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Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.
Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.
Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.
Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.
The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of
Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a
Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.
Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).
Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.
The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.
A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.
Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.
This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful
producers of opera.
On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.
The first production of Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera, based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is clearly a major event in English National Opera’s somewhat trimmed-down season. Wigglesworth, who serves also as conductor and librettist, professes to have been obsessed with the play for more than twenty years, and one can see why The Winter’s Tale, with its theatrical ‘set-pieces’ - the oracle scene, the tempest, the miracle of a moving statue - and its grandiose emotions, dominated as the play is by Leontes’ obsessively articulated, over-intellectualized jealousy, would invite operatic adaptation.
Today, Wexford Festival Opera announced the programme and principal casting details for the forthcoming 2017 festival. Now in its 66th year, this internationally renowned festival will run over an extended 18-day period, from Thursday, 19 October to Sunday, 5 November.
A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
21 Sep 2011
La tragedia di Tosca at the Washington National Opera
Whether or not one agrees with Joseph Kerman’s immortal definition of
Tosca as a “shabby little shocker,” Puccini’s
melodramma, the inaugural production of the Washington National
Opera’s 2011-12 season, is intense, “blood-and-guts” kind of
Like Victorien Sardou’s original play written as a vehicle
for Sarah Bernhardt, Puccini’s setting has enough sex, violence, and
adult themes to induce responsible parents to keep their children at home. Not
that it stopped the black-tie crowd of the opening-night gala from proudly
parading their adorable five-year-olds in heavily ruched floor-length gowns
along the hallways of the Kennedy Center. The latter, incidentally, has now
officially swallowed up the WNO after fifty-five years of that company’s
independence. Still, in these dire times of budgetary horrors and declining
donations such an alliance might prove a transcendent romance rather than an
apocalyptic tragedy; only time will tell.
The plot of Tosca is well known, and were it not so melodramatic, I suppose
it could be eligible for the prestigious label of “tragic”: after
all, not a single leading character is left alive at the end of Act 3!
Thankfully, this original production, courtesy of Giulio Chazalettes and
director David Kneuss, for the most part does not qualify as a tragedy. Soprano
Patricia Racette (Tosca) is a known quantity in DC, and has a reputation among
the local connoisseurs as a superior singing actress. Throughout the evening,
the singer had plenty of opportunities to prove just how well deserved her
reputation was, and she missed none of them. Unlike in last season’s
unfortunate Iphigénie, Racette was not constrained here either by a
director’s choreographic posturing or by the need to climb precarious
metal scaffolding at high pitch. Instead, her acting was realistic, and her
period clothes comfortably familiar. The steps of the Castel Sant’Angelo
were wide and easily mountable, lending her final leap off the battlements its
startling immediacy and dramatic flair that brought out audible gasps from the
audience, instead of the audible chuckles that so often result. The leap was
also, of course, entirely over-the-top, but then so is the entire part: Puccini
followed Sardou in making his Tosca a real diva, and Racette had almost too
much fun playing a “tragic heroine playing herself.” This was
particularly apparent in the opening scene with Cavaradossi, where
“playing” is really all Tosca does; her jealous rage more the stuff
of romantic comedy than high drama. The drama comes in Act 2, undoubtedly
Racette’s best. Her performance was electric, driven by raw emotion and
almost visibly crackling nervous energy, resulting occasionally in a somewhat
faster tempos than are usual for the part. “Vissi d’arte” in
particular was fast — or was attempting to be: the conductor simply
refused to let Racette run with it. Clearly, after singing a few hundred
Toscas in his career, Placido Domingo has very definite ideas of how
one should and should not sound — candles or no candles (for those
passionately interested in this most vital aspect of every Tosca
production, by the way, this one has no candles). However, such a minor
interpretational disagreement between the two stars was no tragedy. Nobody was
paying much attention to it, anyway — we were all too busy watching Alan
Held’s scene-stealing Scarpia.
Alan Held as Baron Scarpia and Patricia Racette as Floria Tosca
The tall baritone presented an imposing figure on stage — not remotely
Italian, he looked rather like a Nordic god of thunder. Donner is, indeed, one
of Held’s signature parts; fortunately, his performance as Scarpia
possessed not only the necessary hammer strokes, but also a more Wotan-esque
complexity, occasionally bordering on hypnotic. Alternatively suave and
terrifying, Held offered both excellent singing and stellar acting from the
first to the last note. Only the opening “Credo” of Act 2 proved
somewhat unconvincing in his interpretation — exactly because the rest of
the role was so believable. Subtle, nuanced, sinuously seductive Scarpia
created by Held would not be caught dead saying such horrible things about
himself — even to himself. Much better was his feverish monolog in the
Act 1 finale, the famous “Te Deum” scene.
Indeed, the “Te Deum” finale proved one of the best moments in
the production, thanks to Held, a solid performance from the WNO chorus
(including children’s choir), and particularly to its effective visual
design (sets and costumes by Ulisse Santicchi, lighting by Jeff Bruckerhoff).
In an inspired move, the gigantic crucifixion triptych that served as the
backdrop through the entire act suddenly becomes transparent, revealing the
interior of the cathedral, complete with the altar, priest, and parishioners,
who seamlessly merge with the chorus already on stage into a single, impressive
tableau vivant. Overall, the décor for the production looked good: both
tastefully appropriate and appropriately expensive. The neo-classical interiors
in Acts 1 and 2 were both lovely. And although the gloom of the Castel
Sant’Angelo’s stone banisters was somewhat undercut by the addition
of pink marble columns on each side of the stage — the leftovers from the
cathedral interior of the opening act — that was also no tragedy.
WNO Chorus and Children’s Chorus sing a Te Deum (Act I)
The real tragedies — at least on the opening night — belonged,
in the pit, to the orchestra that seemed yet again simply incapable of playing
in tune, and on stage, to the tenore di forza. Frank Porretta’s voice has
both the steely intensity of timbre and powerful projection we expect of a
Cavaradossi, and he came out swinging since the opening scene, earning some
well-deserved applause. However, his somewhat forced sound production was
worrisome: every note felt like it was being pushed out just a little too hard.
Whether or not the singer was affected by the fact that he was performing a
classic heroic tenor role in front of Placido Domingo (which, granted, might
unnerve even a seasoned performer), I wondered if he would have trouble
sustaining his efforts through the entire evening. Predictably,
Porretta’s voice broke halfway through the climax of “E lucevan le
stelle,” sliding from a fortissimo high pitch into an embarrassing croak.
The audience was extremely kind, but this did not help: much as he tried, the
singer was not able to bring his sound back again. The remainder of Act 3 was
performed in a harsh semi-whisper, which in Cavaradossi’s final duet with
Tosca is simply an impossible sell. Only occasionally did we hear an echo of
the metallic flamboyancy of the opening scenes; the rest was so painful to
endure that one was tempted to applaud the rifle volley from the castle guard
that finally put the unfortunate tenor out of his misery. Hopefully, in the
subsequent performances Porretta’s pacing would improved. If so, the
tragedia of this overall high-quality, solidly traditional production
will have relocated to where it belongs — Sardou’s bloody melodrama
and Puccini’s “shocking” score.