Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

A sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

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.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

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.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

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!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

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.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

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.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

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.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

David Daniels as Oscar Wilde and Reed Luplau as Bosie [Photo © Ken Howard]
13 Aug 2013

Oscar: A Viable New Opera

Oscar Wilde wrote: “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.” On July 27, 2013, Theodore Morrison’s opera Oscar had its world premiere at Santa Fe.

Oscar: A Viable New Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: David Daniels as Oscar Wilde and Reed Luplau as Bosie

Photos © Ken Howard

 

The opera deals with Oscar Wilde’s decision to stay in England and face trial on grounds of “gross indecency” when he could easily have slipped away to France.

OSCR_3325.gifDavid Daniels as Oscar Wilde and Heidi Stober as Ada Leverson

In 1893, before his trial and incarceration, Oscar Wilde wrote in The Duchess of Padua: "We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell." If only he had capitulated and fled to France… but then that was not in his character.

On July 27, 2013, Theodore Morrison’s opera Oscar had its world premiere at Santa Fe but I did not see it until the third performance on August 9th. The opera deals with Oscar Wilde’s decision to stay in England and face trial on grounds of “gross indecency” when he could easily have slipped away to France. The work depicts his conviction, his two years at Reading Gaol and his release into a Victorian society that was not ready to accept him. The role of Oscar was written for countertenor David Daniels and it was a fine showcase for his talent.

John Cox and Theodore Morrison's opera begins as narrator Walt Whitman, portrayed by Dwayne Croft, tells of his encounter with Wilde who was in the United States on a lecture tour. He gives us some necessary background on the events that culminated in the infamous trial. By encouraging accurate character portrayals, director Kevin Newbury transported the audience back into Victorian London and showed some of the horrors of that era. David Korins’ scenery, much of which looked like wrought iron, was readily mobile and allowed quick changes of the stage picture from hotel lobby to home and from courtroom to prison. David C. Woolard’s costumes placed the action firmly in the final decade of the nineteenth century.

OSCR_0012.gifDwayne Croft as Walt Whitman

David Daniels was a most sympathetic Oscar. He sang with exquisite phrasing and the sweet tones for which he is most justly famous. Wearing all white as the spirit of Whitman who had died before the opera takes place, Croft was a commanding character who pointed out the salient parts of Wilde’s story with robust dark tones. Heidi Stober sang the lyrical role of Ada Leverson with easy high notes, and her voice soared over the orchestra with a lustrous, radiant sound. In a circus of a courtroom, Kevin Burdette was a comical Jack-in-the-box as Mr. Justice Sir Alfred Willis. Later he returned as a dark toned, evil-minded prison governor.

Lyric tenor William Burden was an understanding Frank Harris whose beauty of tone signified his compassion. It was he who tried valiantly to help Oscar. First he offered to take him to France on a private yacht. His lover, Bosie, was already there. Dancer Reed Luplau portrayed Bosie as imagined by Oscar. Dancing Seán Curran’s choreography, Luplau gracefully whirled and jumped about in what would have been uncomfortably confining spaces for most dancers. His athletic portrayal allowed the audience to see Oscar’s vision of Bosie, the man the Irish poet loved with all his heart. Since Oscar would not agree to run away, Harris used his political influence to ameliorate prison conditions for him and for others like him.

Tenor Aaron Pegram and apprentice bass Rocky Sellars were nasty detectives and sadistic prison warders. Written for Santa Fe, this opera had a great many small parts for the company’s numerous talented apprentices. Ricardo Rivera was a spineless hotel clerk, Patrick Guetti an obsequious butler, and Yoni Rose a tough bailiff. Reuben Lillie was an implacable jury foreman, Christian Sanders an unsympathetic chaplain, while David Blalock and Benjamin Sieverding were infirmary patients whose own tragedies formed interlocking puzzle parts with Oscar’s sad tale.

OSCR_2299.gifThe Trial

Evan Rogister conducted the most excellent Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in this performance of Morrison’s first opera. Since the composer had written numerous choral works, he was accustomed to writing for the voice, but it was his orchestration that fascinated me. In the first act, the writing was often bi tonal with some excursions into coloratura to showcase the countertenor’s ability to sing florid music. Although we could occasionally hear sonorities that were reminiscent of Ravel, Stravinsky, and Richard Strauss, generally the music was in Morrison’s own particular style. Act One seemed a bit long, but the second act kept the audience’s interest all the way to the end. Rogister and the orchestra played Morrison’s difficult music as though it was a walk in the park but we know it must have taken a great deal of time to learn. Oscar was co-commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera and the Opera Company of Philadelphia, which will stage it in 2015.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production Information:

Walt Whitman, Duane Croft; Oscar Wilde, David Daniels; Bosie, Reed Luplau; Detectives, Aaron Pegram and Rocky Sellers; Hotel Manager, Ricardo Rivera; Ada Leverson, Heidi Stober; Leggatt the Butler, Patrick Guetti; Frank Harris, Willian Burden; Bailiff, Yoni Rose; Mr. Justice Sir Alfred Willis, Kevin Burdette; Jury Foreman, Reuben Lillie; Prison Warders, Aaron Pegram and Rocky Sellers; Colonel Isaacson, Kevin Burdette; Chaplain, Christian Sanders; Infirmary Patients, David Blalock and Benjamin Sieverding; Warder Thomas Martin, Ricardo Rivera. Conductor, Evan Rogister; Director Kevin Newbury; Scenic Design, David Korins; Costume Design, David C. Woolard; choreographer, Seán Curran; Chorus Master Susanne Sheston.

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):