Recently in Reviews
On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value
a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.
Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.
Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.
San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).
There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.
Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.
Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.
Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw
Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s
Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for
the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.
Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.
The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.
Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.
After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took
place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.
Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful
production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea
Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von
Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden,
Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing
For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.
“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”
When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.
Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an
intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth
the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.
Bruckner, Bruckner, wherever one goes; From Salzburg to London, he is with us, he is with us indeed, and will be next week too. (I shall even be given the Third Symphony another try, on my birthday: the things I do for Daniel Barenboim
) Still, at least it seems to mean that fewer unnecessary Mahler-as-showpiece performances are being foisted upon us. Moreover, in this case, it was good, indeed great Bruckner, rather than one of the interminable number of ‘versions’ of interminable earlier works.
02 Oct 2011
Eugene Onegin, Los Angeles
Kudos to the Los Angeles Opera Company for expanding its heretofore limited
Russian repertoire and opening its 26th season with Tchaikovsky’s
Eugene Onegin. The romantic work based on the novel in verse of the
same name by Alexander Pushkin, is likely everyone’s favorite
Kudos too, for having presenting the work in a production created by the
late Stephen Pimlott for the Royal Opera House and the and the Finnish National
Opera (more about this later) which, though it sparked discontent at its 2006
London premiere, introduces a new view of the tale.
Whereas Pushkin narrated his lengthy lyrical poem filled with wit, cynicism,
and psychological insights, Tchaikovsky and his librettist Konstantin
Shilovsky reduced the work to intimate scenes focused directly on their
principal characters. In both versions, however, the story is set at a time
when rank and status mattered, when women were essentially powerless. Eugene
Onegin, the eponymous protagonist (one can’t call him a hero) of the
work, is the wealthy neighbor of the widow Larina and her young daughters, Olga
and Tatiana. Onegin, who has wandered the world, lives the dissolute life of a
Byronic Don Juan, and carries himself with the aristocratic mien of Jane
Austen’s Mr. D’Arcy, is introduced to the Larin household by the
poet Lensky, in love with Olga. The three woman, attended by a nanny, live as
did Elizabeth Bennett, a modest country life. But in this story, it takes only
a glance for young Tatiana to fall in love with the elegant Onegin. The same
night, unable to sleep, overflowing with passion and impetuosity, she writes a
letter to Onegin offering him her heart.
When the two meet the next morning Onegin honorably, but coldly returns the
humiliated girl’s letter and rejects her love. Later, bored at a local
ball, he flirts with Olga and incenses Lensky to the point where the poet
challenges him to a duel Lensky is killed and Onegin returns to his aimless
wandering life. When, in Act 3 Onegin and Tatiana meet again, she is the wife
of a prince. Now it is Onegin who will write a letter and plead for love.
Tatiana first upbraids him for his past cruelty, then confesses that she still
loves him. But refusing to renounce her vows, she leaves him alone to his
despair. Is this a story of payback, as one reviewer described it? Is it about
class and caste? Is it about a country girl’s solid values, set against
the nihilism of a sybaritic life? Or does it reflect as many Pushkin scholars
believe, the battles raging within Pushkin himself? It should not be surprising
to find new interpretations of the work.
Though not a cast well-known to American opera goers, Los Angeles assembled
four stellar principals with knowledge of the language and familiarity with
their roles, which always brings a a sense of ease to a production. Baritone
Dalibor Jenis was a full voiced, if somewhat stiffly mannered Onegin, until the
last scene when rejected by Tatiana, jacketless and unkempt, he seemed to me a
maddened Don Jose. Oksana Dyka’s role as Tatiana took her in an opposite
emotional direction. In voice and manner she made the transition from love
starved teen ager to mature woman convincingly. I loved tenor Vsevolod
Grivnov’s ringing top voice as Lensky’s but sometimes I think I
love every tenor as Lensky. Mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk sang Olga, and
Margaret Thompson, her mother, Larina with assurance and ease. There were three
young American artists in the cast. Ronnita Nicole Miller as Filipievna, the
nanny, has a rich voice wonderfully under control. James Cresswell sang Prince
Gremin’s aria with magnificent sonority and hit the low notes, but still
lacks that “innerness” that brings subtlety and shading. Keith
Jameson was a silky voiced Trinquet.
Dalibor Jenis as Onegin and Oksana Dyka as Tatiana
In the emotion-filled dramatic scenes that Tchaikovsky set, not only the
characters, but his music speak directly to our hearts. Conductor James Conlon
led the orchestra in a pulsing, radiant performance.
Pimlott’s intelligent production deserves a review of its own despite
some incomprehensible stagings: why Tatiana writes a letter bursting with
passion while bent over on the floor, I’ll never know. And why the
glittering third act “polonaise” is performed before a scrim
depicting death, remains a mystery to me. Suffice it now to say that with this
production Pimlott introduces us to Pushkin’s narrative viewpoint. Aided
by Antony McDonald’s sometimes outlandish costumes and Peter
Mumford’s always dramatic lighting, he gives us something of
Pushkin’s distant view of his characters by staging the action as though
painterly images set within a frame.
One last word about Tchaikovsky’s music. Tatiana, Lensky, Gremin and
Onegin have the four great arias of this opera. Leaving the theater, I could
recall snatches of the first three, all of which declare love, but not of
Onegin’s. His is the one about rejection.
And one other last word to thank Placido Domingo and the Opera Company for
including a touching tribute to Salvatore Licitra in its program.