Recently in Performances
At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme
each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his
contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years
The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.
An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.
On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera ended its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.
This second revival of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 2005 production of Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia seems to have every going for it: excellent principals comprising experienced old-hands and exciting new voices, infinite gags and japes, and the visual éclat of Agostino Cavalca’s colour-bursting costumes and Christian Fenouillat’s sunny sets which evoke the style, glamour and ease of La Dolce Vita.
English Touring Opera’s 2015 Spring Tour is audacious and thought-provoking. Alongside La Bohème the company have programmed a revival of their acclaimed 2013 production of Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) and the composer’s equally rare
The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San
Mary Zimmerman’s still-fresh production is made fresher still by Shagimuratova’s glimmering voice, but the acting disappoints
When WNYC’s John Schaefer introduced Meredith Monk’s beloved Panda
Chant II, which concluded the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk &
Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, he described it as “an expression of joy and musicality” before lamenting the fact that playing it on his radio show could never quite compete with a live performance.
This year’s concert of the Chicago Bach Project, under the aegis of the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, was a presentation of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.
It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.
On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.
Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to
explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs
that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and
theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.
Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.
It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.
Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.
Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.
Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.
The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.
On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.
There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.
19 Mar 2014
San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera
On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.
In 1857, the Teatro San Carlo in Naples commissioned Giuseppe Verdi to write an opera. He first intended the work to be his King Lear, but that could not be ready in time for the 1858 Carnival Season. Later, he and his librettist Antonio Somma decided to base an Italian opera on Eugène Scribe’s French libretto for Daniel Auber's Gustave III, ou Le bal masqué. Scribe wrote about the 1792 assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden who was shot while attending a masked ball. Censors in Italy, however, had serious objections. Verdi and Somma made changes, only to be refused a second time. In his libretto, Scribe had kept the historical figures of Gustav and the fortune-teller, but added the character of Amelia and her romance with the king.
On January 14, 1858, several Italians attempted to assassinate Emperor Napoleon III in Paris. After that, censors absolutely forbade the opera to show the murder of a monarch. They told Verdi and Somma to make further changes. Verdi was so angry that he broke his contract. The management of San Carlo sued him and he countersued. After some months, when the legal issues were resolved, Verdi was free to present the libretto and musical outline of the work to the Rome Opera. Since censors demanded further changes, they moved the site of the action to Boston during the British colonial period.
Tenor Piotr Beczala (Gustav III) and mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe (Madame Arvidson).
On February 17, 1859, The Teatro Apollo in Rome premiered Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball). Not until the twentieth century was the site of the action moved back to Sweden. Now the baritone is called Count Anckarström after the actual killer who was beheaded for his crime.
On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. She used wonderfully ornate older scenery that formed an excellent background for John Conklin’s soft colored costumes and Gary Marder’s well-planned lighting designs. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden. It’s a long role and there were a few rough-edged tones in his first aria, but after that he gave a radiant performance. His duet with Krassimira Stoyanova, the Amelia, and his final aria were superbly sung. Stoyanova's lustrous voice blended well with Beczala's and she gave an insightful portrayal of his troubled but innocent love interest.
Greek baritone Aris Argiris is new to San Diego. With his performance of Count Anckarström, he established himself as a fine singing actor with a stentorian voice and a commanding presence. His scene with Amelia made sparks fly across the orchestra pit. Stephanie Blythe has an incredible voice with a distinctive sound and a huge range of tone colors, all of which she used as Madame Arvidson, the mysterious fortune-teller.
Act 3 finale
The trouser role of Oscar requires a coloratura soprano to provide a bit of comic relief in the midst of this dark, tragic story. Kathleen Kim’s bright sound and jaunty stance provided just the right touch for the part. Joseph Hu was thoroughly amusing as an infirm High Judge. Dark voiced Kevin Langan and Ashraf Sewailam were impressively menacing as Counts Ribbing and Horn.
Chorus Master Charles F. Prestinari’s singers represented townspeople of various professions and they sang together in solid harmonies. Conductor Massimo Zanetti made a most auspicious debut and proved that the orchestra can be part of the drama. He brought the orchestra up to fortissimo on some occasions when there was no singing and kept it down to a reasonable level when soloists had to be heard above it.
Cast and Production Information:
Count Ribbing, Kevin Langan; Count Horn, Ashraf Sewailam; High Judge and Amelia’s Servant, Joseph Hu; Gustav III, Piotr Beczala; Count Anckarström, Aris Argiris; Amelia Anckarström, Krassimira Stoyanova; Madame Arvidson, Stephanie Blythe; Oscar, Kathleen Kim; Conductor, Massimo Zanetti; Director, Lesley Koenig; Costume Designer, John Conklin; Chorus Master, Charles F. Prestinari; Lighting Design, Gary Marder; Choreographer, Kenneth Von Heidecke