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Macbeth, LA Opera

On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.



Sophie Bevan as Donna Elvira, Grant Doyle as Don Giovanni and Joshua Bloom as Leporello [ Photo by Mike Hoban courtesy of Garsington Opera at Wormsley]
09 Jun 2012

Don Giovanni, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

The pavilion at Garsington Opera at Wormsley is stunningly beautiful. Just being there is an experience, which is why the social aspect is so rewarding.

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni: Grant Doyle; Leporello: Joshua Bloom; Donna Anna: Natasha Jouhl; The Commendatore: Christophoros Stamboglis; Don Ottavio: Jesus Leon; Donna Elvira: Sophie Bevan; Zerlina: Mary Bevan; Masetto: Callum Thorpe. Conductor: Douglas Boyd. Director: Daniel Slater. Designer: Leslie Travers. Lighting: Bruno Poet. Garsington Opera at Wormsley, 4th June 2012.

Above: Sophie Bevan as Donna Elvira, Grant Doyle as Don Giovanni and Joshua Bloom as Leporello

Photos by Mike Hoban courtesy of Garsington Opera at Wormsley


But regular patrons can do bland, corporate affairs any time. They come to Wormsley because they care about opera. This new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni has a lot to offer to those who pay attention.

The Wormsley Pavilion is a wonder of translucent glass and gleaming metal. It inspires the set design by Leslie Travers. Simple, clean cut lines, stylish elegance. If Don Giovanni were alive today, he’d live in designer surroundings like this. He fits life into compartments, which the “boxes” in this set reflect. But as we know, things go awry. Under this surface glamour lurks something very nasty. Don Giovanni (Grant Doyle) and Donna Anna (Natasha Jouhl) act out bondage games. Naturally, she doesn’t want her father to know. She cuts Don Giovanni from his handcuffs, and he stabs the Commendatore (Christophoros Stamboglis). It’s not a conventional reading but valid. Don Giovanni gets his kicks from seduction, not rape in the modern sense, and those around him are complicit. Besides, Donna Anna’s feelings are conflicted. Her Don Ottavio (Jesús León) is rather alluring and comes over as real match for her. When they masquerade, she wears dominatrix, he dresses as muzzled dog, which expresses much about their relationship.

Because Garsington Opera uses relatively young singers, the production is energetic. Boyle’s Don Giovanni is quick on his feet (as is the character). Joshua Bloom’s Leporello radiates physical presence. Interesting voice, with good colour and range — definitely a future Don Giovanni. When Bloom sings the catalogue aria, he snaps out statistics rapid fire. He prints off a spreadsheet, and reams of paper fill the stage. Donna Elvira (Sophie Bevan) is dumbstruck.

While Natasha Jouhl’s Donna Anna is svelte and sung with richly controlled poise, Bevan’s Donna Elvira is more earthy, even endearing. This brings out the social commentary in the opera. Donna Anna’s is more posh, but she is trapped by her rank in society. She has too much to lose. Donna Elvira on the other hand, seems to be able to roam freely in pursuit of Don Giovanni and declare her feelings openly. Zerlina (Mary Bevan) is “a bit of rough”. Her wedding dress is more showgirl than country virgin, because she has aspirations. Think footballer’s wives weddings. She wants more than the underclass which Masetto (Callum Thorpe) represents, but she puts up with his violence because she has no option. Or perhaps, like a dirtier version of Donna Anna, because something in her draws her to the dark side Don Giovanni offers. Massetto and the villagers sing and move well. You can sense that this lot could riot and wreck Don Giovanni’s spotless cocoon of a penthouse, of they had a chance.

DonGiovanni_Garsington2012_004.gifMary Bevan as Zerlina and Callum Thorpe as Masetto

But retribution strikes when the Stone Guest comes to dinner. A corpse resembling the Commendatore is wheeled in on a hospital table. This looks much more like a marble statue than some depictions, and close to text. The inscription is written on a tag. While Don Giovanni and Leporello examine the corpse, a voice booms out from high above the stage, as Stamboglis sings. They can’t see him, but we can. Wonderfully surreal. We don’t need to see Don Giovanni literally dragged down to hell. He drops dead and falls into the same wheelchair with which the Commendatore’s body was removed at the start of the opera. Perfect symmetry. More controversially, Donna Anna caresses Don Giovanni’s corpse. Her emotions are complex. This implies more than a simple happy ending. The Edition used in this production is Barenreiter-Kassel, edited by Wolfgang Plath and Wolfgang Rehm.

Anne Ozorio

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