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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!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

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.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

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.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

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.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

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.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

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.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.



Image courtesy of Arizona Opera
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 Marriage of Figaro Ends Season at Arizona Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above image courtesy of Arizona Opera


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.

Maria Nockin

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.

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