Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Glyndebourne's wartime Ariadne auf Naxos

It’s country-house opera season, and Glyndebourne have decided it’s time for a return of Katharina Thoma’s country-house-set Ariadne auf Naxos, first seen in 2013. Thoma locates Strauss’s opera-about-opera in a 1940s manor house which has been sequestered as a military hospital, neatly alluding to Glyndebourne’s own history when it transformed itself into a centre for evacuees from east London and the Christie children’s nursery became a sick bay.

On Trial in Saint Louis

That Opera Theatre of Saint Louis fearlessly embraces the cutting edge is once again evidenced by their compelling American premiere of The Trial.

A Traditional Rigoletto in Las Vegas

On June 9, 2017, Opera Las Vegas presented a traditional production of Verdi’s Rigoletto conducted by Music Director Gregory Buchalter with a cast headed by veteran baritone Michael Chioldi. A most convincing Rigoletto, Chioldi was a man in psychological pain from the begining of the opera. His fear and his vulnerability to the whims of the nobility were evident in every meaty, well-colored phrase he sang.

Thumbprint, An Amazing Woman Leaves an Indelible Mark

Thumbprint is the story of the young, innocent and illiterate Mukhtar Mai who was assaulted by a group of powerful men. Following the attack, Mukhtar, having supposedly been disgraced, was expected to commit suicide. Instead, she amazed everyone who knew her by going to the police and calling for the arrest of her attackers.

Kaufmann's first Otello: Royal Opera House, London

Out of the blackness, Keith Warner’s new production of Verdi’s Otello explodes into being with a violent gesture of fury. Not the tempest raging in the pit - though Antonio Pappano conjures a terrifying maelstrom from the ROH Orchestra and the enlarged ROH Chorus hurls a blood-curdling battering-ram of sound into the auditorium. Rather, Warner offers a spot-lit emblem of frustrated malice and wrath, as a lone soldier fiercely hurls a Venetian mask to the ground.

Don Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

My Fair Lady at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its spring musical production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady Lyric Opera of Chicago has put together an ensemble which does ample justice to the wit and lyrical beauty of the well-known score.

Henze: Elegie für junge Liebende

Hans Werner Henze’s compositions include ten fine symphonies, various large choral and religious works, fourteen ballets (among them one, Undine, that ranks the greatest of modern times), numerous prominent film scores, and hundreds of additional works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo instruments or voice. Yet he considered himself, above all, a composer of opera.

Werther at Manitoba Opera

If opera ultimately is about bel canto, then one need not look any further than Manitoba Opera’s company premiere of Massenet’s Werther, its lushly scored portrait of an artist as a young man that also showcased a particularly strong cast of principal artists. Notably, all were also marking their own role debuts, as well as this production being the first Massenet opera staged by organization in its 44-year history.

Seattle: A seamlessly symphonic L’enfant

Seattle Symphony’s “semi-staged” presentation of L’enfant et les sortilèges was my third encounter with Ravel’s 1925 one-act “opera.” It was incomparably the most theatrical, though the least elaborate by far.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

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.

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):