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 Reviews

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.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

02 Aug 2012

Santa Fe Opera convinces : Rossini Maometto II

Santa Fe, NM : It is not unusual for Santa Fe Opera to produce little known or rarely heard operas in their enduring devotion to both unusual and ‘lost’ repertory, as well as commissioned and contemporary works. But is it unusual - very - for two such mountings in one season to be smash hits. Santa Fe lately enjoyed two such successes, graced by elevated musical and performance quality, and strong audience acceptance.

Gioachino Rossini : Maometto II

Anna: Leah Crocetto, Calbo : Patricia Bardon, Paolo: Bruce Sledge, Maometto: Luca Pisaroni, Conductor: Frédéric Chaslin, Director: David Alden, Scenic Designer :Jon Morrell, Costume Designer: Jon Morrell, Lighting Designer :Duane Schuler, Choreographer:Peggy Hickey

18th July 2012, Santa Fe Opera, NM.

 

Since founder and conductor John Crosby’s retirement in 2000, and the appointment that October of Richard Gaddes as General Director, with the subsequent assumption of those duties in 2008 by Charles MacKay, Santa Fe Opera’s musical quality and artistic values have grown impressively.

The pit orchestra has been constantly improved by such conductors as Edo de Waart and Alan Gilbert, and now by Frédéric Chaslin the current chief conductor. As a result, this season’s performances of two rare and especially challenging scores by Rossini and Szymanowski were beautifully realized by Chaslin and the young American music director Evan Rogister, showing high competence. Chaslin’s input as chief conductor for SFO, and especially as conductor of Rossini’s 1820 masterwork, Maometto II, proved invaluable. He’s a major asset.

Gioachino Rossini’s little-known tragedy enjoyed a splendid cast that included four highly gifted singers doing full justice to the severe vocal and musical demands set by the great Rossini in his fruitful Naples-San Carlo Opera years that were so creative (18 operas in seven years!). Santa Fe has now produced a superb Ermione (2000), as well as Maometto II from those years, and next season, La Donna del Lago (Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake), will be heard, completing a rich sampling of a famous, if not oft-performed, period of Italian bel canto history. This is true festival fare, and few opera companies have the resources or resolve to make it work as well as does the Santa Fe troupe. General Director Charles MacKay took risks in producing such repertory but all concerned have been well rewarded.

The rare Rossini had two key advocates to make it happen just now at Santa Fe: Italian lyric basso Luca Pisaroni, who was keen to sing the title role, and the distinguished musicologist Prof. Philip Gossett, who is editing a new critical edition of all Rossini’s works, and had ready at hand a reconstruction of the ‘original’ Naples version of 1820, mainly the work of distinguished Dutch musicologist and editor Hans Schellevis. Mr. Gossett said in a recent interview that the Santa Fe premiere is a tryout of the new scholarly score for evaluation in performance as part of the forthcoming edition of which he is General Editor.

Bel canto specialist Pisaroni wanted to perform the grand tragic piece that had haunted him since his young years when he witnessed the American basso Sam Ramey, in 1985 make a signal success as Maometto in Italy. Under MacKay’s leadership, the necessary support and talents were found and the rest is, literally, musical history. I expect future performances of Maometto II will in some way derive from Santa Fe’s premiere presentation of this important and newly refined masterwork of the Rossini canon.

Over the three hour duration of Maometto II, one may be challenged by the pouring forth of endless florid singing and flood of set pieces, connected by orchestrally accompanied recitatives in bel canto style. We are simply not used to hearing so many notes, so many verses, so many melodic and musical tropes and schemes, and their repetition and lengthy development - so much material, in fact, that Rossini’s middle-period serious works may briefly turn tedious. But then a new idea or musical delight makes it all worthwhile. The music is often glorious, romantic or heroic; solo arias, trios or larger forms, much of it pleases and often thrills. I cannot detail it all, but the performance of a 30-minute terzetto in Act I is one of the most remarkable developments in musical form in its time, even if today it may occasionally seem redundant. In Rossini’s time he was pushing the art with his experimental operas. Maometto II is a Rossini tragic opera, not known to the general opera public, that could command any major world stage and just now there are singers capable of performing it.

In addition to Pisaroni, to whom all laud and glory for his performance, the cast included a young Connecticut soprano Leah Crocetto providing a lovely assumption of Anna, in love with Maometto the Turkish general who is seeking to conquer her homeland, the Venetian colony Negroponte, and the stunning Irish mezzo soprano Patricia Bardon, as Venetian General Calbo (a trouser role), who loves Anna - a highly theatrical triangle, as Anna is put in the true focal point of the opera in making a choice between love and honor. Ms. Crocetto’s youth gives her the ability to move freely and well on stage, in spite of a certain avoir-du-pois, and most of all her warm singing is fresh, strong, technically brilliant and filled with great potential for the drammatico d’agilita roles of Rossini, Bellini, perhaps Spontini and others that are popular today. If she seemed to be occasionally marking time, all was forgiven in the death scene finale, when over a full chorus she spun out ravishing pianissimo tones and then, in her suicide scene, forceful dramatic outcries that bespoke an end to her agonies. Wow!

Ms. Bardon had a similar success with her big scene, an aria encompassing the widest possible mezzo range of both emotion and music. Her voice was full and mature in the best way, filling all florid demands and offering exhilarating color and rhetorical ‘punch.’ Bardon gave her all and maybe ten per cent more, with spectacular results. One more singer was a key to success, as Paolo Erisso, Anna’s desperate father and Head of the Venetians in Negroponte, attempting to defend all against the irrepressible Turks, namely California tenor Bruce Sledge whose bright high tenor served perfectly.

I heard the second performance, July 18, when Susan Sheston’s chorus, comprised mainly of the opera’s apprentice singers, performed their important music accurately and nobly. They had serious work to do and did it well. Smaller solo roles were successfully taken by Matthrew Newlin and Michael Daily.

Stage direction and scenic and costume design were in the hands of the celebrated Director David Alden and visual designer Jon Morrell who were highly effective. Alden’s work was mainly traditional, as it should be for Rossini, and much enhanced by Morrell whose innovative unit set was dynamic and surprising with costumes that were rich and pleasing. Choreographer Peggy Hickey must be commended for her dancers and dancing singers who made the Turco-Venetian hand combat scene into a quasi-Ninja ballet, cleverly realized. Fight director Jonathan Rider had a strong hand in this as did reliable lighting director, Duane Schuler. Maometto II turned out to be one of the most compelling evenings of music theater, if of a certain bel canto style, that I have seen in Santa Fe.

© J.A. Van Sant, 2012

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):