Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

Kurt Weill’s Street Scene

Kurt Weill’s “American opera,” Street Scene debuted this past weekend in the Kay Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with a diverse young cast comprised of students and alumni of the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS).

Handel's Brockes-Passion: The Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Hall

Perhaps it is too fanciful to suggest that the German poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747) was the Metastasio of Hamburg?

POP Butterfly: Oooh, Cho-Cho San!

I was decidedly not the only one who thought I was witnessing the birth of a new star, as cover artist Janet Todd stepped in to make a triumphant appearance in the title role of Pacific Opera Project’s absorbing Madama Butterfly.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (front) as Don Giovanni with Ievgen Orlov as the Commendatore. (Photo: Robert Millard)
09 Oct 2012

Don Giovanni, LA Opera

In our era of minimal cultural restraints Don Giovanni has been the opera of choice for presenting dissolution on stage. Rape, oral sex, drug use and urination have been portrayed to Mozart's melodies.

Don Giovanni, LA Opera

A review by Estelle Gilson

Above: Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (front) as Don Giovanni with Ievgen Orlov as the Commendatore. (Photo: Robert Millard)

 

How was the singing and conducting? It's hard to know. In such productions, the direction is the topic of interest.

Countering this trend, the Los Angeles Opera Company's second presentation of its season was a plain though not simple Don Giovanni. The production, borrowed from Lyric Opera of Chicago, was created for that company's 50th anniversary season in 2004, by the much-hailed German director Peter Stein with a view to adhering closely to Mozart's music and Da Ponte's words.

Although there's hardly an opera that doesn't — like Don Giovanni — have love, sex and death at its core, it is Da Ponte's unique libretto that has allowed this centuries old work to become a kind of touchstone of an era's cultural tastes. It's title — Il Dissoluto punito, ossia Don Giovanni — dramma giocosa — “The Profligate Punished or Don Giovanni — a playful drama” tells us that we will first see a a man's nasty behavior, then see him punished, and that we'll have a good time watching it all. And sure enough, when the curtain goes up we witness a scuffle after a probable rape, followed immediately by a murder. Subsequently we are exposed to two acts of the protagonist's unrelenting reprehensible conduct, with some laughs thrown in. At the very end we see him get his supernatural comeuppance, and are treated to a fairly merry fugue — a sort of victory song.

“I hate shows where the director is onstage,” Stein is quoted as saying. “I want to follow the intentions of the author as far as I can understand them.” And follow Mozart and Da Ponte he did. Rather than drag Don Giovanni into the 21st century, Stein's production takes its audience back to the time of the opera's creation, and allows us to see and hear what Mozart and Da Ponte were trying to tell us about the characters' words and hearts. Although Stein did not direct the Los Angeles production, director Gregory A. Fortner led the cast in a lively and well paced performance which illuminated the complex interactions between the characters.

The plain, and least attractive aspect of the production are the minimal, flat looking sets that featured occasional cutout doors and windows, and a tiny balcony that had me fearing for Donna Elvira's safety. None of it looked like it was taking place in Spain. Fortunately, the music making was bright enough to light the stage. As Don Giovanni, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo was a slim legged graceful, amoral seducer. His resounding bass-baritone, which reflected his enthusiasm for the role, faltered only once in a surprisingly listless “Fin ch' han dal vino.” Bass-baritone, David Bizic, making his American and Los Angeles debuts as Leporello, was a perfect partner. The two have played these roles opposite each other and it shows. Joshua Bloom, a young Australian bass, also was making his Los Angeles debut, was a properly bumptious Masetto. And Ievgen Orlov, yet another bass (it may surprise you to know that this dramma giocosa features four major bass baritone roles) had the requisite depth and darkness to cause chills in his last encounter with the Don. In the role of Don Ottavio, one of the more thankless in opera (two gorgeous arias, and mostly stand around) tenor Andrej Dunaev, another debutant with the company, demonstrated some lovely legato. The three female roles were equally well filled. Californian Juliana Di Giacomo, making her LA debut as Donna Anna, displayed the grim seriousness and easy coloratura necessary for the role. Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski's silken soprano and acting made her an almost lovable love stricken Donna Elvira. Mezzo Roxanna Constantinescu was appropriately pert and charming as Zerlina.

DnG4235.pngLeft to right: Soile Isokoski as Donna Elvira, David Bizic as Leporello, Roxana Constantinescu as Zerlina, Joshua Bloom as Masetto, Julianna Di Giacomo as Donna Anna, Andrej Dunaev as Don Ottavio. (Photo: Robert Millard)

For all the wonderful acting and singing, one of delights I have in seeing Mozart conducted by James Conlon, is watching him lead vocal ensembles when the soloists are stage forward. Conducting without a baton, it is a joy to follow as he weaves their voices into a gleaming musical fabric.

Quibble department? Only about some excessive humor, particularly a moment when Don Giovanni and Leporello exchange clothing and comically respond to the odors of each others' garments. It's a neat touch, but causes outright audience laughter that drowns out the first phrases of Donna Elvira's “Ah taci, ingiusto core.”

I attended the September 30th performance of Don Giovanni. Performances on October 10 and 14 will be led by Plácido Domingo, with Angela Meade and Micaëla Oeste, making their Los Angeles Opera debuts as Donna Anna and Zerlina, respectively.

Estelle Gilson


Production:

Leporello:David Bizic*; Donna Anna:Julianna Di Giacomo*/Angela Meade*; Don Giovanni: Ildebrando D'Arcangelo; Commendatore:Ievgen Orlov; Don Ottavio: Andrej Dunaev; Donna Elvira:Soile Isokoski; Zerlina:Roxana Constnatinescu/Micaëla Oeste*; Masetto:Joshua Bloom*

Conductor: James Conlon/Plácido Domingo
Original Production:Peter Stein*
Diector: Gregory A. Fortner
Set Designer: Ferdinand Wögerbauer*
Costume Designer: Moidele Bickel*
Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler
Chorus Master: Grant Gershon

*Company debut

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):