06 Mar 2011
Così fan tutte, Palm Beach
Little is known about the extent to which Mozart and Da Ponte collaborated on the libretto for Così fan tutte.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.
As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.
Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.
Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.
On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.
Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.
Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.
Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.
On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.
Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.
You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.
If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.
Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.
I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.
For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.
Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.
Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.
Little is known about the extent to which Mozart and Da Ponte collaborated on the libretto for Così fan tutte.
There is no mistaking the Austrian musical polyglot’s imprint on the story’s sarcastic similes, sharp allusions, and knowing winks however. Yet, for all his life, Mozart experienced the world in a musical bubble; how did he develop the keen sense of insight into human behavior that would lead to producing works like Così?
Though we have a picture of a child with a sensitivity to music that was awe-inspiring, there is also a gestalt view of a child extraordinarily observant and attentive, with the instincts of a savant. This is probably the way Mozart experienced the social world, through the lives of others. If Così is any indicia, he found great amusement in what he witnessed.
Joel Prieto [Photo by Felix Broede courtesy of Universal Music Classical Management & Productions]
In his adult life, Mozart was at the receiving end of vicious political jockeying and nasty pettiness he had no interest in mirroring. He still had an unquenchable thirst for living, seeking outlets for his energies and potential. In music, he found the only muse that would woo him. That tireless love for music probably killed him, but before it did, he would have his fun attending to and making it.
Mozart has gotten more attention recently from Palm Beach Opera. Così fan tutte, last seen here in 1998, completes PBO’s “Mozart-Da Ponte trilogy”; Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni were part of the company’s 2009 and 2010 seasons respectively. Two United States debuts highlight PBO’s second cast opening of Così on February 26th.
In his first opera conducting assignment in North America, Gianluca Martinenghi and orchestra distinguished themselves right from the overture with playing of the utmost delicacy, and sensitivity to Mozart’s score. This pattern held and generalized to the vocal department, buoying up and stimulating singing. A regular in some top theaters in Italy, the conductor’s pacing gave singers the prerogative to explore Da Ponte’s text. The playing did fall cold at the odd moment, but at the bridge to “Un Aura Amorosa” and for Fiordiligi’s second act aria, there was sufficient musical heat. Bruce Statsyna provided not simply chords, but accent notes, arpeggios, and runs underneath the vocal line on a healthy harpsichord.
Dorabella (Patricia Risley), Fiordiligi (Caitlyn Lynch) and Don Alfonso (Matteo Pierone)
Joel Prieto had regular work in Europe before winning Operalia in 2008. His breakout came after that competition though, as he has appeared at Covent Garden, the Liceu, Stuttgart, and the Salzburg Festival. In his North American opera debut here, the Spanish born, Puerto Rican bred tenor left one wanting more. Prieto is building a characterization of Ferrando as that of a shy but curious fellow, one for which Mozart’s music is especially suited. Of the music, Prieto’s performance tended toward caution; “Un Aura Amorosa” was unexceptional but for the shading of the second stanza; at that point, and occasionally later, he sang with the kind of affinity for this music that has garnered him (much-too-early) comparisons with golden age aristocratic tenors. His tenor’s quality — amber hued and full, with an attractive fresh sheen — and size were bare in “Ah! Io veggio quell’anima bella.”
Caitlyn Lynch also took some time to warm up to Fiordiligi, achieving a “Per pieta, ben mio perdona” of unexpected commitment and feeling. Comedic points were hers (and Steven Lawless’) for departing the stage after the first part of “Come scoglio” and then reentering grandly for its concluding verse. PBO favorite Patricia Risley has the sort of creamily textured mezzo — however gummy the diction — and alluring physical presence that can shift the axis of focus in any performance; in this case the axis of Così’s “school for lovers” turned often to her Dorabella. The Guglielmo of Andrew Schroeder was especially susceptible to fading into the background in this production, though his resonant baritone would not go unnoticed. Matteo Pierone’s Don Alfonso began to take shape in the quintet — the highpoint of this Così’s ensemble singing — that closes Act One. From there on, his Alfonso played narrator, observing and commenting from the wings. As Despina, Abigail Nims’ impact was felt as a mysterious, masked dottore and later as a twitchy notary.
Fiordiligi (Caitlyn Lynch), Despina (Abigail Nims) and Dorabella (Patricia Risley),
PBO’s chorus, under the direction of Greg Ritchey, created rich and sonorous music from offstage, emerging only for the civil ceremony.
Stephen Lawless’ permutation on Così’s magnet-as-poison-antidote theme was a kite-and-key electric conductor that had Ferrando and Guglielmo writhing and shuddering. Lawless moved the action upstage, in front of a scrim curtain of clouds as Alfonso re-pontificated to Ferrando and Guglielmo — their backs to the audience — “così” across Ferrando’s ear, “fan” across Guglielmo’s and “tutte” out into the theater. It is in the civil ceremony that Lawless’ stage direction hit a high-water mark that stayed mostly unbroken through much of Act Two. The scene included an action-stopping moment and then scurrying chorus members as the marriage contracts were signed. To close the opera, Fiordiligi and Dorabella crossed each other in confusion over which swain to go to in “Fortunate L’uom.”
Despina (Abigail Nims), Fiordiligi (Caitlyn Lynch) and Dorabella (Patricia Risley)
On loan from Atlanta Opera, Peter Dean Beck’s sets remember Classical Roman civilization and Naples; there are statues and columns and the sorelli are transplanted from their room to tanning on lounge chairs under an umbrella at a sun-soaked beach (Lighting by Michael Baumgarten). For a model of costume (owned by Atlanta Opera also) pragmatism we go to the final scene — designers at Malabar Ltd. cloak the “Albanians” in desert-beige trench coats, have them switch to floor length soldier uniforms, and back to the original desert gear, all in a flash.
This performance of Così will go down as an example of competent Mozart casting from PBO.