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Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.
On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.
Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”
Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live
music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible
stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at
opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it
premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.
I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.
At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.
On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.
The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.
The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.
Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.
Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.
Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.
Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner
Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a
stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he
embodied a perfect Rodolfo.
Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of
watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It
scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you
can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its
A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.
On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.
Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.
Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered
as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.
Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.
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.