Recently in Reviews
Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.
It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’
On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.
In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.
Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.
Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.
On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.
English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.
It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).
There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.
In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman
theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or
amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators
or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in
other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.
Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.
Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.
On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.
The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard
Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014
by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine
Goerke in the title role.
Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.
The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings
On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!
At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.
08 Aug 2013
A Very Real Traviata
Conductor Leo Hussein, like many of the artists in the production, was making his debut. His take on the story was immediately ascertainable when he played parts of the overture with an earthy tone. This was Violetta’s world, where otherwise refined men wined, dined, and cavorted with the most expensive Parisian courtesans.
On Monday August 5 Santa Fe opera presented a revival of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata with Brenda Rae in the title role. Since there is no curtain in Santa Fe, the entering audience saw a stage full of boxes with varying heights. Conductor Leo Hussein, like many of the artists in the production, was making his debut. His take on the story was immediately ascertainable when he played parts of the overture with an earthy tone. This was Violetta’s world, where otherwise refined men wined, dined, and cavorted with the most expensive Parisian courtesans.
The women’s costumes were colorful with extensive décolletage, tiny waists, and huge slits in their full skirts. Director Laurent Pelly acknowledged using costume design to help tell the story. Rae was a totally uninhibited Violetta who was smitten with Alfredo as she sang “Ah forsè lui” but repented her momentary lapse in an emotional “Sempre libera”. She has a good-sized voice and, except for one or two notes, her coloratura was neat and clear. Rae is a fine actress who easily communicates her feelings across the orchestra pit.
Michael Fabiano as Alfredo and Roland Wood as Giorgio Germont
Michael Fabiano sang Alfredo with innumerable gradations of dynamics and Hussein kept the orchestra’s sound level at a point where the lyric beauty of his voice could best be heard. He is a tenor whose talent promised much and in this performance he gave us even more than what was expected. Roland Wood was an officious Germont who began with a rather gruff sound, but his tone improved as he sang the part’s more lyrical moments, however. Despite the constant presence of the boxes instead of space and furnishings, Stage director Laurent Pelly and his artists succeeded telling the story in a most convincing manner.
Brenda Rae is a consummate actress who used halted phrasing and variations in dynamics to depict Violetta’s weakness. When she read Germont’s letter in the last act, she sang “è tardi” (it’s late) and dropped the mirror in her attempt to sit up. Then leaning over the bed in her distress, she looked into the fallen mirror to sing “Oh, come son mutata” (how I have changed). That brought the immediacy of her heartbreak to everyone in the theater. Verdi brought his message home by showing the stark contrast between her anguish and the cheerfulness of the masked chorus of holiday celebrants. The presence of Dale Travis as Doctor Grenvil was a bit of luxury casting. His bass-baritone voice added a great deal to the opera’s finale.
Jennifer Panara as Flora and Jonathan Michie Baron Douphol
Several of this season’s apprentices had solo roles in this performance and all of them performed well. As Flora, Jennifer Panara was a lively, party-loving member of the demi-monde. The Annina, Rebecca Witty, on the other hand was a stolid but faithful servant who would not desert Violetta in her last hours. Tenor Joseph Dennis and bass Rocky Sellars were the obsequious servants of Violetta and Flora. Bass-baritone Andre Courville was a suave Marquis d’Obigny and bass Adam Lau was an effective messenger. This rendition of La Traviata gave a good start to this week’s five opera sequence.
Cast and production information:
Violetta, Brenda Rae; Alfredo Michael, Fabiano; Germont, Roland Wood; Flora, Jennifer Panara; Marquis d'Obigny, André Courville; Gastone, Keith Jameson; Baron Douphol, Jonathan Michie; Doctor Grenvil, Dale Travis; Anina, Rebecca Witty; Conductor, Leo Hussein; Director and Costume Designer, Laurent Pelly; Scenic Design, Chantal Thomas; Lighting design, Duane Schuler; Chorus Master, Susanne Sheston.