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

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Extravagant Line-up 2017-18 at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany

The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Stephen Costello as Rodolfo and Ailyn Perez as Mimi [Photo by Robert Millard for LA Opera]
05 Jun 2012

La Bohème, LA Opera

The Los Angeles opera company ended its 2011-2012 season with Giacomo Puccini’s long-loved La Bohème, in a long-lived production. What is it about this opera that keeps old loves alive?

Giacomo Puccini: La Bohème

Marcello:Artur Ruciński; Rodolfo:Stephen Costello; Colline:Robert Pomakov; Schaunard:Museop Kim; Benoit:Philip Cokorinos; Mimì:Ailyn Pérez; Musetta: Valentina Fleer; Alcindoro:Philip Cokorinos. Conductor: Patrick Summers. Production: Herbert Ross. Dierector: Gregory A.Fortner. Set Designer: Gerard Howland. Costume designer: Peter J. Hall. Lighting Designer: Daniel Ordower. Choreographer: Peggy Hickey . Associate Conductor/Chorus Master: Grant Gershon.

Above: Stephen Costello as Rodolfo and Ailyn Perez as Mimi

Photos by Robert Millard for LA Opera

 

The Los Angeles production was created by the late movie director Herbert Ross in 1993. But Los Angeles is not alone in succumbing to old love. The Metropolitan Opera’s 2011-12 season included Franco Zeffirelli’s La Bohème, created in 1981, famous for its heavily populated (think about 240 bodies) Café Momus scene,which catapulted the opera into the most produced at the Met. And just last month, in May 2012 , Britain’s Royal Opera Company staged an even more ancient La Bohème created by John Copley in 1974.

Copley, the only one of the above producers still alive, was recently interviewed on the subject, and suggested that the basic reason for his production’s survival was that “It’s traditional, and people like it.” Perhaps it’s as simple as all that. All three of these long running productions are essentially technologically free, closely modeled on the clothes, furnishings and cultural aspects of an era that remains highly romanticized after almost two centuries. (The Los Angeles production features views of the unfinished Eiffel Tower.) Likely these romantic visions of Paris are easy to take and easy to understand, in that they present no challenge to new opera goers, and feel as comfortable as old slippers to many who have experienced them before.

Puccini’s libretto was created by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. It is derived from Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. Murger began publishing a series of loosely knit scenes of Bohemian life by that title in 1845. They were not particularly successful until he combined some of them into a play in 1849. Subsequently they were revised and turned into a novel called La vie bohème. A Parisian “Bohemian”, himself, Murger seems not to have been a very organized fellow. In his novel Mimì dies alone at a hospital. In his play she dies on stage. Puccini’s La Bohème followed the stage play, while at the same time, he and his librettists denied it because the play was copyrighted. Puccini’s opera premiered in 1896. The following year another La Bohème premiered - this by Ruggero Leoncavallo, composer of Pagliacci. The latter work, which first gave Puccini’s opera some competition, is (although Leoncavallo’s Mimì also dies in Rodolfo’s attic) a far less romantic tale, and soon after fell from grace.

The Los Angeles opera assembled a young and handsome cast featuring married couple Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello as Mimì and the poet Rodolfo. This was Costello’s Los Angeles debut, though both are well known to San Diego opera lovers. Both too, are Richard Tucker award winners, and both now have burgeoning European careers. Costello has appeared at the Met and at Glyndebourne.

3605-lbhm3104.gifValentina Fleer as Musetta and Philip Cokorinos as Alcindoro

Pérez recently debuted at Convent Garden and at La Scala. Pérez is a particularly engaging and intelligent soprano, who is able to reflect emotions in her voice. Her sweet, coy Mimì suited the romantic setting. I’ve seen and heard Costello clear tenor many times, but at the May 26th performance I attended, his voice seemed somewhat strained and his Rodolfo did not catch fire. There was fire enough to go around, however, in baritone Artur Ruciński’s well sung Marcello, and in Valentina Fleer’s high strung and amusing Musetta. Both artists were debuting with the company. Museop Kim’s bright baritone made for an entertaining Schaunard. But a major flaw in direction had bass Robert Pomakov, the philosopher, Colline, pick up his overcoat, leave the attic in which Mimì was dying and stand on a street corner to sing “addio vecchio zimarra” his touching farewell to the garment he is sacrificing to buy medicine for Mimi. The meaning was totally lost. Though conductor Patrick Summers, also debuting with the company, set some tempos a bit slowly, Musetta’s waltz, for example, he allowed the orchestra to sing Puccini’s score as romantically as did his vocal artists. And that’s good. It’s what makes Puccini’s operas so emotionally involving and intense.

3607-LBHM2146-1.gifLeft to right: Robert Pomakov as Colline, Ailyn Perez as Mimi, Stephen Costello as Rodolfo, Museop Kim as Schaunard and Artur Rucinski as Marcello

For all the romanticism and verisimilitude of the costumes and set, the bohemian’s attic, though elevated, was small and upstage. It diminished the size of the singers and of their voices. Ross was a movie director. Perhaps filming into the attic would have created a more striking effect.

Nevertheless, at its conclusion, this La Bohème like thousands before it, had the gala sold out audience, standing and cheering.

And as usual, I had cried.

Estelle Gilson

Click here for a media slideshow.

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):