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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
“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.
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.
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.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
05 Oct 2012
Mozart’s Ghost finds its Way through Das Labyrinth
W.A. Mozart, despite a historically antagonistic relationship with his city of birth, retains an omnipresence in Salzburg that emerges in full force with each iteration of the illustrious summer festival.
The indulgence reached its
pinnacle in 2006—fifty years prior to his tercentenary—with the
staging of all 22 of his operas, including early works which scholars have
discovered to have been co-authored by his father, Leopold. This season, the
new Intendant Alexander Pereira has brushed the dust off another 18th-century
obscurity, written not by W.A. himself but in posthumous tribute to his last
opera, Die Zauberflöte. The librettist and impresario Emmanuel
Schickaneder, eager to ride the success of the Singspiel, set to work writing a
sequel, Das Labyrinth, and found a willing partner in the composer
Peter von Winter. The work was premiered at the Theater an der Wien in 1798,
seven years after Mozart’s death and the premiere of Die
To Schickaneder ‘s credit, the ambiguous nature of good and evil in
the original libretto continues to provide scholars with endless fodder. When
Goethe heard of the Das Labyrinth’s success in 1803, he began penning his
own sequel which was left incomplete after the fruitless search for a composer.
While Goethe develops the story in a more Romantic direction, endowing Tamino
and Pamina with a son, the Genius, and augmenting the magical powers of both
the Queen of the Night and Sarastro, the trajectory of Schickaneder’s
sequel does not depart much from Die Zauberflöte despite the
introduction of several new characters and a labyrinth which represents the
final trial for Tamino and Pamina (never mind that Sarastro already initiated
them into his sun circle). Meanwhile, the Queen is scheming not only with the moor
Monostatos but Tipheus, King of Paphos, who vies for Pamina’s hand. They
manage to briefly abduct the princess, but the Queen must ultimately cede to
Sarastro’s powers when Tamino defeats Tipheus in a duel. Papageno and
Papagena, who have discovered a large extended family, also help suppress evil
by capturing Monostatos.
Winter’s score faithfully adopts strains of the original opera with a
range of success. The first duet of Papageno and Papagena, “Lalaera!
Lara! Lara!,” is a pleasant spinoff of “Pa, pa, pa…”
without directly rehashing Mozart’s melodies. The chorus of priests that
ends the eleventh scene of Act One is skilfully crafted, a ghost of
Mozart’s incomparable harmonies, yet it would have been better placed at
the very end of the act. The Queen’s opening aria “Ha! Wohl mir!
Höre es, Natur” reveals that Winter studied his late Mozart operas
carefully, with strong hints of his proto-Romanticism, yet it is melodically
not very inventive, and the firework coloratura that characterizes the role is
reduced to a passage of uninspired runs toward the end. The sequel’s
Pamina is assigned more virtuosity than her original counterpart, but sadly,
the spin-off to the aria “Ach, ich fühl’s”—“ Ach!
Ich muss alleine tragen”—gives no musical indication of her longing
to die and instead culminates in meaningless coloratura. The Three Women, here
named Venus, Amor and Page, get some nice numbers, revealing Winter’s
talent for colourful, pseudo-Mozartean scoring, and yet the effort could have
been more self-conscious. The five-note motive representing the magic flute
does not emerge once, not even when Sarastro hands it to Tamino for protection before
he enters the labyrinth.
Despite the worn-out qualities of the piece, it has its genuinely charming
moments, particularly with Papageno and his clan. In the Salzburg production,
seen August 26, the young Austrian baritone Thomas Tatzl stole the show as the
feathered bird catcher, joking to the audience with tireless charisma and a
naturally warm, well-projected voice. Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann was also
delightful as Papagena. The celebrated tenor Michael Schade was the stand-out
of the evening from a purely vocal perspective in the role of Tamino, while
Malin Hartelius was more uneven as Pamina, struggling to overcome the
unfavourable acoustics of the Residenzhof, a covered courtyard where audience
members sat with blankets on their laps to ward of the chill of the Salzburger
Schnürrregen (sudden rainfall). The bass of Christoff Fischesser
similarly risked being swallowed in the role of Sarastro. As the Queen of the
Night, Julia Novikova was strongest in pure lyric moments. The baritone Klaus
Kuttler was a frustrated Monostatos, and Anton Scharinger amusing as the Older
The Three Women (Nina Bernsteiner, Christina Daletska, and Monia Bohinec)
brought fine singing to the stage, as did members of the Festival
Children’s Choir who appeared to Tamino as the “Three Genies”
after Monostatos’ attempt to abduct Papagena. The Salzburger Bachchor,
prepared by Alois Glassner, did full justice to Winter’s choral numbers,
and Ivor Bolton led the Orchestra of the Mozarteum in a characteristically
crisp, authentic reading of the score, even if it occasionally lacked elegance.
Sets by Raimund Orfeo Voigt started out inauspiciously with a mini-proscenium
of a theatre that looked straight out of a high-school production but improved
with towering black panels punctured with light to represent Sarastro’s
circle. Costumes by Elisabeth Binder-Neururer were designed in the local
tradition of semi-rococo but reached their apex in the colourful Lederhosen-
and Tracht-inspired garb of the Papageno family. The dancing, feathered
children of the finale reaffirmed Salzburg as an anachronism Mozart might never
have imagined could exist over three centuries after his death.
Click here for cast and production information.