Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

'In my end is my beginning': Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida perform Winterreise at Wigmore Hall

All good things come to an end, so they say. Let’s hope that only the ‘good thing’ part of the adage is ever applied to Wigmore Hall, and that there is never any sign of ‘an end’.

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny bring 'sweet music' to Wigmore Hall

Countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny kicked off the final week of live lunchtime recitals broadcast online and on radio from Wigmore Hall.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

From Our House to Your House: live from the Royal Opera House

I’m not ashamed to confess that I watched this live performance, streamed from the stage of the Royal Opera House, with a tear in my eye.

Woman’s Hour with Roderick Williams and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

At the start of this lunchtime recital, Roderick Williams set out the rationale behind the programme that he and pianist Joseph Middleton presented at Wigmore Hall, bringing to a close a second terrific week of live lunchtime broadcasts, freely accessible via Wigmore Hall’s YouTube channel and BBC Radio 3.

Francisco Valls' Missa Regalis: The Choir of Keble College Oxford and the AAM

In the annals of musical controversies, the Missa Scala Aretina debate does not have the notoriety of the Querelle des Bouffons, the Monteverdi-Artusi spat, or the audience-shocking premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Two song cycles by Sir Arthur Somervell: Roderick Williams and Susie Allan

Robert Browning, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Charles Kingsley, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A.E. Housman … the list of those whose work Sir Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) set to music, in his five song-cycles, reads like a roll call of Victorian poetry - excepting the Edwardian Housman.

Roger Quilter: The Complete Quilter Songbook, Vol. 3

Mark Stone and Stephen Barlow present Volume 3 in their series The Complete Roger Quilter Songbook, on Stone Records.

Richard Danielpour – The Passion of Yeshua

A contemporary telling of the Passion story which uses texts from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions to create a very different viewpoint.

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):