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

Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle at the Barbican

Two great operas come from the year 1911 - Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Bela Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Both are masterpieces, but they are very different kinds of operas and experienced quite asymmetric performance histories.

Puccini’s Tosca at the Royal Opera House

Now on its ninth revival, Jonathan Kent’s classic Tosca for Covent Garden is a study in art, beauty and passion but also darkness, power and empire. Part of the production’s lasting greatness, and contemporary value, is that it looks inwards towards the malignancy of a great empire (in this case a Napoleonic one), whilst looking outward towards a city-nation in terminal decline (Rome).

ROH Return to the Roundhouse

Opera transcends time and place. An anonymous letter, printed with the libretto of Monteverdi’s Le nozze d’Enea con Lavinia and written two years before his death, assures the reader that Monteverdi’s music will continue to affect and entrance future generations:

London Schools Symphony Orchestra celebrates Bernstein and Holst anniversaries

One recent survey suggested that in 1981, the average age of a classical concertgoer was 36, whereas now it is 60-plus. So, how pleasing it was to see the Barbican Centre foyers, cafes and the Hall itself crowded with young people, as members of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra prepared to perform with soprano Louise Alder and conductor Sir Richard Armstrong, in a well-balanced programme that culminated with an ‘anniversary’ performance of Holst’s The Planets.

Salome at the Royal Opera House

In De Profundis, his long epistle to ‘Dear Bosie’, Oscar Wilde speaks literally ‘from the depths’, incarcerated in his prison cell in Reading Gaol. As he challenges the young lover who has betrayed him and excoriates Society for its wrong and unjust laws, Wilde also subjects his own aesthetic ethos to some hard questioning, re-evaluating a life lived in avowal of the amorality of luxury and beauty.

In the Beginning ... Time Unwrapped at Kings Place

Epic, innovative and bold, Haydn’s The Creation epitomises the grandeur and spirit of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

The Pearl Fishers at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its recent production of Georges Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles Lyric Opera of Chicago assembled an ideal cast of performers who blend well into an imaginative and colorful production.

New Cinderella SRO in San Jose

Alma Deutscher’s Cinderella is most remarkable for one reason and one reason alone: It was composed by a 12-year old girl.

La Cenerentola in Lyon

Like Stendhal when he first saw Rossini’s Cenerentola in Trieste in 1823, I was left stone cold by Rossini’s Cendrillon last night in Lyon. Stendhal complained that in Trieste nothing had been left to the imagination. As well, in Lyon nothing, absolutely nothing was left to the imagination.

Messiah, who?: The Academy of Ancient Music bring old and new voices together

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a Messiah. And, at the Barbican Hall, the Academy of Ancient Music reminded us why … while never letting us settle into complacency.

The Golden Cockerel Bedazzles in Amsterdam

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairy tale The Golden Cockerel was this holiday season’s ZaterdagMatinee operatic treat at the Concertgebouw. There was real magic to this concert performance, chiefly thanks to Vasily Petrenko’s dazzling conducting and the enchanting soprano Venera Gimadieva.

Mahler Das Lied von der Erde, London - Rattle, O'Neill, Gerhaher

By pairing Mahler Das Lied von der Erde (Simon O'Neill, Christian Gerhaher) with Strauss Metamorphosen, Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra were making a truly powerful statement. The Barbican performance last night was no ordinary concert. This performance was extraordinary because it carried a message.

David McVicar's Rigoletto returns to the ROH

This was a rather disconcerting performance of David McVicar’s 2001 production of Rigoletto. Not only because of the portentous murkiness with which Paule Constable’s lighting shrouds designer Michael Vale’s ramshackle scaffolding; nor, the fact that stage and pit frequently seemed to be tugging in different directions. But also, because some of the cast seemed rather out of sorts.

Verdi Otello, Bergen - Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, Lester Lynch

Verdi Otello livestream from Norway with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Garner with a superb cast, led by Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, and Lester Lynch and a good cast, with four choirs, the Bergen Philharmonic Chorus, the Edvard Grieg Kor, Collegiûm Mûsicûm Kor, the Bergen pikekor and Bergen guttekor (Children’s Choruses) with chorus master Håkon Matti Skrede. The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1765, just a few years after the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra : Scandinavian musical culture has very strong roots, and is thriving still. Tucked away in the far north, Bergen may be a hidden treasure, but, as this performance proved, it's world class.

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Anna Christy [Photo by Dan Rest courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
21 Sep 2011

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, Chicago

In a program of Italian and French arias and duets Lyric Opera gave to Chicago audiences a preview of the first operas in its forthcoming season and an opportunity to hear familiar voices as well as those soon destined to grace the operatic stages of the world.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, Chicago

Click here for additional information.

Above: Anna Christy [Photo by Dan Rest courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]

 

The Lyric Opera Orchestra was conducted by Emmanuel Villaume, and Lyric Opera General Director Designate Anthony Freud addressed in his welcome the outdoor audience of thousands assembled in Millennium Park, Chicago. He commented on Lyric Opera’s new campaign entitled “Long Live Passion,” as a means to celebrate the particular feeling that opera can engender in listeners.

The first and last selections of the evening were sung by Renée Fleming who now holds the position of Creative Consultant to Lyric Opera. In a moving tribute to introduce the concert, which was dedicated to the memory of the September 11, 2001 anniversary and to military personnel and first responders, Ms. Fleming sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Fleming’s other solo pieces, sung with commitment and truly individual touches of vocal color, included “Lauretta’s aria” from Gianni Schicchi and Marguerite’s “Ô Dieu! Que de bijoux!” from Gounod’s Faust.

In the first half of the concert Villaume conducted the overture to Verdi’s Nabucco as a prelude to the vocal selections. The brass and percussion in the overture were led with firm control, and as the woodwinds entered one had the sense of a rounded conception. Despite some tempos taken somewhat slowly the overall effect was a rousing statement of liberation. The first aria, “O luce di quest’anima” from Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix, was performed by soprano Anna Christy. Ms. Christy’s command of bel canto decoration was evident throughout both parts of the aria. Her voice hovered on the declamation of “tenero core” (“tender heart”) just as it lifted on the prediction for her lover, “s’innalzerà” (“he will rise”). In the second part of the aria, taken at a faster tempo Ms. Christy’s runs and tasteful application of rubato and escape tones communicated for her character a sense of passion as appropriate for this occasion. The following two soloists, baritone Ljubomir Puškarič and René Barbera performed staples of their particular repertoire. Mr. Puškarič’s rendition of Riccardo’s “Ah! Per sempre io ti perdei” from Act I of Bellini’s I puritani showed a pleasing timbre with, at times, a need to focus more clearly on the line as sung. His breath-control and unforced upper register augur well for the future of this vocal type. Mr. Barbera sang Tonio’s aria “Ah, mes amis” from Donizetti’s La fille du régiment. The tenor introduced a nice sense of line to an aria which, for other singers, has often focused instead on individual parts. At the same time, Mr. Barbera’s top notes, released fearlessly on “mon âme” and “sa flamme,” capped a performance which illustrated the absolute happiness of Tonio’s epiphany.

During such a concert with manifold talents in evidence it would seem difficult to single out individual vocalists for their memorable efforts. Yet the performance given by mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton of Léonor’s aria “Ô mon Fernand” from Donizetti’s La favorite deserves particular recognition. Here was a voice that showed remarkable color and depth from the first notes of her aria. One admired the security of range as Ms. Barton’s voice lamented the fate of her love, the vocal line descending to heartfelt emotional depths at “Hélas! est condamné!” (“Alas! My love is condemned!). Her ascent to top notes on “tout” (“everything”) and “justice” and the cry of despair, which she took forte without a trace of harshness, prepared a transition to the middle section of the piece. At this point Léonor appeals to God for death. Her line, “fais-moi mourir” (“make me die”), performed by Ms. Barton with a fully rounded expressiveness, made the character’s entreaty all the more credible. In the last segment of the aria, taken at a brisker tempo, Ms. Barton’s melodic agility and dramatic high notes concluding on “sera morte avant ce soir” (“will be dead before tonight”) gave an exciting finish to this accomplished performance. As a whole, Ms. Barton’s aria was yet another example of the passion in which both singers and audience participate and about which Mr. Freud spoke as being an integral part of great operatic performances.

In the remaining selections from the first part of this concert listeners had the opportunity to hear soprano Susanna Phillips sing the Act I duet from Lucia di Lammermoor with Mr. Barbera taking on the role of Edgardo. Ms. Phillips has an excellent sense of adapting her voice to a role and to the emotional complexities as they might change even within scenes. Her legato singing throughout was impressive, and her shading on words such as “pensiero”and “messaggiero” made her hopes for a letter from Edgardo seem even more plaintive. This part of the evening also featured bass James Morris in two selections. In his performance of Procida’s aria “O tu, Palermo” from Verdi’s I vespri siciliani Morris’s flexible line and his superb Italian diction made much of the aria. Before the intermission he shared the stage with Mr. Puškarič as they sang the duet for bass and baritone from I puritani.

In the shorter, second part of the concert both the solo and ensemble singing continued to introduce less familiar pieces alongside well known selections, all performed with style and commitment. Ms. Christy and Ms. Barton performed the duet for the title character and Mallika from Delibes’s Lakmé. The voices blended very effectively with Ms. Barton providing just enough mezzo-soprano heft to suggest a woven texture of the two performers. In the barcarolle from Les contes d’Hoffmann Ms. Fleming sang together with mezzo-soprano Emily Fons. Just as in the duet from Lakmé the two singers started at different points yet merged vocally to achieve a rich, undulant blend. As a solo piece Ms. Fons performed afterward the aria for Niklausse “Vois sous l’archet fremissant” (“See beneath the quivering bow”) from Les contes d’Hoffmann. In keeping with her character’s message to Hoffmann Ms. Fons lent great pathos to extended low notes on “l’amour vainqueur” (“conquering love”) and “douleur enivrée” (“anguish of passion”). The romance as here performed by Ms. Fons encouraged Hoffmann to find solace in art, just as the sounds of the strings seemed to echo effectively in her delivery. Also in this second part Ms. Phillips performed Juliette’s well known “Je veux vivre” (“I want to live”) from Gounod’s opera. Noteworthy was the vocal coloration by which Ms. Phillips communicated the youthful naïvete of Juliette while other parts of the aria as sung hinted at an adult and realistic perspective. Also included in this segment of the concert was an ardent performance by Matthew Polenzani of Werther’s aria “Pourquoi me réveiller” (“Why awaken me”).

The audience in Chicago was treated to a well chosen variety of vocal splendor and has much passion ahead in the upcoming season of Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Salvatore Calomino

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):