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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



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.


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

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