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

Cold Mountain, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia deserves congratulations on yet another coup. The company co-commissioned Cold Mountain, an opera by Jennifer Higdon based on Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Charles Frazier’s celebrated Civil War epic.

Christian Gerhaher Wolfgang Rihm Wigmore Hall

For their first of two recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber devised an interesting programme - popular Schubert mixed with songs by Wolfgang Rihm and by Huber himself.

Götterdämmerung in Palermo

There are not many opera productions that you would cross oceans to see. Graham Vick’s Götterdämmerung in Sicily however compelled such a voyage.

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

22 Apr 2011

The Magic Flute, Manitoba

It’s hard to go wrong with The Magic Flute. Mozart’s final opera contains every audience-pleasing feature in spades: beautiful music, a fairy tale story, romance, laughter, villains, heroes/heroines, and for most — a happy ending.

W. A. Mozart: The Magic Flute

Manitoba Opera, Centennial Concert Hall, April 9, 2011

 

Manitoba Opera’s production of this three-hour masterpiece offered a bonus feature: a crackerjack cast rich with talented Manitobans working their own special magic. Twelve out of 15 roles were filled by Manitoba singers.

The opera’s set, representing 1882 Egypt, was a stark multi-level structure resembling stone. Creative curtain draping, props dropping from above and a brightly lit pyramid made for efficient, if slight, scene changes.

As Tadeusz Biernacki conducted the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra through the overture, we were treated to some inventive effects — characters silhouetted high against a red sky, watching as an Anglo-Egyptian War battle raged below making explosions of light. Bill Williams’ lighting introduced the story before a single note was sung.

We first see American lyric tenor Bruce Sledge (Tamino), struggling to escape a huge, Chinese dragon-like serpent, with billowy cloth body, gigantic googly-eyed head with fangs. He was saved by three hilariously preening ladies, played to the hilt by sopranos Sarah Halmarson and Naomi Forman and smoky-voiced mezzo Marcia Whitehead. Coiffed in multi-coloured streaks, they fawned competitively over the collapsed Tamino, making clever (and suggestive) choreographic use of the crooked poles they carried.

Sledge has a true hero’s voice and demeanour. In “Dies Bildnis ist bezaurbernd schön,” he poured his heart into his singing, flowing phrases imbued with passion. He also did a mean representation of flute-playing, making it quite believable.

One of opera’s all-time favourite characters, bird-catcher Papageno was played by baritone Hugh Russell. Dressed in feathers and rags, he was delightfully animated, his easy, pleasing voice setting just the right tone for this amiable role. Russell is the ideal Papageno, with great comic ability and superb timing.

While the opera was sung in German, all dialogue (by Schikaneder) was in English, so the audience could laugh along with Papageno when he spouted such gems as “all this stress is making me moult out of season” and claimed that the wine was giving him “acid reflux.” Director Michael Cavanagh went to town with the dialogue, giving us plenty of chuckles.

Magic-Flute_Manitoba.gifPhillip Ens (Sarastro), Bruce Sledge (Tamino), and Andriana Chuchman (Pamina). [Photo: R. Tinker]

Papageno’s better half, Papagena, was the delightful Lara Ciekewicz. She was positively bubbly in this small role. Their “Pa-pa-pa-gena! Pa-pa-pageno!” was lively and adorable.

Speaking of adorable, who couldn’t love the three genii with their bushy white hair and angelic voices? Bravo to Carson Milberg, Anton Dahl Sokalski and Torbjörn Thomson.

As the infamous Queen of the Night, American coloratura Julia Kogan made quite the entrance, floating down from the sky on a fantastical winged camel. Dressed in a magnificent gown, she was ghostly pale — but her fine voice was anything but. Assertive and commanding, she ordered Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina. But in later scenes, Kogan’s dialogue was almost inaudible upstage. She made a valiant effort in the devilishly difficult “Der Höle Rachekocht in meinem Herzen,” reaching for the highest notes with obvious exertion.

Winnipeg soprano Andriana Chuchman’s Pamina was radiantly princess-like, with an appealing dose of youthful exuberance. Chuchman is a natural performer, with a mature, substantial voice that carries exceedingly well. The famous lament, “Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden” was masterfully crafted, round notes oozing heartbreak.

Phillip Ens’ resonant bass made the ultimate High Priest Sarastro, steady and noble. The depth and pomp of his performance made every hair stand on end. His regal robes were elegant and refined.

His slave Monostatos, played by the athletic Michel Corbeil, appeared tattooed from the top of his bald head to his toes. His flexible tenor voice sneered through his lines, making him the villain we loved to hate.

Gregory Atkinson was perfectly cast as an authority figure (High Priest), his deep voice richly resplendent. PJ Buchan’s (Priest) glorious tenor voice sounds better on every outing.

The chorus rounded out the production nicely, always well balanced and supportive. Kudos go to the orchestra, in particular for the many solos by flute and glockenspiel. There would be no Magic Flute without them.

This was a first-rate production in every way.

Gwenda Nemerofsky

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):