Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Susan Foster as Turandot [Photo by D. Ross Cameron/San Francisco Opera]
20 Nov 2011

Turandot in San Francisco

The magnificent David Hockney Turandot production burst again onto the War Memorial stage with a new cast and conductor that recaptured its potential to make this fairytale into great opera.

Giacomo Puccini: Turandot

Turandot: Susan Foster; Calaf: Walter Fraccaro; Liù: Leah Crocetto; Timur: Christian Van Horn; Ping: Hyung Yun; Pang: Greg Fedderly; Pong: Daniel Montenegro; Emperor Altoum: Joseph Frank; A Mandarin: Ryan Kuster. San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Conductor: Giuseppe Finzi; Stage Director: Garnett Bruce; Set Designer: David Hockney; Costume Designer: Ian Falconer; Lighting Designer: Christopher Maravich. Performance of 18 November 2011.

Above: Susan Foster as Turandot

Photos by D. Ross Cameron/San Francisco Opera

 

Well, almost a new cast. The slave girl Liu of Leah Crocetto was a hold over from the October cast though her performance in these new circumstances seemed more vibrant and vivid. No longer dwarfed by larger than life colleagues, it was far bigger than before and this time it truly mesmerized the opera house — her prayer and supplication, then her suicide came in limpid pianissimi, in rich forti, the youth and freshness of her voice embodied the purity and innocence of maidenhood.

Susan Foster was both the new Turandot and a new Turandot — not the icy, unattainable princess but the vulnerable, neurotic maiden, a Turandot very rarely revealed. Now she was a human scaled, twisted rival of the pure and gentle Liu. To be sure Mme. Foster could not be the icy Turandot if she wanted to. She does not possess the steely, dramatic voice nor the mythic persona to engage in a shouting match with her suitor Calaf. But she does have an engaging dramatic voice with volume aplenty when she needs it, and a personal softness that shone beautifully in her touching revelation that Calaf’s name was in fact “love.”

turandot015.pngWalter Fraccaro as Calaf and Susan Foster as Turandot

Calaf too, tenor Walter Fraccaro, had a softness and vulnerability that brought a very human dimension to his “Nessun dorma” that beguiled the opera house with its intimacy and earned him one of its all time biggest ovations. His Calaf was a young warrior who was perhaps as neurotic as Turandot, both of them equating love, or let us just say sex — there is that kiss — with death. Mr. Fraccaro did have the heft and volume in secure, supple voice to assault Turandot in his second act answers to her riddles.

Bass Christian Van Horn brought physical stature (he’s tall) and volume to Timur, confidently anchoring the narrative relationships of the opera’s’ protagonists. The Hockney production does not offer this personage opportunity to expand emotionally.

San Francisco Opera Resident Conductor Giuseppi Finzi allowed Puccini’s score to rise naturally from the pit, with tempos that encouraged its huge sonic scope to saturate the War Memorial Opera house. It is a great big opera that gives the San Francisco Opera chorus and orchestra opportunity to strut their stuff as two of the world’s fine ensembles.

The musical flow revealed this young conductor’s understanding of Puccini’s story. He did not sacrifice this newly discovered delicate humanity to dramatic and musical effect — this score’s fatal temptation. But what the young maestro could not do was drive the Alfano duet that ends the opera to the musical coherency that his predecessor Nicola Luisotti miraculously achieved, nor bring point and edge to the machinations of Ping, Pang and Pong.

turandot013.pngWalter Fraccaro as Calaf, Leah Crocetto as Liù and Christian Van Horn as Timur

The Hockney production is saturated with Chinese reds and fantastical shapes that evoke much more than illustrate a sense of Oriental splendor. Hockney thinks two dimensionally, i.e. the proscenium opening is a canvas, thus we are presented with a succession of paintings. This places his characters on the canvas, or rather it freezes them onto the canvas. There is little movement, and virtually no dramatic reality, i.e. characters do not speak to each other — conversations are a visual, public presentation. Puccini’s Turandot offered this formidable visual artist unique opportunity to create a masterpiece.

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):