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.
“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”
A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.
Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.