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

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Monsters and Marriage at the Aix Festival

Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

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):