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

A sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lucas Meacham as Don Giovanni [Photo by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
26 Oct 2011

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

Ossia Maestro Watching in Fog City. Ten years ago it was German provincialism, now it is the Italian sort wanting to take root in the War Memorial Opera House.

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni

Donna Anna: Ellie Dehn; Donna Elvira: Serena Farnocchia; Leporello: Marco Vinco; Don Giovanni: Lucas Meacham; Don Ottavio: Shawn Mathey; Zerlina: Kate Lindsey; Masetto: Ryan Kuster; The Commendatore: Morris Robinson. War Memorial Opera House. San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Conductor: Nicola Luisotti. Stage Director; Gabriele Lavia; Set Designer: Alessandro Camera; Costume Designer: Andrea Viotti; Lighting Designer: Christopher Maravich. (10/18/2011). Photos by Cory Weaver, courtesy of San Francisco Opera.

Above: Lucas Meacham as Don Giovanni

Photos by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera

 

San Francisco Opera unveiled a new Don Giovanni just now in nearly direct competition with the new Giovanni from the Met (you can see it soon on Live in HD). Of course the Met has avoided an American take on this old story as well, preferring to impose still more British artistic imperialism on Americans.

G--Leporello-Elvira.gifMarco Vinco as Leporello and Serena Farnocchia as Donna Elvira

The SFO Giovanni is all about egoism, and we are not talking just about the libidinous Don. We are of course talking about SFO music director Nicola Luisotti. Like the Don, this maestro is much larger than life, and equally astonishing in his powers. But the Luisotti Don Giovanni is not about sex as it is for most stage directors, it is about how Luisotti can take you to the brink of lyric orgasm and hold you there longer than maybe you ever thought possible.

Of course the maestro did need some collaborators to support his lyric blowout, specifically a general director willing to suspend artistic judgement and engage a stage director who is at home on secondary Italian stages where standards are parochial to say the least. One Gabriele Lavia was Luisotti’s collaborator for his Salome in Bologna shortly after the San Francisco one (if in Bologna it was orchestrally more brilliant the staging was even cornier than in San Francisco).

The comedy of Mozart’s sublime tragicommedia in San Francisco was watching Sig. Lavia keep the maestro’s singers on a plain about 4 feet wide across the stage apron where no one could escape the maestro’s thrall. And still tell the story. It sometimes worked, sort of, belying the not-too-distant link of Mozartian dramaturgy to the linear and static placement of singers for Baroque opera seria.

B--Ottavio-Anna.gifShawn Mathey as Don Ottavio and Ellie Dehn as Donna Anna

General Director Gockley as well engaged a small scale, very Italiate diva, the splendid Serena Farnocchia whose bright lyric voice is on the small side for Donna Elvira, and light enough to negotiate, almost, Elvira’s very difficult music at the speed of light. The maestro succeeded in upstaging Sig.ra Farnocchia’s “Mi tradi” with a hyper emotional orchestral accompaniment to its recit (grotesque heaving).

Donna Anna was the American soprano Ellie Dehn who had made little impression as the Figaro Countess last fall. But she glowed vocally as a retiring Donna Anna, her just ample enough voice blended perfectly in ensembles, having shown with hanging beauty and fine musicianship in her first act aria "Or sai chi l'onore.” American tenor Shawn Mathey was Don Ottavio, but not the usual impotent one. Turning the tables he was the singer with the coglioni rather than the usual Giovanni heroines. Both Don Ottavio arias were blockbusters, exposing forceful, detached tones in quick passages and fioratura, and letting tone and feeling explode in lyric passages. Both Ms. Dehn and Mr. Mathey managed a synergy with the maestro to sublime effect.

I--Zerlina.gifKate Lindsey as Zerlina

Ignoring all potential complexities of relationship to his master, Italian bass Marco Vinco made Leporello a cute, almost expendable character, needed but not wanted. Though he, like most all Leporellos earned the biggest ovation. Like Leporello, Zerlina and Masetto were needed only for the maestro’s beautifully wrought ensembles, but not much more. Zerlina was ably and musically sung by Kate Lindsey, Adler Fellow Ryan Kuster made a cute Masetto.

San Francisco regular, bass baritone Lucas Meachem filled the shoes of Don Giovanni with aplomb and even charm. Mozart did not endow his most loved character with arias of consequence, and a stage director must dig way beneath the surface to intuit any complexity of personality, obviously not the scope of this production. But the Don is always big, and he lets it all hang out in his explosion at the end of the first act. Needless to say this was the meat of the maestro who turned it into an absolute frenzy. Mr. Meachem could not possibly compete, though he gave it a good try. The real Don would have thrown this maestro the very graphic up-yours gesture and walked off the stage.

From the downbeat of the overture Mo. Luisotti stated that this Mozart opera was an orchestral and musical process, its very sound groaning with importance, reminding us that the maestro has made his orchestra into one of the world’s fine pit ensembles. The beginning foretold the absolutely literal ending with the Commendatore, ably delivered by bass Morris Robinson, wreaking his vengeance on the Don in gigantic symphonic terms. We discovered last fall that after the maestro’s over-the-top musical dénouement in The Marriage of Figaro that he could not touch the quiet Mozartian humanity that ends Figaro. And here he does not even look for Mozart’s humanity, ending Giovanni with the Don’s noisy descent into hell rather than letting the quietly splendid Prague sextet wipe up the mess.

It was a fun evening. However Mozart and San Francisco might equally enjoy a bit of operatic integrity.

Michael Milenski

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):