Recently in Performances
It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.
With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.
Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.
If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”
Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?
Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.
On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.
Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.
Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.
Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.
The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s ﬁrst great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.
The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.
This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.
Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’
Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.
Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by
the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.
03 Feb 2011
Mosheh, a VideOpera
Yoav Gal, an Israeli-born composer-in-residence at the HERE arts complex in
Manhattan’s South Village, calls Mosheh a “VideOpera,” rightly giving as much place to what is seen (electronic projections) as to what is heard (from four sopranos playing the women in the prophet’s life and an orchestra of nine musicians).
Mosheh contains most of what we’ve come to expect from new
operas in the twenty-first century: video and film, of course, and also
gamelan-derived percussive scoring, surtitles to obviate the need for a
coherent drama, and naked male bodies, in this case the non-singing title role.
(Trivia: Name other title characters who do not sing in their own opera.
There’s La Muette de Portici, of course.)
What Mosheh has that I seldom expect is respectable melody.
Miriam’s serenade to her baby brother as she places him in the Nile is an
especially lovely number; Zipporah’s harsh aria about inventing
circumcision to save her new husband from the Angel of Death is less
immediately attractive. Too, the quartet at the conclusion of the opera when
the women narrate the twelve plagues that fall upon Egypt has an eerie harmony
that calls Benjamin Britten to mind.
What Mosheh, the opera, did not have was a coherent, stageworthy
way of telling its more or less familiar story. Without some Bible reading (or
a viewing of The Ten Commandments) and surtitles, I don’t think
an audience would find the action at all clear. It is rather a costumed series
of individual scenes, all for voices of too striking a sameness. Gal writes
well for the voice, without straining the instrument as the atonal opera
composers were prone to do—because, unlike them, he has not renounced
melody as an expressive tool—also, I suspect, he has studied voice
writing and respects the instrument and its capabilities. His four well-chosen
soloists had no trouble filling HERE’s admittedly small space with
thrilling sound that never made us wince.
But because the vocalism accompanied so little action and no dialogue, the
evening never became a dramatic event, that is, an opera. Were sets and
costumes (wild costumes!) even necessary? Were the tremendously elaborate and
often beautiful projections, which led us, for example, through rows upon rows
of columns into Pharaoh’s throne room, or beside the muddy pools of the
Nile required? Is Mosheh’s presence called for by the music, or would any naked
man (a volunteer from the audience, say) do just as well? Or could we dispense
with him too?
Soprano Hai-Ting Chinn, well known among fans of New York’s odder
opera scenes (she was the Wooster Group’s splendid Didone
Abbandonata), made the most striking impression here as Miriam, acting as
well as singing her lovely music.
Heather Green as Bitia, Beth Anne Hatton as Zipporah, Judith Barnes as Yocheved and Hai-Ting Chinn as Miriam [Photo by Hunter Canning courtesy of seven17 public relations]