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Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

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.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

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.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

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.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

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.

English National Opera: Tosca

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.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

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).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“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.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

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.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

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: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

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.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

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.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

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.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

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.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

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.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

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.



20 Jan 2013

San Diego Opera new season 2013

The New Year 2013 is here and San Diego Opera will open its season at the end of this month. The company will present four well known operas: Gaetano Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment (La Fille du Regiment), Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson and Delilah, Ildebrando Pizzetti's Murder in the Cathedral (Assassinio nella Cathedrale) and Giuseppe Verdi's Aida along with a Mariachi opera: Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, (To Cross the Face of the Moon).

Although Donizetti was Italian, he composed The Daughter of the Regiment to a French libretto by Jean-Francois Bayard and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges. On February 11, 1840, it was first seen at the Opéra Comique in Paris. Three years later, its American premiere took place in New Orleans, not New York. The opera is a showpiece for the tenor who sings nine high Cs in the aria 'Ah! Mes amis, quel jour de fête'. In San Diego, that tenor will be Stephen Costello who has previously sung brilliant performances of Romeo and Faust there. His
sweetheart, Marie, will be Slovakian coloratura soprano L'ubica Vargicová who was an exquisite Gilda in Rigoletto at San Diego in 2009 and who is well known for her portrayal of the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan and Los Angeles Operas.

Renowned Polish contralto, Ewa Podleś and American soprano Carol Vaness will sing the character roles of the Marquise of Birkenfeld and the Dutchess of Krakenthorp. Here is what Ms. Podleś wrote about the opera: "What is The Daughter of the Regiment about? It’s about love! The Marquise of Berkenfield? In the pure theatrical sense she is not the main role, but on the other hand, it is Marquise who is the spiritus
movens of the entire plot. It is she who finally decides about the fate of two people in love. Their future happiness depends on her. That’s why, even though hers is not the main role, in many ways she is the leading character."

"San Diego is a place with a soul! My return to the San Diego Opera is an opportunity to meet a magnificent, charming staff, sensitive public and personally, Stage Director Emilio Sagi, whom I love to work with because of his internal space and his limitless imagination. And last but not least, a meeting with Carol Vaness. Both of us we made our Met debuts at the same performance of Rinaldo in 1984."

You can see The Daughter of the Regiment on the evenings of Saturday,
January 26th; Tuesday, the 29th; Friday, February 1st, or at the Sunday
matinee on the 3rd.

The second production at San Diego Opera will be Camille Saint Saëns'
Samson and Delilah with bronze-voiced tenor Clifton Forbis as the
Biblical strong man and seductive mezzo-soprano Nadia Krasteva as the
beautiful but treacherous lover who cuts off his all-important hair. With
full chorus, a fascinating ballet, colorful costumes, and monumental
sets, this is a blockbuster production not to be missed. Resident
Conductor and Music Administrator Karen Keltner will lead the orchestra.
Performances are on Saturday, February 16th; Tuesday, the 19th; Friday,
the 22nd; and Sunday, the 24th.

On March 16th, San Diego Opera will present two performances of the
Mariachi opera Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon)
which has music by José "Pepe" Martínez and lyrics by Leonard Foglia
and the composer. The performers are the well-known Mariachi Vargas of
Tecalitlán who can be heard on more than eight hundred recordings. The
bilingual opera follows three generations of a family, their countries,
their cultures and their customs. The central character, Mark Velasquez,
is a Mexican-American. Like the Monarch butterflies which migrate every
year to the birthplace of his father, Mark and the members of his family
must travel both physically and spiritually between Michoacán and Texas
and look deep into their hearts before they learn where they truly

Celebrate the music, memories, color, and high spirits of Mexico in this
semi-staged production as the rich classical sounds of the traditional
Mariachi and brilliant soloists create a poignant and moving opera.
Directed by Broadway's Leonard Foglia, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna will
have super titles in both English and Spanish.

San Diego Opera's presentation of Ildebrando Pizetti's rarely seen
opera, Murder in the Cathedral, has sparked interest from all over
the country. It tells the true story of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of
Canterbury, who was brutally murdered in his cathedral in 1170. The role
of the archbishop is a tour-de-force for the great Italian bass Ferruccio
Furlanetto. Susan Neves sings the leading female role of the First Chorus
and Allan Glassman is the Herald. General Manager Ian Campbell stages the
production and the conductor is Donato Renzetti.

Mr. Furlanetto writes: "Murder in the Cathedral is a wonderful
theater' piece commissioned by the Canterbury Cathedral itself and it has
been a very fortunate subject for a movie as well. In 1953 Ildebrando
Pizzetti composed his opera on this subject, being also extremely
faithful, in his libretto, to T.S. Elliot's best-selling book. It is
based on a real event that occurred during the controversy between the
English monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church which led to the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket after his Christmas sermon in 1070."

"In the Pizzetti work, the character of Thomas Becket is an extremely
demanding role, vocally and physically. It is basically a one-man show in
which the Archbishop, who has returned to England after a voluntary exile
of seven years in France, faces a tremendous decision. He had been a
successful politician and a high-ranking personality in the Kingdom when
he decided to embrace the Catholic faith and become a priest. Now he had
to decide whether to kneel in front of the king or to assert the power of
the Church over the power of the monarchy. Becket knew that the second
choice would have meant a terrible clash with the royal institution but
this choice was the only one left to a man of his integrity. This role is
really fascinating because of the multiple aspects of Becket's
personality and the troubled decision, which would bring him to

"The dramatic character of Thomas Becket is equally supported by the
characteristics of an intense vocal line applied to a splendid, deeply
intellectual text. The scene and aria that ends the first act is one of
the most rewarding moments of the operatic repertoire and a unique
privilege for the interpreter. I am very grateful to the San Diego Opera
to have made this possible. It is a very courageous choice and I am sure
that it will be rewarded by the San Diego audience which is one of the
most refined in the States, and by the national and international
attention that is being paid to this event."

"For me, after the tremendous joy and satisfaction of once again
assuming this role, it will be another splendid occasion to be in my
favorite spot on the planet, an area where I had so many enjoyable events
and situations and where I can count on a great number of friends who
always let me feel always their warmth and affection."

Ms. Neves writes: "I think the plot of Murder in the Cathedral is
very current. There has always been discord between Church and state and
it is still happening today. There are always religious fanatics that
believe they are fulfilling God's will when they randomly kill people who
do not believe as they do. The opera does not focus on the differences
between the King and Becket, per se, but more on the murder itself. As
one of only two female characters in the opera, I feel the First
Chorister is the voice of the people. They are fearful for their beloved
Archbishop and also, as women, feel the grief and desolation of the
injustice of the murder to come and the religious unrest in their

"The role is different from most of the other operas in my
repertoire. The First Chorister is the spokeswoman of the female
chorus and as we know, the Church is a male dominated entity. I am
looking forward to singing a role where I comment on the action
instead of being a part of it. Musically, it is beautiful to sing. As I
mentioned before, I am thrilled to make my debut in San Diego and I am
looking forward to working with Ian Campbell and Maestro Renzetti."

Performances are Saturday, March 30th; Tuesday, April 2nd; Friday the
5th; and Sunday, April 7th.

For it's season finale, San Diego Opera presents Verdi's magnificent Aida
in a setting by fabulous colorist Zandra Rhodes whose vivid, monumental
designs enhance Verdi’s vision of ancient Egypt and make this an
unforgettable production. These brilliant sets and beautifully detailed
costumes follow the lead of Egyptian museum pieces. This production,
which has been feted in London, San Francisco, and Houston, will be seen
in San Diego for the first time. Rising American star soprano Latonia
Moore will be the Aida, the Ethiopian Princess who loves the Egyptian
general. Italian tenor Walter Fraccaro sings Radames, the general, and
the Met's wonderful mezzo, Jill Groves is Amneris. Andrew Sinclair will
direct and Daniele Callegari will conduct. Performances are April 20th,
23rd, 26th, and 28th.

Maria Nockin

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