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

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.

A Merry Falstaff in San Diego

On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.

New Production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.

A Salome to Remember

Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.

L’Elisir d’Amore Goes On Despite Storm

On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.

Boris Godunov in Marseille

There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola, whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

William Burden as Nikolaus Sprink [Photo 2011 © Michal Daniel courtesy of Minnesota Opera]
06 Dec 2011

Silent Night, Minnesota Opera

At the November 12, 2011 world premiere of Silent Night at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul, a buzz of energy filled the audience.

Kevin Puts: Silent Night

Click here for cast and production details.

Above: William Burden as Nikolaus Sprink

Photos 2011 © Michal Daniel courtesy of Minnesota Opera

 

Silent Night had been highly anticipated in the Twin Cities for over the past year, which the company had work-shopped the opera with its Resident Artist singers, tweaking vocal parts, shoring up orchestral textures, as well as readying the Minnesota Opera’s fan base for a different kind of opera outside of its more traditional programming. Anticipation was also high for this particular performance, as only the Opera Company of Philadelphia had contributed to the commission, and several representatives of interested companies were in the audience to scout this opera for their prospective seasons.

Based upon a true World War I story, Christian Carion’s 2005 film Joyeux Noël, depicted an incident during World War I near the French border. Three encampments, Scottish, French and German, encircled a battlefield. After bloody fighting, soldiers called an unofficial truce for Christmas day, 1914. The film’s compelling message of religious unity and the commonality of the human condition, all in the midst of waging war, inspired Dale Johnson, artistic director of the Minnesota Opera, to commission Kevin Puts to translate the film into operatic form.

Silent Night is Puts’s first opera, though his career boasts a variety of orchestral and chamber works commissioned and performed by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists throughout North America, Europe and the Far East. Johnson provided Puts with significant dramaturgical support partnering the composer with veteran librettist Mark Campbell and director Eric Simonson. “Eric’s not only a wonderful director, he’s an accomplished writer himself,” Johnson said. “So we put him and Mark in the mix to really make sure this young composer had the kind of support he needed to create the piece.” (Opera News, 2011)

Despite the gamble of hiring a composer with no operatic compositional experience, Silent Night is arguably one of Minnesota Opera’s most masterful achievements in recent years. The company’s $1.5 million budget for this work was 50 percent larger than a normal season production, supported by their New Work’s Initiative. The production thus boasted polished performers across the board, as well as a visually realistic yet imaginative set, including a shockingly violent battle scene that opens the opera. Francis O’Connor’s ingenious staging, Kärin Kopischke’s military costumes hit the mark, with Marcus Dilliard’s lighting and Andrzej Goulding’s digital projections tastefully inserted to heighten the dramatic effect.

MNO_2360.gifKarin Wolverton as Anna Sørensen

The one drawback of the premiere performance was the illness of the lead tenor, William Burden, in the role of Nikolaus Sprink. Burden was able to walk the role of Sprink, while former resident artist Brad Benoit, who had work-shopped the role last year, sang from the wings. Benoit gave a solid performance, despite having received the call only hours before the performance. It was clear, however, that there lacked some finesse and power in many of the soaring musical lines, as Benoit was eager to end the phrase while the orchestra clung to ritardandos originally dictated by Burden. The character of Sprink is a German opera singer manning the front lines, and Puts places much of the musical emphasis and beauty on this character vocal lines, which were unfortunately not delivered to their fullest on opening night.

MNO_1228.gifTroy Cook as Father Palmer and John Robert Lindsey as Jonathan Dale

However, John Robert Lindsey’s Jonathan, Andrew Wilkowske’s Ponchel and the trio of lieutenant (performed by Liam Bonner, Craig Irvin, and Gabriel Preisser) achieved the most captivating musical moments. Bonner’s clarion baritone and grounded stage presence was of special note. With his flexible yet full instrument rising to the role’s high dramatic tasks, Lindsey is a young tenor to watch,

Though the production and performers delivered an outstanding performance, the composition itself lacked many things that make opera opera. As an accomplished orchestral composer, Puts’ orchestral writing knows no bounds, and encompasses high emotional ranges with striking instrumental colors and textures. The opening battle scene evokes the rhythmic intensity and sharpness of Bernstein’s Westside Story and the harmonic clash and tension of Gustav Holst’s Mars.

MNO_2674.gifLiam Bonner as Lieutenant Audebert, Gabriel Preisser as Lieutenant Gordon and Craig Irvin as Lieutenant Horstmayer

But, there seem to be no real musical moments in the vocal writing. There is no pivotal aria that lingers in the mind after the performance finishes, and most of the vocal writing is more of a recitative style, with fewer soaring lines. The writing is more through-composed, dramatically trucking along at a good pace in Act I, but losing steam in Act II. There are also many silences in the vocal parts, and Puts seems to give the orchestra the heavier lifting to carry the drama.

Puts will obviously learn from his experience writing his first opera. His compositional style, especially in the orchestra, is attractive to a more modern ear, evoking orchestral soundtracks of this generation. If he can better apply his knowledge for color, harmonic tension, and rhythmic intensity to his vocal writing, he will be formidable.

Sarah Luebke

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):