production was so popular it was presented at the 1994 Edinburgh Festival. The sheer vitality of the playing, singing and production in this revival make any qualms about the logic of the setting fall away thanks to the hallmark ensemble work of this company.

Michael Magnusson

MSDN_Australia_04.gifTobias Cole as Oberon and Tyler Coppin as Puck

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):