Recently in Performances
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.
As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus
tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra
from the depths of her soul.
11 Dec 2013
The Magic Flute at Los Angeles Opera: Silent Film Style
Los Angeles Opera's new production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Magic Flute opened on November 23, 2013. Brought here from the Komische Oper in Berlin where it premiered last year, the production is a multimedia rendition in the style of the British theater group 1927.
Los Angeles Opera's new production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Magic Flute opened on November 23, 2013. Brought here from the Komische Oper in Berlin where it premiered last year, the production is a multimedia rendition in the style of the British theater group 1927. The concept by Suzanne Andrade, Paul Barritt, and Barrie Kosky combines opera with 1927's silent movie technique to produce a 'film noir' ambience. Throughout the evening singers interacted with the hand-drawn animation projected onto the screen to evoke the style of silent film. The use of projections instead of stick-built scenery is a growing trend among opera companies since it saves a good deal of time and money that can be used elsewhere.
Although designer Esther Bialas had to deal with the lighting from the projections, she made the singers look like their characters as they acted out the story in front of screens. Silent-film pictures with minimalist texts above Buster Keaton-styled images appeared during the opera's recitatives. Pianist Tamara Sanikidze accompanied them on an eighteenth century hammerklavier with music from Mozart's fantasias K 397 in D minor and K 475 in C minor. Her artistry was magnificent and the extra music provided an unexpected treasure.
Tamino (Lawrence Brownlee, at left) and Papageno (Rodion Pogossov, at right) are sent by the Three Ladies (Hae Ji Chang, Cassandra Zoe Velasco, Peabody Southwell) to rescue Pamina.
The projected video sometimes involved nearly one thousand layers that had to be manually triggered by the stage manager so that the animation matched the conductor's tempi. Los Angeles Opera Music Director James Conlon called the concept 'an extraordinary idea and an extraordinary execution of that idea', adding that 'for LA, the birthplace of movies, it's a perfect fit'. Barrie Kosky said that the rhythm of the music and the text had an enormous influence on the animation. He and his collaborators condensed the dialogues and transformed them into silent film 'intertitles' with piano accompaniment.
After a rousing rendition of the opera's overture, the voice of Lawrence Brownlee as Tamino resonated throughout the hall as he fought a huge dragon that wanted to devour him. He sang this aria and the rest of the role with beautifully cultivated tone. The Three Ladies who really did slay the monster were Hae Ji Chang, Cassandra Zoé Velasco, and Peabody Southwell. Chang's radiant, lustrous soprano was particularly well focused. Velasco provided sumptuous harmony, but Southwell's low notes could have been stronger. Evan Boyer, the Sarastro, is a very young bass with a pleasant voice but his low tones could have been more robust. As the Queen of the Night, Erika Miklósa negotiated her phenomenally difficult arias without missing the tiniest note. Most coloratura sopranos don't sing the Queen for very long, but she has sung it for more than four hundred performances.
Thrown out of Sarastro's temple, Monostatos (Rodell Rosel) teams up with the Queen of the Night's Three Ladies (left to right: Hae Ji Chang, Cassandra Zoe Velasco, Peabody Southwell).
Dressed as Nosferatu, Rodell Rosel portrayed an evil Monostatos whose amusing aria did not win him much sympathy. The tenor voice of Vladimir Dmitruk, the First Armed Man, made listeners wonder when he will sing a larger part. Philip Addis was a stentorian speaker and Valentin Anikin a secure Second Armed Man. Amanda Woodbury was a charmingly sexy Papagena and the three boys from the LA Opera Children's Chorus added a piquant note to the mix. Grant Gershon's adult chorus sang with stirring harmony in their hand-drawn, animated state. Conductor James Conlon, who regaled the audience with a delightful pre-show lecture, had a little difficulty synchronizing stage and pit in the first moments after the overture. After that, he conducted with delightfully varied tempi and rubato that brought out the lilting qualities of Mozart's music. Premieres are always fun at Los Angeles Opera and this one was the cream of the crop.
Cast and production information:
Tamino, Lawrence Brownlee; Pamina, Janai Brugger; The Queen of the Night, Erika Miklosa; Sarastro, Evan Boyer; Papageno, Rodion Pogossov; First Lady, Hae Ji Chang; Second Lady, Cassandra Zoé Velasco; Third Lady, Peabody Southwell; Monostatos, Rodell Rosel; Papagena, Amanda Woodbury; The Speaker, Phillip Addis; First Armored Man, Vladimir Dmitruk; Second Armored Man, Valentin Anikin; First Boy, Drew Pickett; Second Boy, Charles Connon; Third Boy, Jamal Jaffer; Conductor, James Conlon; Directors, Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky; Animation, Paul Barritt; Concept 1927 (Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt) and Barrie Kosky; Scenery and Costume Designer, Esther Bialas.