Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Paul Groves as Parsifal. Act 1. [Photo by Dan Rest]
23 Jan 2014

Parsifal, Chicago

The dimly lit stage becomes gradually suffused with spare light during the prelude to Richard Wagner’s Parsifal in its new production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Parsifal, Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Paul Groves as Parsifal. Act 1. [Photo by Dan Rest]

 

At the same time a group of youths is awakened and encouraged by Gurnemanz in their prayers of devotion. This daily routine of the Grail community is staged with somber dignity before the King Amfortas is carried onstage in the midst of renewed and heightened suffering. The sudden arrival of Kundry, credited with access to magical powers, gives temporary hope as she beings a balsam with the potential of healing. When the King is brought to his bath Gurnemanz narrates the background of all that has transpired in this community of religious and worldly aspirations. Before the title character makes his first appearance the figures and events listed have created an atmosphere at once stagnant and yet somehow prepared for resolution. In the role of Gurnemanz Kwangchul Youn makes his Chicago Lyric debut. Kundry is also a house debut role for Daveda Karanas. Amfortas is sung by Thomas Hampson. Knights and esquires of the Grail are portrayed by John Irvin, Richard Ollarsaba, Angela Mannino, J’nai Bridges, Matthew DiBattista, and Adam Bonanni. Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

The intrusion of Parsifal, sung by Paul Groves in his role debut, was staged with appropriate surprise and confusion generated among members of the Grail community and by the title character himself. Just as the isolated Grail inhabitants recognize Parsifal’s violent deed in killing a wild swan, the protagonist understands his own actions as a natural response to his surroundings (“Gewiß! Im Fluge treffe ich, was fliegt!” [“Of course! I shoot down in flight whatever has wings!”]). The musical and dramatic depiction of these introductory scenes catches the spirit of Wagner’s score and text while yielding an individual approach to the current Lyric Opera production. In his admonishments to the Grail knights and attendants Mr. Youn uses his rich bass voice with remarkable facility. Lines such as “Sorgt für das Bad!” (“Prepare the bath!”) and “Der König stöhnt!” (“The king is groaning!”) are intoned with a sense of authority combined with underlying compassion. Forte pitches were sung as natural extensions of the vocal line and Youn’s intonation showed a deep understanding of the communicated text. At times the pronunciation of unstressed final syllables was overly exact, a tendency which detracted only slightly from an otherwise exemplary Gurnemanz. The fluttering character of Kundry is captured aptly in Ms. Karanas’s approach. She used her secure and extensive vocal range in such lines as, “nur Ruhe will ich … Schlafen! - oh, daß mich keiner wecke! Nein! Nicht schlafen! - Grausen faßt mich!” (“I simply wish to rest … to sleep! Oh, let no one awaken me! But no, not sleep! - Fear takes hold of me!”) in order to emphasize the ambiguity inherent in Kundry’s persona. In the role of Amfortas, as a means to communicating without doubt the King’s suffering Mr. Hampson emoted in an interpretation that should have depended more on a sung line if it were to remain lyrically and dramatically credible. The Parsifal of Mr. Groves is sung with a warm tone suggesting innocence and identification with his mother, important for her descent from the family of the Grail. Decorations performed by Groves on the line “Im Walde und auf wilder Aue waren wir heim” [“We made our home in the forest and on the open meadow”] indicate his identification with kinship and defense of his upbringing until the present. The trio of Gurnemanz, Kundry, and Parsifal interacts with progressing revelations concerning the youth and the atmosphere into which he was destined to find himself. Youn’s character becomes gradually paternal as he recognizes Parsifal’s heritage and attempts to guide him toward the Grail’s true essence. [“nun laß zum frommen Mahle mich dich geleiten” (“now let me lead you toward the sacred repast”)]. After a procession of knights has passed, the King is once again brought in to experience the presence of the Grail at the sacred hour [“hoch steht die Sonne” (“the sun stands now at its height in the sky”)]. In response to Amfortas and his emotional cries of “Wehe!” in this production, Parsifal moves slightly closer to the suffering victim, yet only as a demonstration of curiosity. The collected knights of the Grail, here very well prepared in their diction and controlled projection, recite the invitation “Nehmet vom Brod … Nehmet vom Wein” [“Partake of the bread … Partake of the wine”] before the prostrate Amfortas is removed on his pallet. In the final image before the act’s end Youn as Gurnemanz reacts with appropriate derision over Parsifal’s inaction [“Du bist doch eben nur ein Tor” (“You are nothing but a simple fool”)], as he commands the youth to leave.

The realm of Klingsor in Act Two illuminates the ambivalent character of Kundry and makes further apparent, as if from a distance, the failings in the present generations of the Grail. This act also prepares the audience to experience the resolution of such deficiencies through Parsifal as protagonist during the final act. As such, the trio of performers in Act Two is vital to the continued development of Wagner’s aesthetic. Ms. Karanas and Mr. Groves, joined by the Klingsor of baritone Tómas Tómasson, made of this act a model of vocal and dramatic excitement. Klingsor is dressed in this production in a variegated red costume with the same hue painted onto his face. He is further positioned in a stylized neon structure, also in red, which emits smoke from the tower at his commands. As Tómasson proclaimed “Die Zeit ist da!” and “Herauf zu mir!” [“The time has come!” and “I summon you up to assist me!”] the stage was set for Parsifal’s arrival and Kundry’s obedient responses. Tómasson’s interpretation of the sorcerer is impressive for his vibrant, dramatic vocalism as well as his physical involvement in Klingsor’s demands. His performance of Klingsor’s laugh is equally chilling as he witnesses Parsifal’s approach and describes the hero’s searching glances into the magical garden [“Wie stolz er nun steht auf der Zinne!” (“How proudly he is standing there on the parapet!”)] After Klingsor’s interaction with Kundry, he conjures the flower-maidens to tempt Parsifal. This scene was effectively staged with costumes and movements even overdone in some respects. Kundry’s subsequent attempts to seduce Parsifal and her further revelations concerning his heritage and mother Herzeleide were delivered by Karanas with superb control, especially in the upper register. Groves’ Parsifal truly came into his own in this act, as he unleashed dramatic pitches on “Die Klage” (“The lament”) and a moving legato approach to “Erlösungswonne” (“joy of redemption”).

In a fitting preparation for the resolution of Act Three the production stages clearly the demise of Klingsor and his realm via his own spear. Parsifal catches the weapon to put an end to this magical and destructive kingdom. With this spear and resolve to atone for his own failings Groves as Parsifal proceeds to seek out the Grail as Act three develops. His ultimate healing of Amfortas’s interminable cries of “Wehe!” with the application of the spear, now transformed in its effect, elevates both the kingdom of the Grail and Parsifal’s own position in this production’s unforgettable transformation.

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):