Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

Kurt Weill’s Street Scene

Kurt Weill’s “American opera,” Street Scene debuted this past weekend in the Kay Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with a diverse young cast comprised of students and alumni of the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS).

Handel's Brockes-Passion: The Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Hall

Perhaps it is too fanciful to suggest that the German poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747) was the Metastasio of Hamburg?

POP Butterfly: Oooh, Cho-Cho San!

I was decidedly not the only one who thought I was witnessing the birth of a new star, as cover artist Janet Todd stepped in to make a triumphant appearance in the title role of Pacific Opera Project’s absorbing Madama Butterfly.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Photo by Robert Kusel
29 Sep 2013

Lyric Opera of Chicago Introduces its Season

In its annual concert presented to the city at Millennium Park, Lyric Opera of Chicago introduced its 2013-14 season on a recent weekend evening with a program of selections featuring several present, past, and future stars of the company.

Lyric Opera of Chicago Introduces its Season

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above photo by Robert Kusel

 

In this year’s concert the Lyric Opera Chorus was featured in a variety of pieces under the direction of its new permanent chorus master, Michael Black. After a prefatory address delivered by the company’s General Manager Anthony Freud the evening’s performance was conducted by Ward Stare.

As a start to the program Mr. Stare led the Lyric Opera Orchestra in a spirited performance of the overture to Béatrice et Bénédict by Hector Berlioz. Tempos were appropriately brisk in the opening section, while Mr. Stare showed a nice attention to legato playing in the subsequent, slower section. Flute and horn passages were especially well controlled in passages that led the orchestra back to its opening tempos and to an energetic and effective conclusion.

The remainder of the first part of the concert was devoted to excerpts from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, which will be featured with two casts in the upcoming season at Lyric Opera. Ana María Martínez and James Valenti sang the parts of Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton. As the geisha Cio-Cio-San muses while alone on the anticipated return of her beloved Pinkerton, she imagines first the sight of his ship on the horizon. As Ms. Martínez intoned the start of her aria “Un bel dì” (“One fine day”) expectation built noticeably on a rising vocal line until she declared “romba il suo salute” (“will thunder its salute”) with an impressive forte pitch. Martínez expressed Cio-Cio-San’s determination with her middle range focused on “non mi pesa” (“will not weary me”), until she envisioned the approach of Pinkerton from afar, starting as “un picciol punto” (“a tiny speck”) in an appropriately piano vision. Hints of later tragedy were expressed with touching innocence, as the words “celia” and “morire” (“to tease”… “to die”) were interwoven vocally. As she identified with her character’s unflagging faith, Martínez concluded this committed performance with a valiant top note on “l’aspetto” (“I shall await him”). Mr. Valenti’s aria from the final act of the opera, “Addio fiorito asil” (“Farewell, flowery refuge”), was performed with good attention to line, a technique which emphasized the haunting memories that would continue to plague him. Valenti’s lower register was somewhat underused yet his high notes in the conclusion of this brief scene (“ah, son vil” [“Oh, I am despicable!”]) were exemplary.

The Lyric Opera Chorus performed the “Humming Chorus” from Act III of Madama Butterfly as a fitting contribution to this first part of the concert. The final piece from Puccini’s opera featured Martínez and Valenti in the extended love scene from the conclusion of Act I (‘Bimba, bimba, non piangere” [“My child, do not cry”]). Laura Wilde sang the role of Suzuki, Cio-Cio-San’s confidante, in the opening of the scene. Once the couple is left alone by Suzuki, the lovers’ passion seems to bloom. Perhaps because of the distance implied in the initially shy or awkward dialogue of the characters, the soloists here sang a convincingly emotional line toward the close of their duet. With Valenti proclaiming at the close “Ah! Vien, sei mia!” [“Ah, come you are mine!”]), there was no doubt that love had indeed been awakened.

In the second part of the concert the Lyric Opera Chorus and Orchestra performed highlights from Lohengrin, Verdi’s Otello, and Il Trovatore. Mr. Black has clearly worked with his forces to achieve a well-prepared ensemble. The varying ranges and effects in the Act III Prelude and Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin were distinct yet well integrated. Tempos were restrained in the Verdian choruses with attention to specific orchestral details magnifying the overall impression.

The final excerpt presented was Act III, Scene 2 of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Again the chorus was given the opportunity to set the tone of ephemeral happiness, here as the guests celebrated with vocal delights the wedding of Lucia. At the height of this joy Raimondo interrupts the ospiti to reveal the tragedy of the bridal chamber: Lucia has stabbed the husband she was forced to marry and lost her reason. Albina Shagimuratova shared the stage with Evan Boyer as Lucia and Raimondo, tutor of the young woman, with Anthony Clark Evans performing the role of Enrico, Lucia’s brother. Mr. Boyer made a strong impression as the initial soloist. He drew on a fully developed palette of vocal colors in order to express the conflicting emotions in Raimondo’s mix of horror and sympathy over Lucia’s actions. “Dalle stanze” (“From the apartments”) showed a smooth lyrical delivery with judicious application of vibrato. Boyer’s chilling enunciation of “insanguinato” (“blood-stained”) made of his voice a convincing witness to the aftermath of the murderous deed. Boyer’s sense of decoration was evident on telling lines, e.g., rising pitches on “l’ira no chiami su noi del ciel” (“may it not call down upon us the wrath of heaven”). At Lucia’s entrance Shagimuratova communicated immediately the sense of a woman unhinged. Notes sung piano and diminuendo as a means to delineate character were in evidence from the start , as she recalled hearing the voice of her true beloved Edgardo (“nel cor discesa!” [“won my heart!”]). Seeming happiness was declaimed on “lieto giorno” (“happy day”), just as Shagimuratova indulged in melismatic richness on the line “A me ti dona un dio” (“God has given you to me”). As she descended further into a mad reverie, Shagimuratova became more ambitious in the insertion of trills and well-chosen decoration. The conclusion was an exciting cap to the evening with a season of vocal drama still awaiting.

Salvatore Calomino

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):