Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

Arizona Opera Ends Season in Fine Style with Fille du Régiment

On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera ended its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.

Il turco in Italia, Royal Opera

This second revival of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 2005 production of Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia seems to have every going for it: excellent principals comprising experienced old-hands and exciting new voices, infinite gags and japes, and the visual éclat of Agostino Cavalca’s colour-bursting costumes and Christian Fenouillat’s sunny sets which evoke the style, glamour and ease of La Dolce Vita.

The Siege of Calais
——
The Wild Man of the West Indies

English Touring Opera’s 2015 Spring Tour is audacious and thought-provoking. Alongside La Bohème the company have programmed a revival of their acclaimed 2013 production of Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) and the composer’s equally rare The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo).

The Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor

Mary Zimmerman’s still-fresh production is made fresher still by Shagimuratova’s glimmering voice, but the acting disappoints

Voices, voices in space, and spaces: Thoughts on 50 years of Meredith Monk

When WNYC’s John Schaefer introduced Meredith Monk’s beloved Panda Chant II, which concluded the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk & Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, he described it as “an expression of joy and musicality” before lamenting the fact that playing it on his radio show could never quite compete with a live performance.

St. John Passion by Soli Deo Gloria, Chicago

This year’s concert of the Chicago Bach Project, under the aegis of the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, was a presentation of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Anu Komsi [Photo by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera]
04 Apr 2011

Monodramas, NYCO

New York City Opera’s evening of “Monodramas” (under that general title) may not appeal to the opera-goer who prefers such typical fare as the company’s other offering this week, Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, but I found it a devilish and delightful exploration of the depths of inner consciousness.

Monodramas

John Zorn: La Machine de l’être — Anu Komsi, soprano. Arnold Schoenberg: Erwartung — Kara Shay Thomson, soprano. Morton Feldman: Neither — Cyndia Sieden, soprano. New York City Opera orchestra conducted by George Manahn. Performance of March 31.

Above: Anu Komsi

All photos by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera

 

John Zorn’s La Machine de l’être (The Machine of Being) began with an empty stage gradually filling with silent individuals dressed in all-covering costumes resembling burqas. A man and a woman dressed modern formal wear with stark white shirts and ties moved among the growing throng. One of the burqa-d women darted away when approached, as if in fear, then disappeared into the crowd, giving the proceedings something of the feel of a video game. The actors in suits removed the burqas from two of the crowd to reveal, first, a man dressed in a painfully brilliant red suit, and second, the soprano dressed in a starkly white gown. It was unsettling to find a man under a burqa, and he remained an uncomfortable presence on stage. A large cartoon “speech balloon” rose out of the floor and into position just over the head of the darting woman, adding to the video game impression. Film clips of drawings adapted from those made by Antonin Artaud during his incarceration in an asylum played across the balloon. These disturbing drawings complemented the disjointed music as both became increasingly twisted and tortured. Finnish soprano Anu Komsi, in her City Opera debut, did a fine job tossing her voice in the air evoking a descent into madness in this free-form piece that lacked both text and plot.

Monodramas0030.pngKara Shay Thomson, soprano

During a riveting entr’acte, Jennifer Steinkamp’s stunning video display of a stylized forest moving through the seasons played across the cartoon balloon. The video began with a wild profusion of pink cherry blossoms mixed with yellow flowers and moved on to greens of summer, then orange leaves falling and blowing and leaving a gray tangle of bare branches. I was almost disappointed when the second Monodrama began.

But the gorgeous orchestrations of Schoenberg’s Erwartung soon enveloped the audience, pulling us into the depths of the lonely protagonist’s consciousness. A stunning blizzard of brilliant red leaves fell on the stage for over half of the 30-minute piece. The glittering, tumbling red was mesmerizing against the midnight blue backdrop. A dead man lay in the middle of the stage with a knife protruding from his chest while the tortured ravings of the soprano, sung movingly by Kara Shay Thomson, were all that was needed to explain the drama—but several dancers provided an unneeded distraction throughout this beautiful and compelling operatic piece.

Monodramas0053.pngCyndia Sieden and ensemble

The final, longest, and most abstract Monodrama of the evening was Neither, set by composer Morton Feldman to a text by Samuel Beckett. The mystical and complex orchestral part was richly complemented by the continually evolving splashes of intense colors and shapes created by the laser and holographic effects (after work by the innovative laser artist Hiro Yamagata). Mirrored one-foot cubes moved and revolved, sending flashes of color and penetrating lights across the house. The singer and the several dancers reacted to and interacted with the cubes, as the singer seemed to try to find some connection with the other people. Cyndia Sieden’s voice sailed above the orchestra, intoning the text in a near monotone that never left the highest extremes of the soprano range.

The City Opera is certainly to be commended for stepping beyond the traditional operatic comfort zone to present these three fascinating and compelling performance pieces. It bodes well for the future of opera as a living art that this company has brought such work to its audience.

Jean Andrews

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):