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 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

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):