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

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Nico Muhly's Marnie at ENO

Winston Graham’s 1961 novel Marnie was bold for its time. Its themes of sexual repression, psychological suspense and criminality set within the dark social fabric of contemporary Britain are but outlier themes of the anti-heroine’s own narrative of deceit, guilt, multiple identities and blackmail.

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

Tremendous revival of Katie Mitchell's Lucia at the ROH

The morning sickness, miscarriage and maundering wraiths are still present, but Katie Mitchell’s Lucia di Lammermoor, receiving its first revival at the ROH, seems less ‘hysterical’ this time round - and all the more harrowing for it.

Manon in San Francisco

Nothing but a wall and a floor (and an enormous battery of unseen lighting instruments) and two perfectly matched artists, the Manon of soprano Ellie Dehn and the des Grieux of tenor Michael Fabiano, the centerpiece of Paris’ operatic Belle Époque found vibrant presence on the War Memorial stage.

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):