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

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

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

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

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):