Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Nicky Spence [Photo by Richard Hubert Smith courtesy of English National Opera]
26 Jun 2011

Two Boys, ENO

You would have had to be deaf and blind — or perhaps just a very wise monkey — not to have been aware that a young American composer called Nico Muhly was about to open at the English National Opera in London last night with a work called Two Boys.

Nico Muhly: Two Boys

Click here for cast and other information.

Above: Nicky Spence [All photos by Richard Hubert Smith courtesy of English National Opera]

 

Since late last year, it seems that the personable and obviously multi-talented Muhly has been (pardon the allusion) pushed down our throats from every media-angle, and by too many London hacks anxious to maintain their street-cred in Twitter-land. This kind of media blitz is obviously a two-edged sledgehammer: if the show bombs then everybody looks somewhat foolish, if it achieves critical and/or box-office success (I suspect the latter in this case) then we’ll probably get bombarded again all too soon with the next wonder-kid of modern music. Ah well.

Two_Boys_20.gifMary Bevan

At the world premiere of Two Boys last night, (cleverly being opened here and not at its co-pro alma mater of the Met) you would have been forgiven for thinking that you had missed the date and wandered into London Fashion Week. Everyone who had read all the supplements, all the tweets, all the blogs and listened to the podcasts — or even just came on spec because everyone else said they should — was there. It was achingly hip. Never mind — we all want opera extending its audience so why not? It probably swelled the coffers of the ENO champagne bar.

So how was it? Well, perhaps one should score it in TV Talent Show style and take it from there:

Story: 6/10, Music: 6/10, Production: 6/10........you get the idea I expect. Singers? Definitely 8/10, if only for commitment to the work, vocal characterisation, and damn good acting within the limits of the production.

Craig Lucas has written a libretto that is based on a true news story of some years ago about two boys, internet chat rooms, assumed identities and attempted murder and this story — slight as it is in dramatic terms — worked to a point. What was lacking was any depth of characterisation, any motivations or emotional developments to give the piece structure. Maybe that was part of the plan: certainly the waves of music that swirled and pulsed and counterpointed the long articulated lines of speech/song didn’t suggest much in the way of dramatic development or journey. Muhly’s work is difficult to describe; his music is like high-class mood-music, or perhaps those compositions carefully constructed and “written to picture” for an expensive nature documentary. It doesn’t challenge the listener, nor does it repel — but I doubt it delighted or surprised many either.

Two_Boys_04.gifSusan Bickley and Nicky Spence

The singers were universally good: the core of the story lies with the investigating police officer played by Susan Bickley (does she ever disappoint?) who has demons of her own to confront as a stranger in the strange land of her suspect’s virtual world of net friends. Her diction was excellent and character well-drawn. That suspect, who we know as “Brian”, is sung by young tenor Nicky Spence with a tremendous empathy for this pathetic, unintelligent, bullied young man who’s flashes of desperate anger at his uncomprehending parents just reinforce his weakness and lack of self esteem. That excellent work was matched by the amazingly confident performance of boy treble Joseph Beesley — one just hopes that the calculated evil inherent in his character doesn’t leave too much of a shadow. The many supporting roles were equally well presented and sung without a single unhappy choice — and singers and orchestra (under Rumon Gamba) seemed well-rehearsed and remarkably slick considering this was a first night of an entirely new work.

Two_Boys_24.gifJoseph Beesley and Nicky Spence

On the production side, a few good ideas were made much of but could have been given more emphasis — the video backdrops of world-wide internet “chatting” — words repeating, and reappearing, and often mirroring the actual sung words. Some of the best dramatic moments came with the chorus spread around and above the stage suggesting the vast numbers of internet chatters communicating endlessly and pointlessly from their sad individual bedrooms. The graphic video work was good — but again could have been so much more; in fact the whole production just felt as if it were treading far too carefully, too “nicely” and was afraid of upsetting anyone. All a bit anodyne, in essence. Perhaps they will push the boat out a bit more for its New York premiere? Somehow, I doubt it.

Sue Loder.

Six more performances through June and July: see www.eno.org

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):