Recently in Performances
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.
01 May 2012
Two from Florence
The double bill of Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy with
Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, currently being presented by the Canadian Opera Company, is a marriage made in heaven, a pair of complementary opposites who seem to belong together.
They’re alike in some key ways
- Both operas are set in Florence
- They are roughly contemporary in composition from around 1917-1918
- Both operas have plots driven by avarice and disparities of wealth
Yet even so,
- Zemlinsky is not well-known, while Puccini is arguably the most popular
composer of the 20th Century
- A Florentine Tragedy is dark, while Gianni Schicchi is
a comic masterpiece
- Notwithstanding the date of composition, Zemlinsky’s music is often
dissonant and disturbing, whereas Puccini’s occasional dissonances are
usually zany rather than disturbing, and serve to set up the luscious
melodies he spins. But Zemlinsky does offer a few wonderful climaxes.
Conducted by Andrew Davis, I believe this is the largest COC orchestral
complement we’ve seen in a long time, at least in the Zemlinsky. Huge as the
assembled forces may have been for most of the work, Davis held them delicately
in check, swelling only occasionally, particularly at the volcanic conclusion.
The Zemlinsky work sounds a lot like Richard Strauss, with the expressionist
flair we find from operas such as Elektra or Salome.
Wilson Chin’s set design captured these two very distinct worlds, allowing
them to cohere wonderfully as a satisfying evening of opera. The dark work
(called a “tragedy” but maybe not so tragic) unfolds as a love triangle on
a big bare stage, while the light comedy takes place in a cramped space full of
junk. Although they’re different the worlds of both are so preoccupied with
property and materialism that it’s manifested in the physical environment of
Bass-baritone Alan Held had a busy night. As Simone in the tragedy he’s
singing a great deal, much of it in a high register, followed by the role of
Gianni Schicchi, which isn’t much easier, also lying high. The teutonic style
of the Zemlinsky seems to be a better fit for Held’s voice than the
Italianate comedy, although true to his name he more than held his own.
(l - r) Gun-Brit Barkmin as Bianca, Michael König as Guido Bardi and Alan Held as Simone (background) in the Canadian Opera Company production of A Florentine Tragedy, 2012. [Photo by Michael Cooper courtesy of the Canadian Opera Company]
While I laughed throughout the Puccini I enjoyed the dark opera more. For me
it’s a brand-new work, full of wonderful moments, luscious orchestral
sonorities, unexpected emotional turns, and a wonderful concluding five
minutes. Director Catherine Malfitano is to be congratulated for shaping this
complex and ambiguous work successfully. Bianca, Simone’s wife, is shown with
her husband in an oversize portrait centre stage (you can see it in the photo)
with her husband’s hand in a controlling position on her neck. In their first
encounter he gently seizes her -if that isn’t a complete oxymoron—by the
back of the neck. While this may seem obvious, the story is anything but.
Held’s physical presence is threatening even though he is subservient to the
Prince, who is busily cuckolding his subject right in Simone’s own home.
Gun-Brit Barkmin makes a wonderfully complex Bianca, surrendering to Michael
König’s Prince, yet seemingly in thrall to her husband’s complex
dominance. It should be no surprise that this twisted tale comes to us from
Oscar Wilde. Malfitano’s conclusion to A Florentine Tragedy provided
a wonderful echo of the cloak from one of the original Puccini triptych, namely
Il Tabarro ; where the cloak in the Puccini shocker conceals a dead
body, in this case the cloak leads to an unexpectedly loving and sensual
A scene from the Canadian Opera Company production of Gianni Schicchi, 2012. [Photo by Michael Cooper courtesy of the Canadian Opera Company]
While I found the Puccini a huge relief after the darkness of Zemlinsky, I
wasn’t sure about the updating. Instead of Medieval Florence we get something
closer to Jersey Shore: which is apt I suppose considering that Malfitano is
both American and Italian. Sometimes the updating was very good, as for
instance when René Barbera as Rinuccio sang his big paean to Florence from
atop a pile of junk. I worried for his safety -and no this isn’t to be
mistaken for Spiderman—with the young tenor perched easily twenty
feet above the stage floor. I reminded myself that while the set appeared
rickety of course it was carefully constructed to support him. Overall I found
that the modernization made the show warm & fuzzy rather than edgy,
defusing some of the laughter that the opera can sometimes generate. It’s
still lots of fun though and especially delightful after the Zemlinsky.
Barbera’s singing was one of the highlights of the evening, along with the
Lauretta of Simone Osborne, singing “Oh mio babbino caro”. I felt Davis was
channelling Toscanini, imbuing the operas with wonderful pace & verve, but
also sometimes challenging the singers to perhaps sing faster than they might
(l - r) Simone Osborne as Lauretta, René Barbera as Rinuccio and Alan Held as Gianni Schicchi in the Canadian Opera Company production of Gianni Schicchi, 2012. [Photo by Michael Cooper courtesy of the Canadian Opera Company]
Held, Barbera & Osborne make a loveable family unit, in this
crowd-pleaser of an opera. I hope no one is scared off by the opera composed by
a guy whose name starts with a Z. This double bill deserves to score well with
the Toronto audience.
The Canadian Opera Company production of A Florentine Tragedy
andGianni Schicchi continue at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto
until May 25th.
This review first appeared at barczablog. It is reprinted with the