Recently in Performances
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?
‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies,
that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’
Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon
which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting
and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can
charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to
convey emotion and embody character.
‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.
Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.
It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).
Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.
Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.
22 May 2013
Domingo Conducts Holdridge’s New Opera Dulce Rosa
Dulce Rosa, a brand new opera, had its world premiere Friday night, May 17, 2013 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California. It was produced by Los Angeles Opera, but staged in the smaller theater.
Dulce Rosa, a brand new opera, had its world premiere Friday night, May 17, 2013 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California. It was produced by Los Angeles Opera, but staged in the smaller theater. The opera is based on Isabel Allende’s short story, Una Venganza, (An Act of Vengeance). She wrote it some thirty years ago, at a time when people were attempting to understand the Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological phenomenon that causes hostages to have positive feelings toward their captors. The opera’s heroine, Dulce Rosa, is raped by a Tadeo Cespedes, a high-ranking soldier who kept her alive during an invasion when other women were being killed. Rosa’s father was going to kill her himself, but she promised him that she would wreak vengeance on her abusers if she was allowed to live.
Eventually, she developed some affectionate feelings for Tadeo, despite her attempts to dispel them. Sometime before her ordeal she had become engaged to Tomas, a medical student who went to the United States to study. Returning after the war, he wants to marry her but she gives him back his ring. When she shows her preference for Tadeo, Tomas pulls out a gun and aims for the soldier but kills Rosa. Actually, in Allende’s original, Rosa commits suicide, but librettist and stage director Richard Sparks changed it for the opera. It is a sad story from Latin America in the 1950s, but its dramatic situations work very well onstage. Sparks did not ask the singers to do very much acting and there really could have been a great deal more action, but the story was well told and the music was delightful.
Composer Lee Holdridge has written a tonal, melodic opera with an interesting, complex orchestration. Holdridge is obviously a follower of Puccini. His music is a little bit like that of the late Daniel Catan, but with a stronger string component. Interspersed in the drama is some affecting Church music that adds solemnity and historical context, while offering a bit of respite from the drama. Most of the scenery for the production was composed of Jenny Okun’s projections which were focused on a simple arch with two upper windows designed by Yael Pardess. She projected the lush scenery of a South American spring, stained glass church windows, the devastation of war and the beginning of a post-war rebirth. Anne Militello’s lighting designs added greatly to the ambience seen on stage. Durinda Wood’s costumes were a mixture of Latin American folk dress, army uniforms, and 1950s street and formal clothing.
The most important aspect of this performance was the singing. Uruguayan soprano Maria Antúnez not only has sterling silver high notes, she also has a warm, creamy middle register. Tall and slim, she was a most believable Rosa. In truth, she is an excellent new artist whom I hope to hear in other roles as well. Greg Fedderly, whose voice seems to have grown as of late, was Rosa’s overbearing father. In Act I his tones were warm and his nature inviting. When he returned as a ghost in Act II, he was an avenging angel who even threatened his daughter. Like many starring sopranos, Rosa has a mezzo-soprano companion. Sung passionately by Peabody Southwell, Inez not only provided pleasant harmonies, but also an occasional Allende one-liner.
Warm voiced tenor, Benjamin Bliss, soon to sing Alfredo in La Traviata, was the disappointed fiancé who returns to find that his Rosa has become an entirely different person. Dark voiced Mexican baritone Alfredo Daza was the sexy bad boy who eventually won Rosa’s heart. He made Tadeo an intriguing character and probably won a few hearts in the audience as well. In the middle of war and conflict of emotions, the politician Aguilar, sung and acted most effectively by Craig Colclough, played both sides against each other and gained high office. His character was one we know all too well. Grant Gershon’s chorus was usually heard singing Holdridge’s charming Church music. Plácido Domingo conducted the moderate sized orchestra, bringing out Holdridge’s complex, nuanced melodies and the dramatic tonal language that supported Sparks’ text. Although the performances in Santa Monica are sung in English, a Spanish translation will soon be ready. Dulce Rosa is at the Broad Stage through June seventh.
Click here for cast and production information.