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.
Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.
The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.
Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.
If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.
Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.
With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.
Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.
Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.
The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.
One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.
That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.
Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.
‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.
The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.
In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.
High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.
The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.
‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.
It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?
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.