Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

La Traviata [Photo courtesy of Howard Paley Photography]
10 Mar 2011

La Traviata, Phoenix

Francesco Maria Piave’s Italian libretto for Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata is based on the French play La Dame aux Camélias.

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata

Violetta: Julia Koci; Alfredo: Jesus Garcia; Germont: Gaétan Laperrière; Flora: Erin Tompkins; Annina: Alexis Davis; Gastone: Francisco Renteria; Baron Douphol: Christopher Holmes; Marchese d’Obigny: Andrew Gray; Dr. Grenvil: Christopher Herrera; Commissioner: Earl Hazell. Conductor: John Massaro. Director: Carroll Freeman. Scenic Design: Peter Dean Beck. Costume Design: John Lehmeyer.

All photos courtesy of Howard Paley Photography

 

The play was adapted from a novel by Alexandre Dumas fils, who actually knew the real life heroine, Marie Duplessis.

When Alphonsine Rose Plessis was born on the 15th of January, 1824, in the tiny village of Nonnant in Normandy, no one could have imagined that within twenty years she would become the famous courtesan, Marie Duplessis. Her father put her to work at an early age, first as a beggar and later as a prostitute. When he was investigated for child abuse, he sent the girl to live with relatives in Paris. There, at age 15, she began to frequent dances where she hoped to meet men who would pay her living expenses.

HHP_PMO_Traviat_DSC_4917.gifDirector of the Paris Opéra Nestor Roqueplan wrote that he once saw her on the Pont Neuf eating a green apple, but gazing hungrily at the fried potatoes being sold nearby. He bought her a large portion and watched as she wolfed them down and even licked the paper in which they had been wrapped. Roqueplan would recall this incident in 1851 when he spoke with Giuseppe Verdi about bringing La Traviata to the Opéra.

Marie worked hard at bettering herself. She not only learned to read and write, but she also attained an appreciation of the arts. When Roqueplan next saw her, he was astonished to note that the little waif from the Pont Neuf had become the fashionable lady on the arm of the Duc de Guiche.

One evening, when Marie was attending a party with Alexandre Dumas, son of the famous writer, she had a dreadful coughing spell. She explained that since there was no cure for her illness she chose to be among interesting people who would distract her from her pain. Dumas continued his affair with her for about a year, but he had to evade detection by her actual protector because he did not have anywhere near enough money to maintain her household. Another of her admirers, Franz Liszt, wrote: “She had a great deal of heart, a great liveliness of spirit and I consider her unique of her kind.She was the most complete incarnation of womankind that has ever existed.” This is the femme fatale we see on the stage as “Violetta” in La Traviata.

On March 4, 2011, Phoenix opera presented Carroll Freeman’s traditional staging of La Traviata at the historic Orpheum Theater. Peter Dean Beck’s set, originally designed for Florida Grand Opera, was easily transformed into the opera’s various scenes. John Lehmeyer’s detailed costumes set the period securely and added considerably to the opera’s visual appeal.

HHP_PMO_Traviata_DSC_4937.gif

Viennese soprano Julia Koci was a radiantly beautiful Violetta who sang with taste and musicality. She is one of the few interpreters of this role who can truly handle both the coloratura of the first act and the dramatic singing required by the following scenes. Operalia winner Jesus Garcia was a passionate young lover who sang with robust, ringing tones. Together they were an ideal couple in Act I, and a pair of troubled but intriguing lovers thereafter. One could not help reaching for a handkerchief in the last act when Germont, not the soprano, read the letter which comes too late. That was an interesting choice by the director and it worked well.

Germont was sung with panache by veteran French Canadian baritone Gaétan Laperrière. He made you angry as he gave Violetta a piece of his narrow mind in Act II, but he tore at your heart strings at the end with his expressions of remorse. An attractive Flora, Erin Tompkins sang with a solid sound while Francisco Renteria was an unwavering Gastone. Alexis Davis Hazell was a poignant Annina and her husband, Earl Hazell, sang the Commissioner with a stentorian voice. Baritones Christopher Holmes and Christopher Herrera portrayed Baron Douphol and Doctor Grenvil with authority, while bass baritone Andrew Gray proved to be a commanding Marchese.

HHP_PMO_Traviat_DSC_5048.gif

Company Founder and Artistic Director John Massaro led the rather small orchestra in a smooth, lyrical rendition of the work. The audience response at the end of the opera was tumultuous and it was fitting praise for the excellent performers who brought Verdi’s wonderful opera to life.

Maria Nockin

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):