Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Munich

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 months).

Janáček, The Makropulos Case, Bavarian State Opera

Opera houses’ neglect of 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. From the House of the Dead might do likewise for someone of a rather different disposition, sceptical of opera’s claims and conventions.

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne

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’.

Oedipe at Covent Garden

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.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

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’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

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.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

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.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

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.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

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.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

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.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

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.

The Rose and the Ring

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.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

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.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

The Magic Flute [Photo by Victor Massaro courtesy of Phoenix Opera]
11 Dec 2010

Magic Flute, Phoenix

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Schikaneder had known each other for some time before they wrote The Magic Flute.

W. A. Mozart: The Magic Flute

Vale Rideout: Tamino; Jennifer Nagy: Pamina; Kevin Burdette: Papageno; Lisanne Norman Brooks: Papagena; Zdenek Plech: Sarastro; Anna-Lisa Hackett: Queen of the Night. Carroll Freeman: Director.

Above photo by Victor Massaro courtesy of Phoenix Opera

 

In 1791 Schikaneder, who was a fine actor and a capable singer, wanted a theater piece from Mozart because he thought the name of the well-known composer would attract a large audience to his Theater auf der Wieden. Since he needed a piece that would have a broad appeal, he asked for a singspiel. That format, which has spoken dialogue between the sung numbers, was then an extremely popular form of entertainment.

Schikaneder’s sources for the opera’s libretto included a book of imaginative pseudo-oriental fairy tales which were published by Jakob August Liebeskind in 1786 under the title Dschinnistan. In it, a story called “Lulu, oder der Zauberflöte” (“Lulu, or the Magic Flute”) gave the librettist some good material. He drew on other sources as well and he used Masonic symbolism. Mozart was a member of the Masonic Lodge in Vienna. Schikaneder applied for membership in his native Regensburg and was turned down, but he probably succeeded in becoming a member in Vienna. Both wanted to interest lodge members in coming to the theater.

More than two hundred years later we don’t know a great deal of what went on at rehearsals, but this has come down to us. Bass singer Sebastian Meyer is quoted as saying that Mozart originally wrote the duet where Papageno and Papagena first see each other quite differently from the way in which we now hear it. Originally they were to cry out “Papageno!” and “Papagena!” a few times at the beginning. Schikaneder told Mozart that the music must express greater astonishment. He said that at first they should stare dumbly at each other, then Papageno should begin to stammer ‘Pa-papapa-pa-pa’. Papagena must repeat that until both of them finally get the whole name out. Mozart followed the advice, and in this form the duet had to be encored at numerous performances.

On Friday evening 3 December Phoenix Opera presented Die Zauberflöte in a version which featured arias sung in German and dialogue spoken in English. The wonderfully imaginative original production was by David J Castellano. The stage director overseeing the Phoenix performances was Carroll Freeman and he told the story effectively. Boyd Ostroff’s set, built for the Opera Company of Philadelphia, was positively enchanting. The costumes by A. T. Jones and Son were attractive, functional and fit the wearers well. Conductor and Choral Director John Massaro drew fine playing from his orchestra and kept the chorus singing the exquisite harmonies accurately. Lisa Starry, together with the Scorpius and Cannedy Dance Companies provided spirited dances that enhanced the story.

As Tamino, tenor Vale Rideout sang with a rich sound that soared over the orchestra. He is a good actor, too, and he energized his text with conviction. The real star of the evening, however, was the Papageno, Kevin Burdette. He has a large powerful voice with a burnished robust sound and excellent German. His bright, vibrant personality pervaded the entire theater, especially when he entered from behind the audience. His interpretation gave us an idea of what Schikaneder’s performances must have been like.

Jennifer Nagy was a secure Pamina who sang with lovely bell-like tones. The most difficult role to cast in this opera is that of the Queen of the Night. Unfortunately, local voice teacher Anna-Lisa Hackett had problems with both of her admittedly difficult coloratura arias. It’s not easy to find a good bass for Sarastro, either, but Zdenek Plech proved to be thoroughly capable. He had a fine tone, secure technique and he seemed to have no trouble at all producing the lowest notes. He should have a good career ahead of him. As the Speaker, Earl Hazell sang with dark tonal colors that rang true. His wife, Alexis Davis Hazell was an amusing Third Lady who sang the bottom line with passion. As the other two ladies, Julie Davis and Erin Tompkins blended their close harmonies beautifully and played their parts with visual piquancy.

Gabriel Gargari was a humorous Monastatos who was often surrounded by his energetic slaves, portrayed with gusto by Ryan Glover, Dennis Tamblin and Aubrey Allicock. Allicock doubled as one of the Armed Men along with Francisco Renteria. Both sang with handsome sounds, as did the Priests, Guillermo Ontiveros and Christopher Herrera. Lisanne Norman Brooks was a cute and bouncy Papagena with a charming lyric voice. As the Three Spirits, Kristin Jensen, Dana Brooks Atwood and Kerry Ginger showed a flair for comedy as they sang with rich, agile voices. Although it was not a perfect performance, it was nice to see a local group put on this great masterpiece.

Maria Nockin

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):