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

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.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus

The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.

Mahler Symphony no 8 : Jurowski, LPO, Royal Festival Hall, London

Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.

Rameau's Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques: a charming French-UK collaboration at the RCM

Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.

St Matthew Passion: Armonico Consort and Ian Bostridge

Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he embodied a perfect Rodolfo.

New opera Caliban banal and wearisome

Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its less-than-tragic plight.

Two rarities from the Early Opera Company at the Wigmore Hall

A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Tracy Dahl as Gilda and Todd Thomas as Rigoletto [Photo by R. Tinker  courtesy of Manitoba Opera]
07 Dec 2012

Rigoletto, Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera launched its celebratory, all-Verdi 40th anniversary season with the Italian master’s Rigoletto that still rattles the soul with its tale of revenge, murder, deceit and heart-wrenching pathos.

Rigoletto, Manitoba Opera

A review by Holly Harris

Above: Tracy Dahl as Gilda and Todd Thomas as Rigoletto [Photo by R. Tinker courtesy of Manitoba Opera]

 

Its three-performances were held November 24through 30, 2012 at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall.

Based on Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse (The King Amuses Himself), the three-act opera composed in 1851 is considered one of Verdi’s greatest works also including his (slightly) later Il Trovatore and La Traviata. Its complicated plot set in 16th century Mantua revolves around hunchbacked court jester Rigoletto, torn between defending his cherished only daughter Gilda’s virtue and avenging the lascivious Duke of Mantua who has dishonoured her. But — like any good opera — it also firmly posits the redemptive power of love as well as becomes its own cautionary tale about the vicious games people play.

Any piece of theatre is often only as good as its casting. In this case, a stellar choice of leads directed by former Winnipegger Robert Herriot created a strong production with nary a weak link onstage. Realistic sets designed by Lawrence Schafer (New Orleans Opera) depicting the opera’s respective locales of castle, house and inn helped create effective stage pictures — including a striking opening tableau for the opening party/orgy scene. MO music advisor/principal conductor Tyrone Paterson sensitively led the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra throughout the three-hour evening.

American baritone Todd Thomas’ powerhouse performance as the white-faced, sunken-eyed jester showcased not only his booming voice, but equally mesmerizing acting ability. He subtly nuanced his title character with every emotional shade imaginable, turning instantly on a dime from bitter pitifulness during Act I aria “Pari siamo!” — including self-flagellating while decrying his deformity — to hell-bent fury against all those who torment him.

Winnipeg’s musical treasure, world-class colouratura soprano Tracy Dahl also triumphed in the role of Gilda. The petite singer with a stratospheric voice hit just the right note with her not-so-innocent character desperately longing for love and freedom. Her electrifying Caro Nome, with each note crafted as a multi-faceted jewel rightfully earned sustained applause from the audience. Dahl’s effortlessly sung Act II aria “Tutte le feste al tempio” also displayed her innate gifts as a singing actress, as did touching finale “Chi mai, chi è qui in sua vece?” where she tearfully begs her father for forgiveness.

Newfoundland tenor David Pomerory imbued his lecherous Duke with hotheaded passion and wanton playfulness. He projected his deeply resonant voice well beyond the footlights in opening “Questa o quello«, as well as during Act II’s intricate quartet “Bella figlia dell’amore« sung with Dahl, Thomas and South African-Canadian mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal as seductive harlot Maddalena. Pomerory also filled the opera’s eternally famous aria La donna è mobile with swaggering confidence and ringing high notes that becomes key to its tragic dénouement.

American bass Peter Volpe double-cast as the villainous Count Monterone and assassin Sparafucile created an intriguing doppelgänger worthy of further contemplation. Volpe’s thunderous curse on the jester as the Count during Act I’s ”Ch'io gli parli” would make anyone collapse in fear. His slithery hit man included his declamatory voice sinking to the utter depths in “Quel vecchio maledivami!”

An all-male ensemble from the MO Chorus prepared by Tadeusz Biernacki presented as the velvety-courtiers, crisply enunciating choruses Zitti, ziti and later Possente amor mi chiama. But as pranksters who ultimately drive the action by goading the jester, they often appeared too courtly-mannered, with their relatively stiff staging bypassing many golden opportunities to show their true, nasty stripes.

Bill Williams’ lighting design proved mostly effective despite Act III’s wild storm flashes that appeared too stylized in an otherwise traditional production. And Dahl — especially when costumed in her drab boy’s disguise in the final scene virtually disappeared into the shadows during trio “Ah, più non ragiono!” where she vows to sacrifice herself for her lover.

It might seem a no-brainer for Manitoba Opera to program an entire season of Verdi’s works, especially during its milestone anniversary season that also includes Aida next spring. The composer’s intensely dramatic operas still resonate — for better or worse — with 21st century audiences. Still, MO has made a wise choice in Rigoletto, with its particularly strong cast fearlessly delivering this timeless and ever-tragic tale.

Holly Harris


Click here for cast and production information.

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):