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Macbeth, LA Opera

On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.

COC’d Up Ariodante

Director Richard Jones never met an opera he couldn’t ‘change,’ and Canadian Opera Company’s sumptuously sung Ariodante was a case in point.

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

Toronto: Bullish on Bellini

Canadian Opera Company has assembled a commendable Norma that is long on ritual imagery and war machinery.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.



Nikki Einfeld [Photo:]
30 Dec 2013

Don Pasquale, Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera opened its 41st season with a rootin’ tootin’ new production of Don Pasquale from November 23 through 29, last staged by the Prairie company in 1997.

Don Pasquale, Manitoba Opera

A review by Holly Harris

Above: Nikki Einfeld [Photo courtesy of artist]


Donizetti’s opera buffa is typically set in circa 1840s Rome. 1840s Rome. This tongue-in-cheek version à la spaghetti western based on San Diego Opera’s 2002 production (originally conceived by David Gately) transplants the story 40 years later to an imagined American Wild West, where men were men and women pack pistols while belting out high Fs.

Stage directed by Winnipegger Robert Herriot, the 160-minute (with two intermissions) production also featured the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra led by Tyrone Paterson. Tony Fanning’s intricately detailed sets on loan from the SDO featured a hotel lobby, study and garden, with a wheeled horse providing dramatic entrances for the cowpokes. Bill Williams’ lighting design and period, western costumes by Helen Rodgers rounded out the show.

Manitoba Opera is to be commended for daring to mess with the popular comedy. However, all too often, the extra hijinks and stage business pulled focus from many of the opera’s “big” vocal moments, which inadvertently competed with mariachi bands, pantalooned floozies and even a stuffed squirrel. Ruffini’s libretto contains enough inherent comedy; by negating or avoiding poignant contrasts, such as with Norina and Ernesto’s heartfelt Act III duet “Tornami a dir che m’ami” in which they pledge their love, “more” actually became “less.”

However, Donizetti’s operas are ultimately about bel canto and MO’s newest production teemed with soaring arias and vocal pyrotechnics delivered (almost) flawlessly by the fine international cast.

Last seen delivering a sparkling portrayal of Marie in MO’s 2012 production of Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment, Winnipeg-born Nikki Einfeld flounced about the stage as sassy widow Norina during her opening cavatinaQuel guardo il cavliere/So anch’io la virtù magic” before her wheedling “Via, caro sposino ” replete with gravity-defying runs. Her clear lyric colouratura soprano has only grown stronger and more confident with each passing year – plus she swings a mean lasso; proving herself both a comedic and vocal heir apparent to her renowned mentor, Tracy Dahl who performed the same role in 1997.

Another pleasure was seeing acclaimed character bass-baritone, Peter Strummer in the title role, last heard three years ago as Dr. Bartolo during MO’s The Barber of Seville. After a few balance problems with the orchestra resolved during opening “Ah, un foco insolito,” his booming voice and fearless buffo comedy always entertained.

American tenor Michele Angelini’s chaps-wearing cowboy Ernesto enthralled right from his first aria “Mi fa il destino mendico.” In Act II’s“ Cercherò lontana terra” his golden voice floated even higher than the frothy bubbles in his bathtub.

Lyric baritone Brett Polegato’s Dr. Malatesta stylized as a cigar-toting Buffalo Bill with requisite sidekick Hop Sing (Alan Wong) machinated the plot like a master puppeteer. His robust opening aria “Bella siccome un angelo” was matched equally by his rapid-fire delivery of “Aspetta, aspetta, cara sposina” performed with a spluttering Strummer. An encore reprise (usually performed), would have been the icing on this multi-syllabic show-stopper.

The Manitoba Opera Chorus ably prepared by Tadeusz Biernacki injected welcomed spectacle and energy as the newly hired household help during Act III’s “I diamanti, presto, presto” and later “Che interminabile andirivieni!” performed with mocking glee.

Holly Harris

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