Recently in Performances
Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to see three different productions within little more than a couple of months).
Opera houses’ neglect of Janáček remains one of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the ‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa, Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely hook most for life. From the House of the Dead might do likewise for someone of a rather different disposition, sceptical of opera’s claims and conventions.
Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.
George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.
Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.
‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’
Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is
wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.
This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.
As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.
From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the
Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the
appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic
dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today,
‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in
genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.
On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.
A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.
Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.
Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.
What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.
I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s
Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The
Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and
further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic
term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.
Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical
Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the
previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final
at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the
young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.
On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.
Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.
London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.
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.