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

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

Die Frau ohne Schatten at Munich

It was fascinating to see — and of course, to hear — Krzysztof Warlikowsi’s productions of Die Gezeichneten and Die Frau ohne Schatten on consecutive nights of this year’s Munich Opera Festival.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Arnold Rawls as Radames [Photo by Tim Fuller / Arizona Opera]
19 Mar 2012

Aida in Arizona

Two live camels with trainers in Egyptian garb were stationed in front of Phoenix’s Symphony Hall to publicize the opening of Arizona Opera’s new production of Aida.

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

Click here for cast and production information.

Above: Arnold Rawls as Radames

Photos by Tim Fuller / Arizona Opera

 

They symbolize the buoyant optimism that surrounds this rising company after several years under General Director Scott Altman. Budgets are in the black and artistic quality is rising. Aida is an ambitious work for any company, and Arizona Opera delivered a strong performance on the first of five sold-out nights in Phoenix and Tucson.

OptIMG_9417.gifDaveda Karanas as Amneris

In an era where opera companies must watch the bottom line, conveying the grandeur of this spectacular work poses a unique challenge. Arizona borrowed a set from New Orleans Opera by Canadian designer Philip Silver, which provided two-dimensional, minimalist faux-massive painted drops, accessorized with exotic statues. The latter were sometimes in Egyptian style, with impressive results in the Nile scene, and sometimes just generically ancient. Nashville Opera Director John Hoomes directed in a traditional but effective manner. The Triumphal Scene parade inevitably seemed a bit thin, but the audience was distracted by live animals—two dogs and the return of one of the camels. To its credit, the set design pushed the action to the front of the stage, boosting the vocal acoustics in Phoenix’s large multi-purpose hall.

OptIMG_9479.gifKevin Short as Amonasro and Lisa Daltirus as Aida

Aida was cast with a strong and well-matched set of regional-level American singers. To the title role soprano Lisa Daltirus brings a silvery tone, gossamer high notes, and intelligent phrasing. She used these qualities to make a memorable success of moments many sopranos fear, such as the infamous dolce high C in “O patria mia.” Yet the role of Aida demands not only this, but powerful low notes and passionate utterances that cut through heavy orchestration, which Datirus rarely delivers. While her characterization had integrity and pathos, at times she seemed to be tip-toeing through it.

Chicago-based Tenor Arnold Rawls is similarly more comfortable at the top than the bottom of the range required for Radamès. His lack of a fine-spun piano and unvarying color undermined quietly transcendent moments, as in most of the final scene; but elsewhere Rawls made satisfying use of vocal warmth, stentorian high notes, and fine phrasing. “Celeste Aida,” for example, was phrased impressively on one breath into the second verse, and—after some savvy preparation—ended on an impressively long and ringing b-flat.

OptGF3X9370.gifRebecca Sjowall as High Priestess, Arnold Rawls as Radames, Daveda Karanas as Amneris and Peter Volpe as Ramphis

As Amneris, Greek-American mezzo Daveda Karanas, a graduate of cross-town Arizona State University, possesses a tightly focused, slightly steely voice that easily penetrated the orchestra—rather in the mold of Fiorenza Cossotto. Her interpretation is that of a mature artist, and she is a compelling actress. The voice lacks—perhaps as of yet—quite all the warmth, color and amplitude that the greatest exponents of this role possess, but her traversal of this role in a smaller theater—she is slated to sing the role at Glimmerglass Opera this summer—would be worth traveling to hear.

Altman favors even casts with strong voices in smaller roles, particularly lower male parts. Amonasro does not require great subtlety, and Kevin Short, an American baritone based in Europe, did not provide it—but he was commanding when it mattered. The veteran Ramfis, Peter Volpe, displayed a voice of impressive weight and color. In an era of soggy Verdi conducting, Steven White proved refreshingly willing to push the tempo along, achieved some lovely transitions and orchestral balances, and kept the forces together in the face of a few opening night mishaps.

Andrew Moravcsik

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):