Recently in Performances
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.)
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
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.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to
life on stage
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
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.
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.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
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).
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’.
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.
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.
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.