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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?
12 Apr 2013
The Marriage of Figaro Ends Season at Arizona Opera
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro has a libretto by Lorenzo daPonte based on the French play La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (The Crazy Day or the Marriage of Figaro) by Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799).
The son of a watchmaker, Beaumarchais first became noticed at the French court when he made a watch with a new type of mechanism that was small enough to be mounted on a ring. Twice, he married a rich older lady who, after a short time, died in questionable circumstances. He joined the king’s secret service and took the side of the American colonists against the English. Under the name of Rodrigue Hortalez and Company, he employed a fleet of forty ships for the American cause.
During the same period of time he was writing Le Barbier de Seville (The Barber of Seville), which was staged in 1775, and Le Mariage de Figaro, which he completed in 1778. Although there were many private readings of the Figaro play in the late 1770s, most people did not see it until 1784 because of problems with king and the censors. There is a great deal of the personality of Beaumarchais in his resourceful title character. French revolutionaries, however, did not appreciate the playwright. Because of his past positions at court he was imprisoned. Later he was released, but his possessions were confiscated. He died a poor man in 1799.
On Saturday, April 6, 2013, Arizona Opera presented Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at Phoenix Symphony Hall. Susan Benson’s scenery, originally designed for the Banff Centre, had walls painted in the rococo style of French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau. They were a joy to behold and they meshed beautifully with Mozart’s music. Douglas Provost’s subtle lighting helped make them an important part of the show. Benson’s costumes were totally authentic, too, even to their colors and underpinnings. Kelly Robinson’s stage direction allowed the singers to establish believable characters and they made the plot easy to grasp despite its intricate twists.
Jason Hardy, who made his debut at this performance, was a secure Mozart singer with a vigorous, robust sound that matched his energetic stage presence. As Susanna, Joélle Harvey was a perfect match for him. At the end of this longest role in the repertoire, the tiny, vivacious soprano was still as fresh as a newly opened cactus flower. She even embellished some of her lines with tasteful ornaments that might well have been sung in Mozart’s time. Erin Wall was a lovelorn Countess who sang enthralling legato lines with an opulent sound palette, and she never seemed to run out of breath. Her Count, Marian Pop, was a charismatic comedian with sonorous low tones. His first act double take had the whole audience laughing. Cherubino is a character with his feet planted firmly on a cloud. Jamie Van Eyck filled the bill perfectly, singing her arias with polished tones and bringing the audience thoughts of first love.
Peter Strummer was a strong and commanding Bartolo who was all the more amusing because he took himself so seriously. He tossed off the fast patter of his aria with finesse. As Marcellina, Susan Nicely sang a thoroughly amusing duet with her supposed rival, Susanna. One can muse on what kind of a mother-in-law she would eventually become. Members of the Marion Roose Pullin Resident Artists Program sang the smaller roles. Soprano Bevin Hill was an ebullient Barbarina with a sweet clear voice. Tenor David Margulis was a stuttering Don Curzio and a nosey, self-satisfied Don Basilio. Tall, lanky Thomas Cannon hunched down and assumed a plodding gait to become Antonio, the alcoholic gardener. The part really showed his talent for characterization.
Of course, it is the conductor who holds the entire performance together and Joel Revzen kept a tight rein on all of it. His overture was on the fast side, but his overall tempi were pleasantly brisk. Most importantly, he gave the singers all the room they needed. Only on the following Monday did we learn that General Director Scott Altman had handed in his resignation. Director of Artistic Administration Ryan Taylor holds the top position until a new general director is selected.
Cast and production information:
Figaro, Jason Hardy; Susanna, Joélle Harvey; Countess Almaviva, Erin Wall; Count Almaviva, Marian Pop; Cherubino Jamie Van Eyck; Dr. Bartolo, Peter Strummer; Marcellina, Susan Nicely; Don Basilio and Don Curzio, David Margulis; Antonio, Thomas Cannon; Barbarina, Bevin Hill; Conductor, Joel Revzen; Director, Kelly Robinson; Set and Costume Design, Susan Benson; Chorus Master, Henri Venanzi, Lighting Designer, Douglas Provost.