Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Deborah Voigt as the Girl [Photo by Dan Rest courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
02 Feb 2011

La Fanciulla in its Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its current production of Giacomo Puccini’s La fanciulla del West Lyric Opera of Chicago celebrates the centenary of the first performances of the opera.

Giacomo Puccini: La Fanciulla del West

Minnie: Deborah Voigt; Dick Johnson (Ramerrez): Marcello Giordani; Jack Rance: Marco Vratogna; Nick: David Cangelosi; Sonora: Daniel Sutin; Ashby: Craig Irvin; Jake Wallace: Paul Corona; Harry: René Barbera; Joe: James Kryshak; Trin: David Portillo; Larkens: Corey Crider; Sid: Philip Kraus; Handsome: Paul La Rosa; Happy: Paul Scholten; Wowkle: Katherine Lerner. Also Featuring: Evan Boyer, Sam Handley. Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis. Original Production: Harold Prince. Director: Vincent Liotta. Original Set Designer: Eugene Lee. Original Costume Designer: Franne Lee. New Scenery and Costumes: Scott Marr. Lighting Designer: Jason Brown. Chorus Master: Donald Nally.

Above: Deborah Voigt as the Girl

All photos by Dan Rest courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

As elsewhere during the past year Deborah Voigt sings the role of Minnie, who manages the Polka tavern in a California mining camp. The man who wins her heart, and is identified alternately as Dick Johnson or Ramerrez, is sung by Marcello Giordani. The baritone Marco Vratogna, in his debut at Lyric Opera, takes on the role of Jack Rance, the Sheriff who also develops an emotional attachment to Minnie. Sir Andrew Davis conducts with enthusiastic vigor the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

Fanciulla_Chicago_05.gifMarco Vratogna as Jack Rance and Marcello Giordani as Dick Johnson (Ramerrez)

In the brief orchestral prelude to Act I Davis emphasizes sweeping gestures with hints of the West looking toward the action of the opera. Credit must be given to the ensemble of performers making up the cast of miners in the opening scene. Under the direction of chorus master Donald Nally members of the Ryan Opera Center executed both solo and group parts convincingly in their dramatic and vocal involvement. The tavern is first depicted as a relatively dark set with painted flats or backdrops signifying the California mountains of the 1849 Gold Rush. Once the miners are gathered inside the Polka, the set brightens and the stage is devoted to an appropriately busy series of exchanges. The manipulative bartender Nick, here portrayed and sung with just the right amount of dash by David Cangelosi, proclaims, “Whisky per tutti;” all then settle to hear a nostalgic ballad sung by the character Jake Wallace, movingly performed by Paul Corona. When an argument erupts over a game of cards, only the intercession of Sheriff Rance halts the possibility of further violence. Mr. Vratogna cuts an imposing figure as Jack Rance, his snarling demeanor commanding respect as he tosses off lines with angry menace. Vratogna’s declamatory force is more effective than his lines in the middle register of his vocal range, where he seems to depend on a recurring tremulous approach. Yet even Rance is not immune to a good fight, as one breaks out against a miner who vies — like the Sheriff — for the love of Minnie. In her first dramatic entrance, accompanied by pistol shots, she indeed stops the fight and settles any confusion brewing in her saloon. Ms. Voigt proves herself comfortable in the role of Minnie. She is able to combine swagger, as she tosses back a drink, with the mothering care she feels for the miners. Further, Voigt invests her character with a tender emotionalism , as she explains to Rance what she hopes to find in love with an ideal partner. In the only solo part of this act which could be deemed an aria for Minnie, Voigt states her case movingly if at times with some insecurity in notes that are taken forte. Soon after her statement the figure identifying himself as Dick Johnson enters the tavern, and their emotional bond develops in an extended scene of dialogue and shared lyricism. Mr. Giordani fulfills the vocal demands of the role admirably in his abilities to sing at varying expressive levels while shading his voice to emphasize his character’s personality. In the identity of Ramerrez he is, of course, the leader of a criminal gang who collectively plan to rob Minnie’s tavern. The love which springs up in their scene together causes Dick/Ramerrez to abandon this plan as Minnie declares at the close of the act that she guards the gold belonging to the miners. Whoever wants it will first have to kill her.

Fanciulla_Chicago_04.gifMarcello Giordani as Dick Johnson (Ramerrez) and Deborah Voigt as the Girl

In Act II Dick has responded to an invitation to visit Minnie at her cabin. At the opening Minnie’s Indian maidservant agrees that she will follow the moral suggestion of her mistress and marry the father of her young child. She helps Minnie to change into more domestic attire and withdraws to her teepee following the introduction of Dick’s visit. At first Minnie resists Dick’s advances, then she surrenders yielding to him her first kiss. Because of the falling snow Dick is allowed to stay the night and is given space at a respectable distance. When the Sheriff and his guard awaken the pair, Dick hides during a confrontational scene in which Minnie must accept the news of her lover’s criminal association. Once they are again alone, Minnie releases her bitter resentment in a series of outbursts that show Voigt in her best form of the performance. Her top notes are convincingly delivered with the stirring communication of a deceived soul. Despite Dick’s touching self-defense Minnie forces him out of the cabin, where his is wounded by the law. When Jack Rance returns and discovers his bleeding prey returned to Minnie’s protection, a card-game determines the hero’s fate. In her well-acted stint at poker Voigt proves Minnie’s devotion to Dick by cheating and, when left alone, casting her bogus cards into the air to celebrate her win.

The short Act III of Puccini’s opera provides resolution of both emotions and individual characters as portrayed. When Dick is caught by a posse and threatened with punishment by hanging, he begs that Minnie not be informed of his shameful death. Giordani’s aria as the tenor’s highlight of this performance is an impressive appeal to spare the feelings of his beloved. Minnie’s entrance while riding and plying a mining cart is as show-stopping as her pistol shots in the first act. At the same time, her sincere reminders now that Dick has been blessed by God, who has changed him, recalls her readings from the Bible in that opening scene. She succeeds through dint of her persuasive tone in freeing the reformed Dick. As they look forward to a life elsewhere, Voigt and Giordani sing a stirringly united “Addio” to California and the Sierras.

Salvatore Calomino

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):