Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

La Fille du regiment, Royal Opera

Donizetti’s opera comique La Fille du regiment returned to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for its third revival.

Schoenberg and company

With Schoenberg, I tend to take every opportunity I can — at least since my first visit to the Salzburg Festival, when understandably I chose to see Figaro over Boulez conducting Moses und Aron, though I have rued the loss ever since.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Marina Poplavskaya as Violetta [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of Metropolitan Opera]
16 Jan 2011

The Magic Flute and La Traviata, New York

The dust on 65th Street is clearing up and the reviews for the renovated Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts are in — the piazza is being hailed as newly “inviting” by architects and arts critics alike, and rightly so.

W. A. Mozart: The Magic Flute
Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata

See body of review for cast lists

Above: Marina Poplavskaya as Violetta

All photos by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

 

But what about the individual institutions that make Lincoln Center the landmark it is? How can we make them as welcoming?

On January 6, the Metropolitan Opera attracted a large and lively crowd for the season’s final performance of its reduced version of Julie Taymor’s production of The Magic Flute, sung in English. Despite the family appeal, the adults in the audience still far outnumbered their younger counterparts.

Unfortunately, there were moments of obvious disconnect between conductor Erik Nielsen, the Met orchestra, and the singers. The evening got off to a rough start due to the awkward excising of the overture and some rather listless performances from Bruce Sledge as Tamino and Wendy Bryn Harmer, Jamie Barton, and Tamara Mumford as the Three Ladies. Things didn’t pick up until Nathan Gunn’s assured entrance as Papageno.

Susanna Phillips worked hard to make her Pamina three-dimensional and she succeeded despite some bizarre staging and an inexplicable costume. Bass Morris Robinson deserves kudos for his performance as Sarastro. He was one of only a few artists who made the most of singing and speaking in the audience’s vernacular. Ashley Emerson did an especially good job with her spoken scenes as Papagena and brought real charm to the role.

There are several fun moments in this production but, on the whole, the performance felt uncoordinated and severely lacking in the magic department. At the curtain call, a man sitting behind me yelled “Bravo!” when a cast member came onstage to take a bow, but then immediately turned to his companion and said, “I don’t even remember that guy!” Yes, that man in the audience can say he went to the opera and maybe he even enjoyed the 140 minutes he spent there, but the nearly instantaneous amnesia he experienced is not what opera is about. I began to wonder exactly how much putting a friendlier face on Lincoln Center has cost, and not necessarily in dollars.

_S1E3231a.gifMarina Poplavskaya as Violetta and Mattew Polenzani as Alfredo

When the audience is packed with people young and old cheering in the aisles has the battle for a more “inviting” Lincoln Center been won? Not if they’re streaming out the doors before the prima donna has taken her bow. Not if they forget about the opera they just saw before they even catch a cab at that fancy new underpass.

If Thursday night’s performance was unmemorable, Friday night’s showing of the Met’s newly acquired production of La Traviata provided plenty to think about. German director Willy Decker has not only stripped the drama to its essentials, he also effectively changed the opera’s architecture by eliding the final three acts into a single sequence. Strangely enough, this had less of an effect on the combined acts than it had on Act I, which felt weakly related to the rest of the evening. Still, the evening progressed seamlessly from the single intermission to the end, the drama unfolding at a relentless pace that illustrated both Violetta’s lifestyle and her illness.

Restructuring the opera in this manner created an added challenge for Marina Poplavskaya in the title role. In the first act her defiant and flippant Violetta spent practically the entire time posturing and posing. This could have been dramatically effective if the singing had been tossed off with more ease. As it was, both the acting and the singing felt effortful. Still, she met the trials of the long second half and her performance of “Addio, del passato” was genuinely touching.

As Alfredo, Matthew Polenzani sang with an appealing mix of passion and elegance despite a few potentially awkward staging moments. Moreover, he was the only cast member to comfortably fit Decker’s style within a greater musical context. Playing the elder Germont, Andrzej Dobber sang and acted with unusual brusqueness. Although a refreshing reminder of bourgeois prejudices, this harshness should have been better tempered with more subtle compassion in order to make his later actions logical and to soften his sound in places.

_MG_1786a.gifMattew Polenzani as Alfredo and Andrzej Dobber as Germont

Jennifer Holloway was a stylish and androgynous Flora but, because of her costuming, she got lost in the crowd despite a fine performance. In the dramatically expanded role of Dr. Grenville, Luigi Roni did an excellent job of segueing between the part as originally written and functioning as an effective personification of death. Among the comprimario parts, Maria Zifchak was excellent and underused as Annina. Juhwan Lee and Joseph Turi both made strong impressions as well.

As for the production itself, only time will tell if Decker’s version can withstand the rotating casts and quickly changing tastes that burden a repertory production of La Traviata. While the previous Met production practically engulfed singers with its fussiness, Decker’s is brilliantly and almost cruelly exposed. Furthermore, while the attractive set and nearly uniform costumes feel both contemporary and timeless, they have a whitewashing effect that the singers must fight against. A power couple such as Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon may have done it with ease, but it is difficult to imagine a pair of singers who could match their success. However, the staging and design of Decker’s production (with sets and costume designs by Wolfgang Gussmann) are intriguing and enjoyable. Like the renovations that surround the opera house, I consider the Met’s new Traviata to be a success.

Alison Moritz

Cast Lists:

W. A. Mozart: Magic Flute — Pamina: Susanna Phillips; Queen of the Night: Erika Miklosa; Tamino: Bruce Sledge; Papageno: Nathan Gunn; Speaker: Tom Fox; Sarastro: Morris Robinson; Papagena: Ashley Emerson; 1st Lady: Wendy Bryn Harmer; 2nd Lady: Jamie Barton; 3rd Lady: Tamara Mumford; Monostatos: Joel Sorensen. Conductor: Erik Nielsen. Production: Julie Taymor. Set Designer: George Tsypin. Costume Designer: Julie Taymor.

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata — Violetta: Marina Poplavskaya; Alfredo: Mattew Polenzani; Germont: Andrzej Dobber; Flora: Jennifer Holloway; Annina: Maria Zifchak; Gastone: Scott Scully; Dr. Grenvil: Luigi Roni; Giuseppe: Juhwan Lee; Messenger: Joseph Turi. Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda. Production: Willy Decker.

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):