Recently in Performances
Bruckner, Bruckner, wherever one goes; From Salzburg to London, he is with us, he is with us indeed, and will be next week too. (I shall even be given the Third Symphony another try, on my birthday: the things I do for Daniel Barenboim
) Still, at least it seems to mean that fewer unnecessary Mahler-as-showpiece performances are being foisted upon us. Moreover, in this case, it was good, indeed great Bruckner, rather than one of the interminable number of ‘versions’ of interminable earlier works.
Thomas Larcher’s Second Symphony (written 2015-16) here received its United Kingdom premiere, its first performance having been given by the Vienna Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov in June this year. A commission from the Austrian National Bank for its bicentenary, it is nevertheless not a celebratory work, instead commemorating those refugees who have met their deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, ‘expressing grief over those who have died and outrage at the misanthropy at home in Austria and elsewhere’.
One of the initiatives for the community at the Lucerne Festival is the
‘40 min’ series. A free concert given before the evening’s main event that ranges from chamber
music to orchestral rehearsals.
The mysteries and myths surrounding Mozart’s Requiem Mass - left unfinished at his death and completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr - abide, reinvigorated and prolonged by Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus as directed on film by Miloš Forman. The origins of the work’s commission and composition remain unknown but in our collective cultural and musical consciousness the Requiem has come to assume an autobiographical role: as if Mozart was composing a mass for his own presaged death.
I saw two operas consecutively at Oper Koln. First, the utterly
bewildering Lucia di Lammermoor; then Thilo Reinhardt’s
thrilling Tosca. His staging was pure operatic joy with some
Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with
the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music.
His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in
C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the
Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.
Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.
‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.
This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?
A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert. Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.
On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.
On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.
When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.
It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.
Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.
This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at
’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.
With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.
When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.
Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe
Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.
Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.
06 Feb 2013
Fille du Regiment from San Diego Opera
Born to a very poor family in 1797, Gaetano Donizetti was lucky enough to become the pupil of Johann Simone Mayr, the Maestro di Capella of his native city, who recognized his talent and made sure he received appropriate instruction.
As a young composer who came from a poor family, he had to accept
every possible commission. In 1822, he began to produce light operatic comedies
for Naples. Eventually, he began to write more serious works, but he had an
immense gift for comedy as evidenced by works such as La Fille du
Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment), L’Elisir d’Amore
(The Elixir of Love), and Don Pasquale. In 1830, he had a major
international success in Anna Bolena. After that he was invited to
compose in other countries such as France, where the censors seemed easier to
please. In 1838 he left Naples for Paris where, two years later, he produced a
trio of successful operas to French texts, La Fille du Régiment,
Les Martyrs, and La Favorite. He also did an Italian
adaptation of La Fille for La Scala. In 1843, the first United States
performance of the opera took place in French in New Orleans.
On January 29, 2013, San Diego Opera offered La Fille du Régiment
as its first presentation of the season. Emilio Sagi’s production, originally
seen at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna, Italy, moved the time of the action
from the nineteenth century to the twentieth, just after World War II. Instead
of French soldiers in Austria, we saw American soldiers in France. Designer
Julio Galán gave us a bombed out bar for Act I, and a luxurious salon for Act
II. His costumes included many dull tan army uniforms, but there were more
interesting outfits on the nobility in the second act. Slovakian coloratura
soprano L’ubica Vargicovà who was seen in San Diego previously as Gilda in
Verdi’s Rigoletto, sang Marie. She has also sung the Queen of the
Night in Los Angeles Opera’s The Magic Flute, so Marie’s high
notes and fioritura held no terrors for her. She sang with great
precision and showed excellent comic timing.
Ewa Podleś is the Marquise de Birkenfeld
As her lover, Tonio, Stephen Costello once again showed us the warm, bright
ringing tones of his tenor voice. San Diego has heard him as Romeo and Faust,
but the role of Tonio is much more demanding than either. His virtuosic first
act aria ‘Ah, mes amis,’ is well known for its nine high Cs and Costello
hit each of them exactly in the center of the note, holding the last one with
seeming ease. Naturally, the applause was deafening. For the rest of his role
he was a charming lover who sang with exquisite lyric tones.
San Diego has heard Polish Contralto Ewa Podleś before, both in recital and
in Handel’s Giulio Cesare, but this was her first foray into comedy
there. Vocally, she showed the wide range of her color-filled contralto voice.
She was hilariously funny when, wearing a gorgeous dark red costume, she quoted
a line from Bizet’s Carmen. At the same time she brought out the
Marquise of Berkenfeld’s importance in steering the plot toward its jubilant
Opulent voiced American bass Kevin Burdette was an amusing but believable
military officer who eventually won the heart of the most demanding, but
secretly lonely, Marquise. Soprano Carol Vaness, who is doing more teaching
than singing these days, played the speaking role of the Dutchess of
Krakenthorp. It did not keep her from singing a phrase from San Diego’s next
presentation, Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah, however, and that
pleased her many fans in the audience. Malcolm MacKenzie was an entertaining
Hortensio and Scott Sikon an impressive Corporal.
Kevin Burdette is Sgt. Sulpice,L'ubica Vargicová is Marie and Stephen Costello is Tonio
The opera’s chorus under the direction of Charles Prestinari moved as
individuals and maintained precise harmonies. In his San Diego Opera debut,
Maestro Yves Abel conducted with suave French style that brought out the
score’s tonal beauty. His brisk pacing that kept the tension tight. La
Fille is best known for its uniquely difficult tenor aria, but it has much
more to offer than that high wire act. It is filled with glorious music and
charming situations that can be focused to amuse a particular audience. In this
case the Act II guests, some of them major donors to the opera, were announced
as local royalty to the great amusement of many in the audience who knew them
personally. This Donizetti opera is perfection in operatic comedy and it was a
wonderful start for San Diego Opera’s 2013 season.
Cast and Production
Marie: L’ubica Vargicová; Tonio: Stephen Costello; Marquise de
Berkenfeld: Ewa Podleś; Sergeant Sulpice: Kevin Burdette; Corporal: Scott
Sikon; Hortensio: Malcolm Mackenzie; Conductor: Yves Abel; Director: Emilio
Sagi; Scenic and Costume Designer Julio Galán; Lighting Design: Marie