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Bellini I puritani : gripping musical theatre

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Benjamin Britten met Mstislav Rostropovich in 1960, in London, where the cellist was performing Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto. They were introduced by Shostakovich who had invited Britten to share his box at the Royal Festival Hall, for this concert given by the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. Britten’s biographer, Humphrey Carpenter reports that a few days before Britten had listened to Rostropovich on the radio and remarked that he ‘“thought this the most extraordinary ‘cello playing I’d ever heard”’.

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English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

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Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

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Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.



Susan Graham as the Grand Duchess [Photo by Ken Howard]
19 Aug 2013

Grand Duchess of Gerolstein at Santa Fe

On Wednesday August 7, Santa Fe Opera presented an energetic, fun-loving production of Jacques Offenbach, Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy's The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein.

The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein at Santa Fe Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Susan Graham as the Grand Duchess [Photo by Ken Howard]


Santa Fe Opera produced it several times in the seventies, but this year's staging was definitely not your grandmother's version.

On Wednesday August 7, Santa Fe Opera presented an energetic, fun-loving production of Jacques Offenbach, Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy's The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein. First seen at the 1867 Universal Exposition in Paris, its singable tunes and military satire made it a big hit. Santa Fe Opera produced it in the seventies, but this year's staging was definitely not your grandmother's version. Director Lee Blakely's colorful, energetic production took place at the Gerolstein Military Academy located somewhere in the US Midwest. He and Choreographer Peggy Hickey added gymnastics and cheerleading to the usual singing and dancing. There are plenty of cartwheels and even a new Offenbach can-can. Adrian Linford's arched sets made a good background for the active staging while Jo van Schuppen's costumes were wonderfully decorative and exquisitely detailed. Although the music was sung in the traditional French, the updated English dialogue was full of double entendres.

Susan Graham was the Grand Duchess, a role made famous by Paris's best-loved singing actress of the 1860s, Hortense Schneider. The Duchess, who loved men in uniform, took a whirl with practically every male on the stage, but since she was a good woman at heart, she dropped them when told they had families. In the meantime, she flirted deliciously, sang in idiomatic French style and danced gracefully with an occasional high kick! Graham is a super-star mezzo-soprano in her prime and this role was perfectly suited to her vocal and histrionic abilities. Her impressive second act aria was the focal point of the evening.

Lyric tenor Paul Appleby, who sang with beautifully colored tones, was a warm hearted, if clueless, Fritz who only wanted to marry his girlfriend Wanda. Sung by radiant, clear-voiced Anya Matanovič, Wanda is eventually united with Fritz at the end. Much of Gerolstein's comedy was fomented by the demoted General Boum, sung by sonorous bass Keven Burdette, the amusing Baron Puck, interpreted by effervescent tenor Aaron Pegram, and Prince Paul, the lanky, reluctant bridegroom, sung by smoky-voiced baritone Jonathan Michie. Numerous apprentices excelled in small solo parts while others formed Susanne Sheston's fine chorus. Emmanuel Villaume led the admirably precise orchestra in this well-paced rendition of Offenbach's exhilarating music.

Maria Nockin

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