Recently in Performances
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.
As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus
tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra
from the depths of her soul.
Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.
Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.
On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.
Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement,
but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment
“is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga
Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.
Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.
Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.
On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.
Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.
You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.
If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.
Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.
I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.
For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.
Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.
Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.
24 Jan 2011
Nabucco, Palm Beach Opera
Appearing on Palm Beach Opera’s website video player General Director
Daniel Biaggi points out among the reasons to attend the first show of the
company’s 2010-2011 season, “fantastic artists whose voices will
blow you away.”
Biaggi’s claim is no folderol; each principal in
PBO’s Nabucco (seen opening night December 10) offered a
performance of individual value, with the balance of the night’s success
tipping aptly on Mark Rucker’s Nabucco and on the playing of the Palm
Beach Opera Orchestra with principal conductor and artistic director Bruno
Aprea on the podium.
Mark Rucker presented fluent Verdi style, adding — of late —
further finesse to a cantabile line that already made him a notable
exponent of the style and period. The power-addled king’s delusions of
Acts II and III were conveyed in Rucker’s singing — fashioned with
portamento and diminuendos; he hit his stride vocally and
dramatically with a ‘Dio di Giuda’ both meditative and
conciliatory. This night’s Abigaille, Paoletta Marrocu, in her moments on
vocal spotlight made most of an impression with an often rich middle register
— mellifluously delivered in the more lyrical passages of ‘Anch'io
dischiuso un giorno.’ In between some hard, go-for-broke, high notes and
her seemingly unabashed use of discernible register breaks for dramatic effect,
Ms. Marrocu spun accurately articulated scales and rapped out the text with
Showing off an even bel canto line — that touched the F sharp
in his cabaletta — and a sizable, fleet instrument was bass
Dmitry Belosselskliy (Zaccaria). Laura Vlasak Nolen (Fenena) displayed fine
stage sense in the final act prayer, where she and Aprea collaborated with
Verdian strokes of refined rubato. Adam Diegel owns a large instrument
with lyric attributes that made short work of Ismaele’s lines. As the
High Priest of Baal, Harold Wilson brought a knowing gait and a fine bass. Palm
Beach Young Artists Evanivaldo Correa and Alison Bates did right by the roles
of Abdallo and Anna.
Grave majesty was missing from the opening of Nabucco’s
overture; once to the livelier section though, the playing of the orchestra
turned altogether superlative. Aprea’s conducting strikes as being
attentive and open to various facets of artistic nuance. In the overture, there
was a cohesive vitality that held through bouncy and bold and light and lyrical
passages with well-executed string and woodwind playing. Verdi’s markings
were honored to the end; and, in the manner of, Aprea was keen to push on or
allow singers rhythmic room as necessary. Both the orchestra and the Palm Beach
Opera Chorus reached a level of musical gravitas in ‘Immenso
Paoletta Marrocu as Abigaille
Stage director Guy Montavon and chorus were doubtless challenged by set
pieces (credit given to Opera de Montreal) with compact stage space. Though
conceptually beautiful, the Temple — swept in purifying soft shades of
blue, a motif for the sets — seemed randomly besieged by congregants. To
Montavon’s credit, the varying presence of Doric columns on a stage-wide
platform with stairs leading to two landings left little room downstage and
only a few feet from the pit to work with. Of “special mention”
quality is the lighting of David Gano — faintly fading across wide gulfs
of the color spectrum is analogous to mystifying and winding dramaturgical
currents in Act II.