Recently in Performances
Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.
The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.
One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.
That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.
Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.
‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.
The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.
In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.
High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.
The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.
‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough
and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy
will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.
It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?
‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies,
that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’
Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon
which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting
and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can
charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to
convey emotion and embody character.
‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.
Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.
It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).
Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.
Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.
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.