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At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
Ossia Il barbiere di Siviglia. Why waste a good tune.
In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.
Both by default and by merit Il barbiere di Siviglia is the hit of the thirty-fifth Rossini Opera Festival. But did anyone really want, and did the world really need yet another production of this old warhorse?
Armida (1817) is the third of Rossini’s nine operas for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, all serious. The first was Elisabetta, regina di Inghilterra (1815), the second was Otello (1816), the last was Zelmira (1822).
Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.
Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.
Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.
Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.
On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.
Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.
In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.
Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.
Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.
The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.
Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.
If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.
27 Aug 2011
Two one-act comic operas from New York Festival of Song
The New York Festival of Song, created and run by Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, dedicates itself to what one might call “American lieder” — art songs by top American composers, classic Broadway, and operatic numbers.
In 2008 the festival branched out to present two one-act comic operas. The
two librettos by Mark Campbell center on domestic love. In
Bastianello, a new groom leaves his wedding after his wife displeases
him, and through a series of encounters with other couples, learns that in a
marriage, one must learn to forgive others’ faults. Lucrezia finds
the title character married to an older man, and seduced by one Lorenzo, but it
is Lorenzo who finds at the end that it is he himself who has been seduced.
Campbell writes some exceedingly clever lines, which sometimes zing and
sometimes — don’t zing. The actual plot shenanigans tend to be rather
cumbersome, so Campbell relies often on the unexpected rhyme to prompt a giggle
“In my heart these feelings aren’t foreign.
To end this fight/We’ll do what’s right
And flip a florin.”
That “florin” gives a taste of the rather dated genre here — if the
copyright for these libretti were 1908 instead of 2008, only the occasional
anachronism would be alarming. But Campbell does have some lines less musty and
“Is the sex cold? Is it distant? That’s a laugh. Try
All the funny lines imaginable, however, wouldn’t deepen the
characterization or supply the missing narrative interest. “Clever” can
only go so far in maintaining interest in a story and characters, even in one
act operas. The composers had their work cut out for them. William Bolcom’s
music for Lucrezia fares best, possibly because the libretto he scored
is less segregated into scenes. Bolcom is able to keep up a constant flow of
fairly attractive musical invention, shifting subtly from one mood to another.
His familiar mélange of ragtime, tango and faux-Gershwin works well for the
story. Blier and Barrett at the pianos certainly play with rhythmic flair.
John Musto’s idiom for Bastianello is not radically different
from Bolcom’s, but drier melodies and less variety of tempo makes this
shorter opera feel as long as Lucrezia. The five singers seem to be
enjoying themselves greatly, at any rate, and seen live they surely made a fine
impression. Paul Appleby has a supple tenor voice, perfect for “male
ingénue” parts. Matt Boehler and Patrick Mason take on the male “character
voice” parts and mug in ways appropriate to the settings. Sasha Cooke
captures the sly scheming of Lucrezia very well, and she and Lisa Vroman
skillfully take on multiple roles in Bastianello.
Sondheim-aficionados and fans of the type of well-trained vocalism on
exhibit here will find this Bridge recording enjoyable enough. It may not
represent the ideal calling-card for the New York Festival of Song, however.
Fortunately, that institution seems to be enough of an established success that
a calling card — as antiquated a concept as much of the libretti’s
dramaturgy — should prove superfluous.