Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

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.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

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.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

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.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

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.

Tosca in Marseille

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.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

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.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

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.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

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.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

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.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal 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: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

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?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

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.

Double bill at Guildhall

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.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

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.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

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]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

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.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

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.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Madama Butterfly, Opera Holland Park
14 Jun 2013

Madama Butterfly, Opera Holland Park

There is a sense in which it all began in London, Puccini having been seized in 1900 with the idea of an opera on this subject after watching David Belasco’s play here.

Madama Butterfly, Opera Holland Park

A review by Mark Berry

 

London, in the guise of Opera Holland Park, certainly repaid the favour on this occasion. Not only, vile weather notwithstanding, did it aid my already rapid thawing towards Puccini; it offered a production and performance which, considered as a whole, were probably the finest I have yet seen at Holland Park.

It was certainly a relief to be spared the vulgarity of a Zeffirelli-like production. Paul Higgins’s staging and Neil Irish’s designs were not abstract, but they were (at least by some standards) relatively spare, offering a space in which the action may unfold rather than overwhelming it. The screens at the back of the stage both facilitate comings and goings and offer a welcome impression of Japanese or at least Orientalist stylisation; likewise the costumes are ‘faithful’ to time and place, without becoming an end in themselves. The American flag is as noticeable on stage as it is in Puccini’s score, perhaps a little less, but the effect in both is as much exotic as straightforwardly anti-imperialist. I cannot help but wish that Puccini had been a little more restrained in his use both of the ghastly Star Spangled Banner and those too-obvious pentatonicisms, but at least he, like the staging, is relatively even-handed. (I suppose we should remind ourselves that what has become wearily commonplace for us was still very much new musical territory not so long after the celebrated Paris exhibitions.) Higgins also reminds us and holds in our mind that Cio-Cio-San is a dancer, Namiko Gahier-Ogawa’s movement working well in context. Nothing peripheral, however, is permitted to obscure the central tragedy: a signal achievement from which many directors could learn.

That also depends, of course, on a convincing assumption of the title role. Anne Sophie Duprels offered something rather more than merely convincing; she inhabited the role completely, offering a rounded portrayal in dramatic and vocal terms alike. Not a single false note, in any sense, was struck, and one sympathised to a degree beyond the expectations engendered by what can often seem a silly role. Butterfly’s delusion, then, convinced at least as much as her attraction. There was strength without steel, nobility without hauteur. Joseph Wolverton’s Pinkerton occasionally sounded a little too Italianate in the pejorative sense, and proved somewhat lacking in stage presence; still, with the American flag on his side, perhaps he did not need them. Chloe Hinton offered hints of something far more in the role of his wife, but given the nature of that role, they could be little more than that. Patricia Orr, however, impressed greatly as a wise Suzuki, beautiful and graceful of voice and movement. David Stephenson’s Sharpless likewise made much, though never too much, of words and music. The suitors’ and other smaller roles were all well taken.

The chorus sang and acted creditably throughout, clearly well trained. I was surprised by how little I missed the sound of a larger orchestra, the losses proving largely cosmetic rather than fundamental. Indeed, one heard in the City of London Sinfonia’s performance (strings 8.6.4.4.2) a great deal more of the inner workings — more than once I found myself recalling aspects of Die Meistersinger — than one might in a larger-scaled, conventional account. (That is not to claim that I think chamber orchestras should become the norm, but simply to note that, given a high enough level of performance, virtue can arise from necessity.) Manlio Benzi shrewdly marshalled his forces, imparting dramatic tension throughout and steering as clear as might reasonably have been expected from sentimentality.

Mark Berry


Cast and production information:

Butterfly: Anne Sophie Duprels; Pinkerton: Joseph Wolverton; Suzuki: Patricia Orr; Sharpless: David Stephenson; Goro: Robert Burt; Kate Pinkerton: Chloe Hinton; Bonze: Barnaby Rea; Prince Yamadori: John Lofthouse; The Imperial Commissioner: Alistair Sutherland; Butterfly’s Mother: Lindsay Bramley; The Aunt: Loretta Hopkins; The Cousin: Maud Millar; Yakuside: Nathan Morrison; Sorrow: Ben Bristow. Director: Paul Higgins; Designer: Neil Irish; Lighting: Richard Howell; Movement: Namiko Gahier-Ogawa. Opera Holland Park Chorus (chorus master: Holly Mathieson); City of London Sinfonia/ Manlio Benzi (conductor). Holland Park, London, Wednesday 12 June 2013.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):