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 Reviews

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Roméo et Juliette: Dutch National Opera and Ballet seal merger with leaden Berlioz

Choral symphony, oratorio, symphonic poem — Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette does not fit into any mould. It has the potential to work as an opera-ballet, but incoherent storytelling and uninspired conducting undermined this production.

Donizetti : Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House

When Kasper Holten took the precaution of pre-warning ticket-holders that the Royal Opera House’s new production of Lucia di Lammermoor featured scene portraying ‘sexual acts’ and ‘violence’, one assumed that he was aiming to avert a re-run of the jeering and hectoring that accompanied last season’s Guillaume Tell. He even went so far as to offer concerned patrons a refund.

Five Reviews of Regina at Maryland Opera Studio

These are five very different reviews by students at the University of Maryland on its Opera Studio production of Regina — an interesting, informative and entertaining read . . .

Three Cheers for the English Touring Opera

‘Remember me, the one who is Pia;/ Siena made me, Maremma undid me.’ The speaker is Pia de’ Tolomei. She appears in a brief episode of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Purgatorio V, 130-136) which was the source for Gaetano Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei - by way of Bartolomeo Sestini’s verse-novella of 1825.

Andriessen's De Materie at the Park Avenue Armory

"The large measure of formalism which forms the basis of De Materie does not in itself offer any guarantee that the work will be beautiful," says Dutch composer Louis Andriessen of his four-movement opera.

Falstaff Makes a Big Splash in Phoenix

On April 1, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) in Phoenix. Although Boito based most of his libretto on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he used material from Henry IV as well. Verdi wrote the music when he was close to the age of eighty. He was concerned about his ability at that advanced age, but he was immensely pleased with Boito’s text and decided to compose his second comedy, despite the fact that his first, Un giorno di regno, had not been successful.

Svadba in San Francisco

The brand new SF Opera Lab opened last month with artist William Kentridge’s staged Schubert Winterreise. Its second production just now, Svadba-Wedding — an a cappella opera for six female voices — unabashedly exposes the space in a different, non-theatrical configuration.

Benvenuto Cellini in Rome

One may think of Tosca as the most Roman of all operas, after all it has been performed at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome’s opera house) well over a thousand times since 1900. Though equally, maybe even more Roman is Hector Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini that has had only a dozen or so performances in Rome since 1838.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

David DiChiera [Photo by Ameen Howrani courtesy of Florida Grand Opera]
22 Apr 2011

Cyrano, Florida Grand Opera

To enter into David DiChiera’s space as he talks opera shop is to risk being pulled into his world, rapt by a tractor beam emitting a constant flow of music theater load.

David DiChiera: Cyrano

Cyrano: Marian Pop; Roxane: Leah Partridge; Christian: Sébastien Guèze; De Guiche: Peter Volpe; Le Bret: Aaron St. Clair Nicholson; La Duègne: Courtney McKeown. Conductor: Mark Flint. Stage Director: Bernard Uzan. Set and Costume Designer: John Pascoe. Lighting Designer: Donald Edmund Thomas.

Above: David DiChiera [Photo by Ameen Howrani courtesy of Florida Grand Opera]

 

A ready smile that often gives way to laughter, a simple though intense curiosity, an ease in interrelating, all superimposed over a seriousness of purpose — these are David DiChiera’s communication arsenal. It could be said that these selfsame traits reside within one Cyrano De Bergerac, the uber-nosed gentleman swordsman of France and the protagonist in DiChiera’s opera. It could also be said that parts of Cyrano’s character reside within us all.

Side by side in the rehearsal hall inside the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center in Miami sit DiChiera, stage director Bernard Uzan, and conductor Mark D. Flint. It is the second shift of rehearsals for the day of the scene that leads into Cyrano’s quintet. Florida Grand Opera’s production of the composer’s Cyrano opens here on April 23. Marian Pop, Leah Hunt Partridge, Sebastian Gueze, Peter Volpe and Aaron St. Clair Nicholson are present. In the relaxed atmosphere, Uzan and singers are at work hashing out scene details as Dr. DiChiera — whose other titles include music scholar, impresario, and community-activist — follows along in the score.

“It began with Bernard. He was music director in Detroit.” DiChiera returns to when his Cyrano first took shape. “I think your music would be wonderful for my favorite story.” Hearing DiChiera tell this story is to get a glimpse into how Cyrano charmed him; it would not be long before Cyrano’s story would become a favorite of DiChiera’s. “Cyrano is one of the greatest works. In France, it is like a work of Shakespeare. That was something to overcome and the credit for that goes to Bernard. He distilled that.”

Marian-Pop.gifMarian Pop [Photo courtesy Uzan Division/Pinnacle Arts Management, Inc.]

A major factor that makes Edmond Rostand’s creative design for Cyrano lastingly relevant, such that numerous incarnations of it appear in the arts and popular culture, is its characters. DiChiera is drawn to the “duality” of Cyrano the man. “Outside, he is a fighter, a poet, a musician. Internally, he has many other talents that are latent. He keeps these hidden because he feels that if he can’t really experience love himself…,” here DiChiera stops, gropes, and gives up, as if to let the rest resolve on its own. Cyrano again, in a sense, is all of us. Who is absolutely satisfied with their physical appearance? Whose heart does not smart from the memory of unrequited love?

“He’s brave,” Romanian baritone Marian Pop, the only Cyrano DiChiera’s version has known, enters with eyes wide open. He points out as an example Cyrano’s plowing into hostile territory, against insurmountable odds, in defense of his friend Ligniere. Then there is the nose. “Without his nose, without physical deformity, we don’t have the story.” Pop mixes in another interesting facet to Cyrano. “He only talks about IT with those that are close to him. Everyone else is silent about it.” The singer strikes a face of fear, acting out how others might feel in the presence of Cyrano’s tremendous olfactory agent. “If you are lucky, you are born with a [real] handicap,” Bernard Uzan adds philosophically. “Cyrano sees things differently. Everything for him has a different meaning. He does everything 100%, for a while.”

Partridge.gifLeah Partridge [Photo courtesy Kristin Hoebermann]

Roxane is interesting to DiChiera because “she evolves; her music evolves too. She goes from a dame precieuse to a mature person. Not everyone matures.” In 17th century France, groups of educated and articulate high society women gathered in the salon Chambre bleue for what developed into discourses on love (the derivation of the romance novel?) and a training ground for verbal thrusts and parries. These women came to be known les precieuse, not a moniker meant to flatter.

Here again, DiChiera finds another scenario many can relate to through the young Roxane: beauty, and even formally acquired intelligence, does not turn out inner beauty. That is a whole other set of qualities. It would seem that most everyone is familiar with the properties of “temporary beauty” (thank you Graham Parker). We are introduced to this Roxane, the dame precieuse, early in the story. She is preoccupied with physical appearance. Soprano Leah Hunt Partridge, DiChiera’s first Roxane, calls her “a dreamer, an idealist.” Her transformation begins to take critical shape when she digs deep into what she thinks are letters written by Christian.

Gueze.gifSebastien Gueze [Photo by Lucile Leber]

Roxane comes into her own when her heart feels “these letters, the emotion of the letters,” DiChiera wrenches. Her worldview crystallizes as she comes to terms with what has happened — the writing is searching for, and intimate to, her; this can only be love. The author of these letters wrote with a profound personal love for Roxane. Towards the end, she recognizes Cyrano’s voice in the writing. It is he that feels these words, yet he was willing to sacrifice himself (protecting Christian as Roxane asked and speaking for her young suitor in the letters) for her sake; this is love.

DiChiera speaks of Christian as if he were a darling son, je jeune but wholly honorable. “In Christian’s aria, he is monologuing with himself. He reaches a point when he realizes he has to let her [Roxane] go.” At this point, Roxane has told Christian how she feels about the letters. Christian, in his inner wrestling, feels how moved Roxane is; crestfallen though he is, Christian understands what must be done. Rostand’s story makes it possible for “people to take, and identify with, things differently,” as DiChiera states. “For me, Christian is not stupid like we like to say, he is just losing his words in front of her, the idea was from Cyrano,” this from Sebastian Gueze, performing Christian and for the first time with FGO.

Music, and opera particularly, can facilitate the empathy and varying interpretations DiChiera and Gueze speak of: “Listen to how the music goes inside. I’m an opera-lover. Music can express what words cannot express.” At best, where a segment of a story is better served by reconfiguring it through one of music’s conventions, poetry and music melt into one, an “operatic” moment. The ensemble is such a convention.

Cyrano_033.gifLes cousin: Cyrano (Marian Pop) and Roxane (Leah Partrigde) [Photo by John Grigaitis]

In Act II of Rostand’s play, a host of characters intersect back and forth before the wedding ceremony — each plays an important role with an equally important message to relay. Such a scene may not translate well operatically; there are issues of time and character development to take into account. “I added the idea of the quintet. That is what opera can do,” DiChiera says matter-of-factly about a construction that can be musically and textually (involving Uzan) complicated. The moment in the opera is basically the same. The set of characters meet in a balcony, their comments are similar; the music takes loosely related text, and fuses and condenses the whole into one number.

The primary cast for Cyrano is rounded out with Le Bret and Count de Guiche. In Le Bret, Cyrano has a confidant and admirer who tells it like it is. The Le Bret in this production, baritone Aaron St. Clair Nicholson, says this of Le Bret, “His strengths are in his loyalty and determination.” “Cyrano does not achieve his full potential but dies only after confiding what Le Bret encouraged him to years before.” The wealthy and influential Count de Guiche is the story’s foil: he wants to possess Roxane as she finds ways to ward him off. Bass Peter Volpe, making his FGO debut as the Count finds an interesting character triangulation, “the specific difference between him, Cyrano and Christian for me is, de Guiche simply lusts after her and the other two are genuinely in love.”

There is another, symbolic element to Cyrano that relates to how our souls are touched by shared humanity, things that reside within us all. It is present in the juxtaposition of Cyrano and Christian as alter egos. Gueze captures this eloquently, “the audience understands before the protagonists that one of them must disappear and die for the other one!” Even though we know how the story ends, this is what has us return to Cyrano time and again in whatever form is conceived to tell his story. The Cyrano in all of us is invited to rise and, if only for a moment, we find ourselves in him. All characters are welcome.

Robert Carreras

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):