Recently in Performances
Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.
It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.
Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.
Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.
Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.
The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.
On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.
There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.
It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.
At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.
Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican,
London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony
Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating
a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens
or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?
Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.
Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.
Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.
Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me
I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.
An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.
On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.
Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.
On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.
In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.
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.
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.