Recently in Performances
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
“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.
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.
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 took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).
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.