Recently in Performances
It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.
On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.
Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to
explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs
that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and
theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.
Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.
It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.
Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.
Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.
Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.
The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.
On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.
There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.
It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.
At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.
Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican,
London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony
Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating
a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens
or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?
Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.
Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.
Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.
Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me
I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.
An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.
On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.
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.