Recently in Performances
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.
As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus
tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra
from the depths of her soul.
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