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

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

Henri Dutilleux: Correspondances

Henri Dutilleux’s music has its devotees. I am yet to join their ranks, but had no reason to think this was not an admirable performance of his song-cycle Correspondances.

LA Opera Revives The Ghosts of Versailles

In 1980, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned composer John Corigliano to write an opera celebrating the company’s one-hundredth anniversary. It was to be ready in 1983.

La Traviata, ENO

English National Opera’s revival of Peter Konwitschny’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata had many elements in common with the production’s original outing in 2013 (The production was a co-production with Opera Graz, where it had debuted in 2011).

Idomeneo in Lyon

You might believe you could go to an opera and take in what you see at face value. But if you did that just now in Lyon you would have had no idea what was going on.

Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera

I wonder whether we need a new way of thinking — and talking — about operatic ‘revivals’. Perhaps the term is more meaningful when it comes to works that have been dead and buried for years, before being rediscovered by subsequent generations.

Iphigénie en Tauride in Geneva

Hopefully this brilliant new production of Iphigénie en Tauride from the Grand Théâtre de Genève will find its way to the new world now that Gluck’s masterpiece has been introduced to American audiences.

Tristan et Isolde in Toulouse

Tristan first appeared on the stage of the Théâtre du Capitole in 1928, sung in French, the same language that served its 1942 production even with Wehrmacht tanks parked in front of the opera house.

Arizona Opera presents Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Arizona Opera presented Eugene Onegin during and 1999-2000 season and again on February 1 of this year as part of the 2014-2015 season. In this country Onegin is not a crowd pleaser like La Bohème or Carmen, but its story is believable and its music melodic and memorable. Just hum the beginning of the “Polonaise” and your friends will know the music, if not where it comes from.

Ernst Krenek: Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen, Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Florian Boesch and Roger Vignoles at the Wigmore Hall in Ernst Krenek’s Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen. Matthias Goerne has called Hanns Eisler’s Hollywooder Liederbuch the Winterreise of the 20th century. Boesch and Vignoles showed how Krenek’s Reisebuch is a journey of discovery into identity at an era of extreme social change. It is a parable, indeed, of modern times.

Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new Anna Bolena, a production shared with Minnesota Opera, features a distinguished cast including several notable premieres.

San Diego Celebrates 50th Year with La Bohème

On Tuesday January 27, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. It is the opera with which the company opened in 1965 and a work that the company has faithfully performed every five years since then.

English Pocket Opera Company: Verdi’s Macbeth

Last year we tracked Orfeo on his desperate search for his lost Euridice, through the labyrinths and studio spaces of Central St Martin’s; this year we were plunged into Macbeth’s tragic pursuit of power in the bare blackness of the CSM’s Platform Theatre.

Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Béla Bartók’s only opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, composed in 1911 and based upon a libretto by the Hungarian writer Béla Balázs, was not initially a success.

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

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):