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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.
RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for
musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing
for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write
About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from
those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.
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.
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
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]’.
31 Dec 2010
Adriana Lecouvreur at Teatro Regio Torino 2009
The Royal Opera at Covent Garden just made something of a splash in international opera news with a star-encrusted revival of an opera once quite popular and yet in recent years — Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur.
With multiple set pieces for its three leads, all gloriously melodic, and an unashamedly melodramatic tale mixing aristocratic intrigue and backstage theatrics, many might wonder why this almost proto-typical Italian opera relinquished its once-proud place in the repertory. For anyone too impatient to await the inevitable DVD release of the Covent Garden production (with Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann, and Olga Borodina), there is a 2009 staging from Turin with a capable cast available. Unfortunately, this Turin production mostly serves to make one understand the opera’s relative neglect in recent decades.
Director Lorenzo Mariani goes for a gambit increasingly popular — a spare physical production almost “regie”-like in its setting of the scene through a handful of props in an open space, while stamping through this somewhat abstract environment are characters in completely traditional costume, and quite opulent ones at that. This gambit allows the director to please the more conservative opera-goer (those most likely to be attracted to this opera) and yet allows for swift scene changes and at least provides a nominal acknowledgment of contemporary opera design. The gambit doesn’t do much to make the convoluted plot mechanics of Arturo Colautti and Ernest Legouvé’s libretto any more believable. Somehow court protocol requires Maurizio to dissemble affection for a married Princess, while carrying on a secret love affair with the actress Adriana Lecouvreur. Since Maurizio does not entrust Adriana with this information, so when she learns the truth she and the Princess curse each other in mutual rage. The aristocrat has more to lose and the power to avoid detection in seeking revenge, which leads to a protracted death scene for Adriana, after sniffing a poisoned bouquet of flowers. Supposedly the original source material of Eugène Scribe’s play had a historical precedent, but even if the details are correct (extremely unlikely), as staged, the opera’s action veers from the dull to the ridiculous.
So what a successful production needs is star-power — glamorous voices in appealing form who can let the music rip and help an audience forget the nonsense on stage. Perhaps that is what happened at the above-referenced Covent Garden run. But not in Turin. Marcelo Álvarez’s lyric instrument finds the role of Maurizio more suitable than some of the heavier ones he has taken on in recent years. His breath control and consistency of production cannot be seriously faulted. He simply has little imagination, either as singer or actor, so the music lacks that spark of life that might help a viewer believe momentarily an actual character is on stage, and not an over-costumed singer. The tenor has more to offer than his female co-leads, however. In the title role Micaela Carosi brings volume and an unwieldy vibrato, so any flicker of pathos in her character never flames into life. Although well-equipped with a solid mezzo voice, Marianne Cornetti is not favored by her costume, and she never makes a creditable rival for Lecouvreur. The best performance comes from Alfonso Antoniozzi as Michonnet, director of the theater where Lecouvreur acts. He doesn’t have much to do, but he manages to convince us, while he is on stage, that Lecouvreur is someone we should care about.
Cilea’s score veers from the heights of melodiousness to the depths of murky, protracted scene-setting. In the opening scene of backstage chaos, TV director Matteo Ricchetti indulges in frantic quick edits that are more annoying than effective. Thankfully he settles down after that scene into acceptable competence. Conductor Renato Palumbo elicits some silky sounds from the house forces. The Blu-Ray picture only makes its distinctive clarity felt in scanning the stitching of the costumes; the sets don’t offer much to look at.
Particular fans of these singers or this opera need not be dissuaded. Patience may well be rewarded for others curious about this opera when/if the Covent Garden production appears on the shelves.