Recently in Performances
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent. Holten connects Der fliegende Holländer to Der Meistersinger von Nürnberg and even to Parsifal by bringing out sub-texts on artistic creativity and metaphysics. And what amazing theatre this is, too, and very sensitive to the abstract cues in the music. .
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
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.
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.