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 Performances

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

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):