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

In Parenthesis, Welsh National Opera in London

‘A century after the Somme, who still stands with Britain?’ So read a headline in yesterday’s Evening Standard on the eve of the centenary of the first day of that battle which, 141 days later, would grind to a halt with 1,200,000 British, French, German and Allied soldiers dead or injured.

Die Walküre, Opera North

A day is now a very long time indeed in politics; would that it were otherwise. It certainly is in the Ring, as we move forward a generation to Die Walküre.

Early Gluck arias at the Wigmore Hall

If composers had to be categorised as either conservatives or radicals, Christoph Willibald Gluck would undoubtedly be in the revolutionary camp, lauded for banishing display, artifice and incoherence from opera and restoring simplicity and dramatic naturalness in his ‘reform’ operas.

Das Rheingold, Opera North

Das Rheingold is, of course, the reddest in tooth and claw of all Wagner’s dramas - which is saying something.

Peter Grimes in Princeton

The Princeton Festival presents one opera annually, amidst other events. Its offerings usually alternate annually between 20th century and earlier operas. This year the Festival presented Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, now a classic work, in a very effective and moving production.

Scintillating Strauss in Saint Louis

If you like your Ariadne on Naxos productions as playful as a box of puppies, then Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the address for you.

Saint Louis Takes On ‘The Scottish Opera’

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis took forty years before attempting Verdi’s Macbeth but judging by the excellence of the current production, it was well worth the wait.

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

On June 16, 2016, Los Angeles Opera with Beth Morrison Projects presented the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's Anatomy Theater at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT).

Shalimar in St. Louis: Pagliaccio Non Son

In its compact forty-year history, the ambitious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has just triumphantly presented its twenty-fifth world premiere with Shalimar the Clown.

Jenůfa, ENO

The sharp angles and oddly tilting perspectives of Charles Edwards’ set for David Alden’s production of Jenůfa at ENO suggest a community resting precariously on the security and certainty of its customs, soon to slide from this precipice into social and moral anarchy.

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Marie McDunnough and Jack Rennie, Artists of Atelier Ballet [Photo by Bruce Zinger courtesy of Opera Atelier]
19 Apr 2012

Armide, Opera Atelier

I have to rethink my week, because somehow I have to get to see Opera Atelier’s production of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Armide again.

Jean-Baptiste Lully: Armide

Click here for cast and production information.

Above: Marie McDunnough and Jack Rennie, Artists of Atelier Ballet

Photos by Bruce Zinger courtesy of Opera Atelier

 

Possibly the finest opera of the 17th Century, and certainly one of the greatest operas ever written, it’s almost completely unknown to most people.

Why see it again, and why should you see it?

Forget what you think baroque opera is supposed to do. Instead of the alternation between recitatives and arias, singers showing off their skills with elaborate coloratura and high notes that stop the story in its tracks, Lully’s arioso writing keeps moving, often punctuated by dance, and avoiding the stasis one finds in an Italian baroque aria.

120412_17954.pngPeggy Kriha Dye as Armide

Armide is a story of love and duty. Set in the Crusades, Armide is an Islamic Princess, while Renaud, her chief antagonist — and eventually her lover — is a Christian Knight. The story elicits so many odd moments of personal conflict and ambivalence that when Jean-Luc Godard set passages from the opera in the film Aria, they illustrate a kind of misogynistic torment of women that seems to lead to madness. I don’t encourage you to see Godard’s film, at least until you’ve encountered the work as written.

Watching the opera tonight I thought of a film with a similar offbeat mythology, namely Mr & Mrs Smith, a story about a husband and wife who are hired killers. For awhile in the film they try to kill each other, not so very different from the antagonism one sometimes experiences in marriage, but taken to a comical extreme.

Or as Pat Benatar tried to tell us, “love is a battlefield”.

That metaphorical understanding of the opera’s epic battles — in other words, that Armide is less a matter of crusading and more a matter of loving — is the key to the new production. In OA’s previous take on Lully’s opera, at least in what Director Marshall Pynkoski spoke of in his notes– they seemed to focus mostly on the politics, so that it ended on an anti-climax, as Armide was abandoned by her lover Renaud.

120412_16528.pngPeggy Kriha Dye as Armide and Colin Ainsworth as Renaud

This time Pynkoski paid less attention to matters of state and instead concentrated on matters of the heart. In Lully’s style of opera, dance is integral to the action, and so it’s no wonder that choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg was involved more in Armide than perhaps any previous opera from OA.

Dancer Jack Rennie is the most memorable personage in the work (even without singing), playing the figure of Love. For awhile Armide seeks to escape from love, and enlists the aid of Hate, a demonic figure from Hell, to exorcise Love from inside her. The small part of Hate was memorably sung by Curtis Sullivan. Hate brings demons to torture Love, but in the end Armide chooses Love and rejects Hate (which makes him even angrier).

Both leads were outstanding. Colin Ainsworth as Renaud reprised the role he sang in the previous production, every note exactly on pitch. The voice is as gentle and sweet sounding as ever, but seems to have grown bigger. Peggy Kriha Dye as Armide has a far more difficult part to play. Where Renaud has to mostly look heroic and then fall in love, Armide is a far more ambivalent character of contradictory passions. The dramatic highlight of the evening was Dye’s scene when she comes upon the sleeping Renaud, intending to kill him.

This sequence — complete with daggers — might be why Jean-Luc Godard decided to show Armide as a window on the oppression of women, with his chief insight being that love makes women crazy. We saw Dye’s portrayal change from the confident attacker, seduced by Ainsworth’s vulnerable form, and tormented by indecision, finally incapable of striking.

120412_17213.pngOlivier LaQuerre as Chevalier Ubalde and Artists of Atelier Ballet

The throbbing heart of the production is Tafelmusik Orchestra led by David Fallis. Singers were never covered, but always supported sensitively, even though the score is full of drumming and strong rhythms reminiscent of military music. The other highlight came unexpectedly from Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, in a sequence where we are being told about the delusory nature of reality. The music is a delightfully sensual lure, even as the text tells us otherwise.

Designer Gerard Gauci’s lovely sets are more elaborate than before, in anticipation of being toured first to Versailles Theatre, and then Glimmerglass for the summer.

But first they’ll finish out the week at the Elgin Theatre until Saturday April 21st.

Leslie Barcza

This review is reprinted from Barcza Blog with permission of the author.

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):