26 Mar 2013
Cruzar la Cara de la Luna
Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) has been performed in Houston and Paris.
It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.
On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.
Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.
Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.
It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.
Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.
Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.
Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.
The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.
On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.
There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.
It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.
At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.
Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?
Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.
Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.
Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.
Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.
An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.
On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.
Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) has been performed in Houston and Paris.
The matinee performance on Saturday March 16, 2013, in San Diego was the work's West Coast premiere. The title refers to the yearly migration of monarch butterflies between the United States and Mexico.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the indigenous people of Mexico made music with rattles, drums, flutes, and conch-shell horns. The Spanish introduced violins, guitars, harps, brass instruments, and woodwinds which tended to replaced most of the original instruments. Native peoples learned to play and eventually to make the European instruments, which were first used only for Mass. Later the new instruments came into more general use but some of their shapes and tunings were adjusted for local use. Mexican music has evolved greatly over the intervening centuries, so it has undergone many changes. Mariachi music is thought to have developed from "Son" music, which featured guitars and harps played by part time musicians wearing huarache sandals and white clothing.
Cecilia Duarte as Renata
By the end of the nineteenth century, the traditions of European music were firmly established in Mexico and various forms of musical entertainment were written and performed by both Mexican and European artists. In rural areas, the members of local bands wore in charro outfits. Later this clothing would be worn by urban Mariachi bands, which until recently were all male. Mariachi music and the musicians who played it became more professional in the nineteen forties and fifties. Mariachi Vargas became a legend, appearing in films and accompanying stars singers. The group expanded by the addition of trumpets, violins and even a classical guitar so that they became a kind of orchestra, keeping the traditional son/mariachi base while integrating new musical ideas and styles. Mariachi Vargas traces its history from the 1890s. Generations of players have maintained the group's authenticity as a mariachi band while the music has evolved. Although the last Vargas associated with the group died in 1985, the group still considers itself the original band because the music has been passed down from one generation of musicians to the next.
Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) has been performed in Houston and Paris. The matinee performance on Saturday March 16, 2013, in San Diego was the work's West Coast premiere. The title refers to the yearly migration of monarch butterflies between the United States and Mexico. Members of families, too, migrate between the two countries and sometimes spend a great deal of time away from their loved ones. Much of the audience in San Diego's sold out Civic Theater was Mexican-American and many of the people could relate personally to the family portrayed on stage. The show opened with Brian Shircliffe as Mark singing of the butterflies and accompanying himself on the guitar. His baritone voice sounded like liquid gold and his song was the beginning of a very intense performance.
Soprano Brittany Wheeler portrayed the Americanized Diana, a member of the latter generation, who wanted to catch up with her Mexican past. Vanessa Cerda-Alonzo was Lupita, a Mexican village wife whose husband was spending most of his time away from her. Both of them sang with dramatic tones as they portrayed their important characters. Colombian tenor David Guzman was the lone high male voice in this performance and his trumpet-like sound was a good fit with the Mariachi orchestra and the lower voices of much of the cast.
Cecilia Duarte as Renata, Brittany Wheeler as Diana and Octavio Moreno as Laurentino
The most fascinating character was Renata, played by Mexican mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte. She sang both lyrical and dramatic songs, she also danced, and her characterization brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience. Because Renata missed her husband, she hired a guide to take her and her son to him. She told no one that she was pregnant and wanted her baby to be born in the States. Unfortunately the long walk through the desert was too hard for her and, like others before her, she died before reaching her goal. The guide took the little boy back to Mexico, but he did not see his father for many years. Duarte gave an amazing performance and I would love to see her again.
Saul Avalos was a committed Chucho; Octavio Moreno a strong voiced Laurentino, and Juan Mejia an energetic Victor. The music composed by José Pepe Martinez is sometimes dramatic and at other times lyrical with kind of a big band sound from muted trumpets. His use of the harp added welcome rhythmic textures while the text told the story clearly and with considerable detail. Foglia's scenery was practical, Cesar Galindo's costumes attractive, and the lighting by Brian Nason made the visuals most effective.
Supertitles were offered in both languages so that whether you spoke Spanish or English you always knew what was being sung. The Mariachi band was led by violinist Jose Martinez, Sr. The three trumpets were always perfectly in tune, as were the harp, vihuela, guitarron, and guitar, but there were one or two instances when the violins were not completely synchronized. It's a shame that the company was only in San Diego for one day. Let's hope they will soon be back. Before and after the opera there were performances by Mariachi bands on the plaza outside the theater and it was good to see so many excellent local groups taking part.