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

Götterdämmerung in San Francisco

The truly tragic moments of this long history rich in humanity behind us we embark on the sordid tale of the Lord of the Gibichungs’s marriage to Brünnhilde and the cowardly murder of Siegfried, to arrive at some sort of conclusion where Brünnhilde sacrifices herself to somehow empower women. Or something.

Siegfried in San Francisco

We discover the child of incestuous love, we ponder a god’s confusion, we anticipate an awakening. Most of all we marvel at genius of the composer and admire the canny story telling of the Zambello production.

Boris Godunov in San Francisco

Yes, just when you thought Wotan was the only big guy in town San Francisco Symphony (just across a small street from San Francisco Opera), offered three staged performances of the Mussorgsky masterpiece Boris Godunov in direct competition with San Francisco Opera’s three Ring des Nibelungen cycles.

Garsington Opera transfers Falstaff from Elizabeth pomp to Edwardian pompousness

Bruno Ravella’s new production of Verdi's Falstaff for Garsington Opera eschews Elizabethan pomp in favour of Edwardian pompousness, and in so doing places incipient, insurgent feminism and the eternal class consciousness of fin de siècle English polite society centre stage.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

A culinary coupling from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

What a treat the London Music Conservatoires serve up for opera-goers each season. After the Royal Academy’s Bizet double-bill of Le docteur Miracle and La tragédie de Carmen, and in advance of the Royal College’s forthcoming pairing of Huw Watkins’ new opera, In the Locked Room, based on a short story by Thomas Hardy, and The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have delivered a culinary coupling of Paul Hindemith’s The Long Christmas Dinner and Sir Lennox Berkeley’s The Dinner Engagement which the Conservatoire last presented for our delectation in November 2006.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

The poignancy of triviality: Garsington Opera's Capriccio

“Wort oder Ton?” asks Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The Countess answers with a question of her own, at the close of this self-consciously self-reflective Konversationstück für Musik: “Gibt es einen, der nicht trivail ist?” (“Is there any ending that isn’t trivial?”)

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):