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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.



Act II of La bohème [Photo courtesy of Arizona Opera]
30 Jan 2014

Puccini’s La bohème at Arizona Opera

On January 25, 2014, Arizona Opera presented Candace Evans production of Puccini’s La bohème with exciting young artists Zach Borichevsky and Corinne Winters as a romantic Rodolfo and his charming but not-so-innocent Mimì.

Puccini’s La bohème at Arizona Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: A scene from Act II of La bohème [Photo courtesy of Arizona Opera]


Giacomo Puccini and Ruggiero Leoncavallo both wrote operas based on Henri Murger’s Scènes de la Vie de Bohème, but their operas are very different. Not only does each tell different parts of Murger’s wide ranging Scènes, Puccini and his librettists, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, changed much of the story. For one thing, they made Mimì more faithful to Rodolfo, and thus much more acceptable to a bourgeois audience. The distribution of voices is also quite different. In the Puccini Mimì and Musetta are sopranos; Rodolfo is a tenor and Marcello a baritone. In the Leoncavallo, Mimì is a soprano, Musetta a mezzo, Rodolfo a baritone, and Marcello a tenor.

The Puccini opera starts with the men in their garret, but Leoncavallo puts the whole group in the Café Momus where they attempt to “dine and dash” because they have no money. His Act II opens on the repossession of Musetta’s property because her ex-lover is refusing to pay her debts. By Act III, Musetta, who had again taken up with Marcello, is leaving him because she is tired of poverty. She knows that Mimì is living with a nobleman and she hopes to do that too. Mimì returns to Rodolfo in the final act, but she is very ill. She dies as the bells chime for Christmas day. Although it might be fun to see the Leoncavallo opera someday, it is easy to see why Puccini’s story, even without his exquisite music, makes it the more popular work.

On January 25, 2014, Arizona Opera presented Candace Evans's production of Puccini’s La bohème with exciting young artists Zach Borichevsky and Corinne Winters as a romantic Rodolfo and his charming but not-so-innocent Mimì. Evans gave us a realistic interpretation of the libretto staged on sets by Peter Dean Beck. The first and fourth acts took place in a frigid attic room that radiated its cold out into the audience. A dual level set provided adequate space for the joyous outdoor Christmas Eve scene that formed the opera’s second act. It was a perfect background for Andrea Shokery’s grand entrance as the flirtatious Musetta. She sang her coquettish waltz song with dulcet tones, all the time trying to rekindle the interest her old lover, Marcello. When her shoe began to pinch her foot, she asked her escort, Alcindoro, to help her remove it. As he pulled off the shoe she pulled up her several skirts, to his embarrassment and the amusement of the audience.

As Marcello, baritone Daniel Teadt still loved her despite her acerbic personality, and he was happy to take her into his arms. Puccini never gave the lovesick Marcello an aria but Teadt had some beautifully lyric moments in Act III. Chris Carr was a gregarious Schaunard and Thomas Hammons made the most of his two character roles, Benoit, the ineffectual landlord, and Alcindoro, the old dandy who gave up a great deal of dignity to have a beautiful young woman on his arm. Young artist program member Calvin Griffin acquitted himself well as the intellectual Colline. Together, these artists evoked great depth of emotion with their ability to color their tones and act with their voices. Although the story of this opera is sad, Henri Venanzi’s choristers made the second act a pleasant interlude in Mimì’s inevitable decline. At the end, Rodolfo was the last to realize she has died, but when he finally did it was heartbreaking. Joel Revzen led the Arizona Opera Orchestra in a lucid reading of the score that brought out to poignancy of the story. This was a fine performance of the Puccini masterwork and the exquisite playing of the orchestra was a large part of it.

Maria Nockin

Cast and production information:

Rodolfo, Zach Borichevsky; Mimì. Corinne Winters; Musetta, Andrea Shokery; Marcello, Daniel Teadt; Collie, Calvin Griffin; Schaunard, Chris Carr; Benoit/Alcindoro, Thomas Hammons; Parpignol, Dennis Tamblyn; Conductor, Joel Revzen; Director Candace Evans; Chorus Master, Henri Venanzi; Scenic Designer, Peter Dean Beck; Costumes, A. T, Jones and Sons; Lighting, Douglas Provost.

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