Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

L'ubica Vargicová is Marie and Stephen Costello is Tonio [Photo by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz courtesy of San Diego Opera]
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.

By Maria Nockin

Above: L'ubica Vargicová is Marie and Stephen Costello is Tonio

Photos by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz courtesy of San Diego Opera

 

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.

jkw_regiment012413_259.gifEwa 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 ending.

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.

jkw_regiment012313_241.gifKevin 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.

Maria Nockin


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 Barrett.

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):