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Macbeth, LA Opera

On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.

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“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

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A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

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At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

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Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

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English National Opera: Don Giovanni

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World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

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Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

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Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.



Above: Nadia Krasteva is Delilah and Clifton Forbis as Samson  [Photo by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz. courtesy of San Diego Opera]
02 Mar 2013

Samson and Delilah, San Diego Opera

Samson and Delilah is the only opera by Camille Saint-Saens that is still regularly performed. He had written two previous operas and would write several more, along with a long list of instrumental pieces including The Carnival of the Animals.

Samson and Delilah, San Diego Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Nadia Krasteva is Delilah and Clifton Forbis as Samson [Photo by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz. courtesy of San Diego Opera]


In the 1860s the composer was aware of a renewed interest in choral music, so he planned an oratorio on the story of Samson that is found in Chapter sixteen of the Book of Judges in the Old Testament. He spoke to the husband of one of his wife's cousins, Ferdinand Lemaire, about writing a libretto for it and the writer said the story would make a good opera. They began working on it as an opera, but other concerns interrupted them.

Fellow composer Franz Liszt, who was interested in producing new works by talented composers, persuaded Saint-Saëns to finish Samson and Delilah, saying that he would produce the completed work at the grand-ducal opera house in Weimar.

The composer tailored the role of Delilah for Pauline Viardot (1821–1910), but by the time the work was finished and could be staged, the singer was too old to perform it. She did, however, organize a private performance of the second act at a friend's home with the composer at the piano. A great admirer of the work, she hoped that this private performance would encourage the director of the Paris Opéra to mount a full production. Although Saint-Saëns completed the score in 1876, no opera houses in France displayed any desire to stage Samson and Delilah.

It was Liszt's support that led to the work being premiered in a German translation on December 2, 1877, in Weimar, where it was a resounding success. But there were many intervening years before it started to become popular in other cities. Its Paris premiere at the Éden-Théâtre did not take place until October 31, 1890, but audiences did give it a warm reception. Over the next two years, performances were staged in Bordeaux, Geneva, Toulouse, Nantes, Dijon, and Montpellier. When the Paris Opéra finally presented the opera on November 23, 1892, audience members and critics alike praised it.

On February 19, 2013, San Diego Opera presented Samson and Delilah in a traditional production directed by Leslie Koenig. The solid looking, effective scenery was designed by Douglas Schmidt and the soft colored costumes were originated by Carrie Robbins. All were constructed at San Francisco Opera. Koenig’s direction told the story in a straightforward manner and made no attempt to update or change the setting from the borders of Judah, Dan, and Philistia in the late twelfth or early eleventh century BCE.

Clifton Forbis was a dramatic Samson who showed us the wages of his character’s sins. Vocally, he started off slowly, but it is a long role and his pacing was good after the first scene. His best singing was heard during the poignant third act aria, ‘Vois ma misère, helas’. Tall and slim Nadia Krasteva was a sensual, seductive Delilah who fully captured her man when she sang ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’ (My Heart Opens at your Voice). Her voice had a purple velvet sound and the low notes of her chest voice were exquisite. As the High Priest of Dagon, Anooshah Golesorki commanded the stage as he sang with a stentorian voice. His second act duet with Krasteva was quite memorable.

Gregory Reinhart was a compelling Old Hebrew and Mikhail Svetlov a fiery Abimilech. Doug Jones, Scott Sikon, and Greg Fedderly gave interesting portrayals as Philistines. Since the composer originally thought to write this work as an oratorio, the chorus is very important. Under the direction of Charles F. Prestinari, the San Diego Opera Chorus sang Saint-Saens’ rousing music with great gusto. Conductor Karen Keltner is an expert on both French language and French music, so she coached the singers’ diction in addition to leading the orchestra in this idiomatic performance. She brought out Saint-Saens’ love for the exotic and her interpretation was particularly impressive in the ‘Bacchanal’. Her tempi were well thought out and the playing was rich and translucent. Kenneth von Heidecke’s choreography was fun to watch and the enticing music made the entire audience want to join the dance.

Maria Nockin

Cast and Production Information

Clifton Forbis, Samson; Nadia Krasteva, Delilah; Mikhail Svetlov, Abimelech; Anoosha Golesorki, High Priest of Dagon; Scott Sikon and Doug Jones, Philistines; Greg Fedderly, Philistine Messenger; Gregory Reinhart, Old Hebrew; Karen Keltner, conductor; Leslie Koenig, director; Kenneth von Heidecke, choreographer; Charles F. Prestinari, chorus master; Douglas Schmidt, scenery; Carrie Robbins, costumes; Gary Marder, lighting design. San Diego Opera, Civic Theater, Tuesday, February 19, 2013.

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