Recently in Performances
On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.
It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre
Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances
dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed
at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in
the present case.)
I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the
annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I
heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It
was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at
As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to
life on stage
‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.
Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s
L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed
follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high.
The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution
of the CBSO to this concert.
When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities,
upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court
during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined
that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the
opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in
service of his God and his monarch.
Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.
The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.
There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.
First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.
With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).
What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question.
Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although
already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.
16 Jan 2013
A Noteworthy Chicago Revival of Don Pasquale
In its recent run of Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale Lyric Opera of Chicago has taken the 1973 production from Covent Garden, via Dallas Opera, and revivified it with the efforts of an excellent cast and the local directorial debut of British bass-baritone Sir Thomas Allen.
The title role and Doctor Malatesta were sung by Ildebrando D’Arcangelo and Corey Crider respectively, each making his role debut in these performances. Soprano Marlis Petersen performed the role of Norina and her beloved Ernesto was taken by tenor René Barbera. Stephen Lord conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra with the Chorus prepared by Martin Wright.
During the orchestral prelude to the performance the lines delineating melodies associated with individual characters were nicely shaped. Don Pasquale’s opening monologue, in which he comments on his imminent meeting with Malatesta and plans for his nephew Ernesto, could have been fully appreciated if the orchestra had played its accompaniment less forte. From the start D’Arcangelo’s demeanor and conception of the role of Don Pasquale were not only dramatically but also vocally convincing. Equally suited to his part on both grounds is Corey Crider as Dr. Malatesta. When he describes the bride whom he has found for the aging gentleman, Mr. Crider inflects the word “angelo” with a rich, baritonal resonance while further executing accomplished runs in his aria “Bella siccome un angelo.” Both performers show an inborn sense of comic timing in their delivery of lines and interaction. When left alone Pasquale reveled in the prospects of his “angelic” bride, while Mr. Crider’s Malatesta watched through a curtained window in self-satisfied approval of the forthcoming masquerade. In a subsequent exchange Pasquale’s nephew Ernesto refuses to abandon his beloved Norina although he faces the prospect of disinheritance by the old gentleman. When Ernesto now learns of his uncle’s plan to marry, with the unexpected assistance provided by Dr. Malatesta, his disappointment is unleashed in the aria “Sogno soave e casto.” Barbera demonstrated a sure sense of legato in his approach, whereas individual pitches could be softened in order to express the fervor of Ernesto’s plight.
The following lengthy scene of Act One offered both Ms. Petersen and Mr. Crider the opportunities to delineate their characters through musical decoration. After Norina’s introductory “So anch’io la virtù magica,” which Ms. Petersen embellished with exquisite, light touches, Malatesta introduces his plan to fool Don Pasquale. Malatesta quiets her initial misgivings due to Ernesto’s emotional quandary and wins Norina over to the masquerade. As she agrees to play the part of Malatesta’s sister and supposedly marry Pasquale in a contrived ceremony, Norina declares “Pronta io son” at the start of their duet. Petersen and Crider here joined in a bel canto synthesis with Malatesta’s declarations of “Brava” ringing out in decorative anticipation of the comedy to be staged.
At the start of Act Two Ernesto’s well-known scene beginning “Povero Ernesto” was touchingly sung by Barbera. Since he has not yet been informed of the ruse, the nephew laments his loss of Norina and plans to leave Rome forever. Barbera invested his line with a graceful piano on “sorte,” then sang his cabaletta with a spirit of determination. At the entrance of Malatesta with the bride, now named “Sofronia,” Don Pasquale is eager to impress the naïve maiden. In this production Sofronia concealed herself demurely behind a screen, a hiding place to which Pasquale will later have access when fleeing his bride whom he can no longer control. The trio “Fresca uscita di convento” was used to enhance the comedic exchange and to tempt Don Pasquale yet further. Here Petersen’s runs were especially well executed, in this way using her voice to add to the character’s attractiveness. At the start of the marriage ceremony Ernesto’s arrival nearly spoils the ruse until he is warned off by the clever Malatesta. From this point until the start of the final scene in the opera comedy is paramount for among the principals only the duped Pasquale will continue to take his altered domestic life seriously. The quartet concluding the act showed a transformed Sofronia already making extravagant orders to improve the household, while Mr. Crider’s excellent passagework continued to guide the charade with masterful vocal control.
As Act Three begins the chorus of servants issues its comments on the new lifestyle in Don Pasquale’s domain. Throughout this scene D’Arcangelo showed his talents especially at acting and singing the part of an emotionally wounded signor without resorting in the least to buffo cliché. The confrontation between alleged spouses leads to Sofronia proclaiming her momentary dominance with a slap to Don Pasquale’s face. At this point the screen provided refuge to D’Arcangelo’s Pasquale as he sought escape from the wife whose acquaintance he now regrets. The final chapter in the charade is set in motion by Sofronia: upon leaving the house after the altercation with her husband, she drops a note intentionally from a presumed lover in which an assignation at night in the garden is suggested. Don Pasquale, no longer cowed and now furious, seeks out Malatesta for counsel, as the chorus, here quite effectively prepared, comments further on the house gone topsy-turvy. During the meeting between Pasquale and Malatesta, in which the gentleman is once again prepared unwittingly to be fooled, D’Arcangelo and Crider sang a model example of the challenging duet “Cheti, cheti, immantinente.”
The final scene indeed rights relationships as Petersen and Barbera sang an especially moving duet, “Tornami a dir,” in which their voices combined in a rush of emotional commitment. Don Pasquale appears and is compelled, again at the instigation of Malatesta, to give his blessing and financial support to the young couple. Yet in the finale relief and joy were palpable for all, including the now transformed Don Pasquale, at the close of this delightful production.
Click here for cast and production information.