Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.

La Vestale, La Monnaie, Bruxelles

In the first half of the 19th century, Spontini’s La Vestale was a hit. Empress Josephine sponsored its premiere, Parisians heard it hundreds of times, Berlioz raved about it and Wagner conducted it.

Shattering Madama Butterfly Stockholm

An intelligent updating and outstanding performance of the title role lead to a shattering climax in Puccini's Japanese opera



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):