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Macbeth, LA Opera

On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.

COC’d Up Ariodante

Director Richard Jones never met an opera he couldn’t ‘change,’ and Canadian Opera Company’s sumptuously sung Ariodante was a case in point.

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

Toronto: Bullish on Bellini

Canadian Opera Company has assembled a commendable Norma that is long on ritual imagery and war machinery.

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.



Jordi Bernacer conducts the LA Opera Orchestra with (front row, left to right) Maria Antunez, Auxiliadora Toledano, Janai Brugger, Placido Domingo, Joshua Guerrero and Antonio Vazquez. (Photo: Robert Millard)
13 Jun 2013

An Evening of Zarzuela and Latin American Music at Los Angeles Opera

The tenor that the audience most wanted to hear, Plácido Domingo, opened the vocal program with “Junto al puente de la peña” (Next to the rock bridge) from La Canción del Olvido (The song of Oblivion) by José Serrano. He sounded rested and his voice soared majestically over the orchestra.

An Evening of Zarzuela and Latin American Music at Los Angeles Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Jordi Bernacer conducts the LA Opera Orchestra with (front row, left to right) Maria Antunez, Auxiliadora Toledano, Janai Brugger, Placido Domingo, Joshua Guerrero and Antonio Vazquez. (Photo: Robert Millard)


On June 7, the plaza of the Los Angeles Music Center was filled with the strains of Mariachi music as patrons arrived and sat down at the tables for a bite of supper before entering the theaters that surround the open space. Singers and instrumentalists came from the LA Opera Mariachi Project, Mariachi Voz de America, and the Mariachi Conservatory Ensemble Class. This being the twenty-first century, both men and women were represented in almost all categories. At 7:30 the program began inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with the Opera Orchestra playing the prelude to La Verbena de la Paloma (The Festival of Our Lady of the Dove) by Tomás Bretón. The conductor for this and most of the other selections on the program was Spaniard Jordi Bernacer. Later he brought the authentic sounds of Spain to the Intermezzo from Reveriano Soutullo and Juan Vert’s La Leyenda del beso (The Legend of the Kiss).

The tenor that the audience most wanted to hear, Plácido Domingo, opened the vocal program with “Junto al puente de la peña” (Next to the rock bridge) from La Canción del Olvido (The song of Oblivion) by José Serrano. He sounded rested and his voice soared majestically over the orchestra. He also sang selections from Soutullo and Vert’s La del soto del parral (The vineyard) and Maravilla (Wonder). With Uruguayan soprano Maria Antunez, Domingo sang the Pasodoble from Pablo Sorozábal’s La del manojo de rosas, (The Rose Bouquet) and “ En mi tierra extremeña” (In my land Extremadura) from Federico Morena Torroba’s Luisa Fernanda. A mezzo-soprano with a smooth, dulce de leche sound, Antunez sang the Carceleras from Ruperto Chapí’s Las hijas de Zebedeo (The daughters of Zebedee) as her solo for the evening.

Domingo invited Pepe Aguilar’s Mariachi el Zacatecano to participate in this program and together they sang José Alfredo Jimenez’s Ella, which was the only selection not translated in the surtitles. However, you don’t have to know the language to appreciate great music. It just stands on its own. Joshua Guerrero, a tenor with a substantial voice from the Domingo Thornton Young Artist Program, gave a melodious rendition of “De este apacible rincón de Madrid” (From this peaceful corner of Madrid), another aria from Luisa Fernanda. After the intermission, he sang “La roca fria del Calvario” (The cold rock of Calvary) from José Serrano’s La Dolorosa with a great deal of passion and fire. His is a voice we will want to hear soon again.

Former Domingo Thornton Program member, Met Auditions, and Operalia winner Janai Brugger sang another selection from La del manojo de rosas, “No corte más que una rosa” (Don’t cut more than one rose) with sterling silver tones. Hers is a truly beautiful soprano. She looked vivacious in her bright red silk gown when she rendered another solo, the rousing “De España vengo” (I come from Spain) from Pablo Luna’s El niño judio. (The Jewish boy) An expressive artist from whom we can expect a major career, she sang duets with both Domingo and Guerrero.

Domingo also brought two singers from Spain: coloratura soprano Auxiliadora Toledano and tenor Antonio Vázquez. Toledano sang the aria “Me llaman la primorosa” (They call me the exquisite) from El Barbero de Sevilla, a zarzuela by Gerónimo Giménez and Miguel Nieto. She had an authentic coloratura timbre, but unfortunately, no trill. Vásquez sang one of the best-known Zarzuela arias, “No puede ser” (It cannot be), from Sorozábal’s La Tabernera del Puerto (The port tavern keeper) with wonderfully authentic style but a smaller voice than we would have heard from Maestro Domingo, who conducted that single piece.

The applause at the end of the program rolled across the auditorium like thunder and you knew that this audience would not go home without encores. Brugger sang an aria from Gonzalo Roig’s zarzuela, Cecilia Valdez and Antunez sang the Romanza from Ernesto Lecuona’s Maria la O. The most interesting new singer that evening was Joshua Guerrero who finished his appearance with Mexican composer Maria Grever’s song, Jurame (Promise me). Domingo topped the evening off singing Consuelo Velázquez’s Béssame Mucho (Kiss me a lot) with the audience joining him, and a final song that always fits his voice perfectly, Agustín Lara’s Granada.

Maria Nockin

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