Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

La traviata at the Palais Garnier

The clatter of information was overwhelmed by soaring bel canto, Verdi’s domestic tragedy destroyed by director Simon Stone, resurrected by conductor Michele Mariotti, a tour de force for South African soprano Pretty Yende.

San Jose Pops the Cork With Fledermaus

Opera San Jose vivaciously kicked off its 2019–2020 season with a heady version of Strauss’ immortal Die Fledermaus that had all the effervescence of vintage champagne.

Tempestuous Francesca da Rimini opens Concertgebouw Saturday matinee series

Two Russian love letters to the tragic thirteenth century noblewoman Francesca da Rimini inaugurated the Saturday matinee series at the Concertgebouw.

Immortal Beloved: Beethoven Festival at Wigmore Hall

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park 2019

Lyric Opera of Chicago presented this year’s annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park. The evening’s program featured a range of selections from works to be presented in the 2019–2020 season along with arias and scenes from other notable and representative operas.

Prom 74: Uplifting Beethoven from Andrew Manze and the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover

Ceremony, drama and passion: this Beethoven Night by the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover under their Chief Conductor Andrew Manze had all three and served them up with vigour and a compelling freshness, giving Prommers at this eve-of-Last-Night concert an exciting and uplifting evening.

Prom 69: Elena Stikhina’s auspicious UK debut in a dazzling Czech Philharmonic concert

Rarely can any singer have made such an unforgettable UK debut in just twelve minutes of music. That was unquestionably the case with the Russian soprano, Elena Stikhina, who in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, sang with such compelling stage magnetism and with a voice that has everything you could possibly want.

Prom 68: Wagner Abend - Christine Goerke overwhelms as Brünnhilde

Wagner Nights at the Proms were once enormously popular, especially on the programmes of Sir Henry Wood. They have become less so, perhaps because they are simply unfashionable today, but this one given by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Marc Albrecht steered clear of the ‘bleeding chunk’ format which was usually the norm. It was still chunky, but in an almost linear, logical way and benefited hugely from being operatic (when we got to the Wagner) rather than predominantly orchestral.

Prom 65: Danae Kontora excels in Mozart and Strauss

On the page this looked rather a ‘pick-and-mix’ sort of Prom from the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis, who was making his Proms debut. In the event, it was not so much a Chinese take-away as a Michelin-starred feast for musical gourmands.

British Youth Opera: Rossini's La Cenerentola

Stendhal (as recorded in his Life of Rossini) was not a fan of Rossini’s La Cenerentola, complaining that after the first few bars of the Introduzione he was already suffering from a ‘faint feeling of nausea’, a condition which ‘never entirely dissipated, [recurring] periodically throughout the opera, and with increasing violence’.

La traviata at the Arena di Verona

There is esoteric opera — 16,500 spectators at this year’s Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, and there is pop opera — upwards of 500,000 spectators for the opera festival at the Arena di Verona, one quarter of them for an over-the-top new production of La traviata, designed and directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner brings Benvenuto Cellini to the Proms

Berlioz' Benvenuto Cellini is quite rarity on UK stages. Covent Garden last performed it in 1976 and English National Opera performed it for the first time in 2014 (in Terry Gilliam's riotous production), and yet the opera never quite goes away either.

Prom 58: varied narratives from the BBCSSO and Ilan Volkov

There are many ways and means to tell a story: through prose, poetry, sounds, pictures, colours, movement.

Prom 53: Elgar’s emotionally charged Music Makers

British music with an English and strong European accent marked this Prom featuring three well-wrought works, stylistically worlds apart but each characterised by a highly individual musical personality.

Scoring a Century: British Youth Opera at the Peacock Theatre

‘It is well known that Eisler was a master of the art of self-contradiction, using non-sequitur, change of tack and playing devil’s advocate in a brilliantly ironic way in an attempt to look at a problem from every angle, to expose it fully to the gaze of his interlocutor. For an ordinary person to take part in this, let alone keep up with the pace and fully appreciate the wide range of references, which his enormous reading threw out, was wonderfully stimulating, and exhausting.’

Prom 55: Handel's Jephtha

‘For many it is the masterpiece among his oratorios.’

Opera della Luna's HMS Pinafore sails the seas at Wilton's Music Hall

The original production of HMS Pinafore opened at the Opera Comique in London on 25th May 1878 and ran for an astonishing 571 performances. Opera della Luna’s HMS Pinafore, which has been cresting the operatic oceans for over twenty years now, has notched up almost as many performances.

Spectra Ensemble present Treemonisha at Grimeborn

‘We see him now as one of the most important creators of his generation, certainly comparable to Schoenberg.’ T.J. Anderson, who reconstructed the score of Scott Joplin’s only surviving opera, Treemonisha, for its first staged production in 1972, was probably rather over-enthusiastic in his assessment.

Fortieth Anniversary Gala of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro

Earlier this month I reported from the Macerata Opera Festival – a largely Italian affair frequented by few foreigners. One week later I attended the 40th anniversary gala of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, about 100 km north in the same region of Le Marche and a prominent stop on the international circuit. One one hears much English, French, German and Japanese, and the printed program features a long list of non-Italian financial sponsors.

Bel Canto Beauty at St George's Hanover Square: Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda

A merciless and neurotic ruler, whose right to govern is ambiguous and disputed. A dignified Queen whose star is setting, as her husband’s heart burns with new love and her lady-in-waiting betrays her. A courtier whose devotion to the Queen, his first love, is undimmed and destined to push both towards a tragic end. No, not Donizetti’s Anna Bolena but Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, written three years later, in 1833, for Venice’s La Fenice.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Albina Shagimuratova as Lucia in Mad Scene [Photo by Robert Millard]
19 Mar 2014

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Albina Shagimuratova as Lucia in Mad Scene

Photos by Robert Millard

 

In 1835 Gaetano Donizetti composed his drama tragico Lucia di Lammermoor to a libretto by Salvadore Cammarano. He based upon Sir Walter Scott's 1819 historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor. Scott based his plot on a seventeenth century incident that took place between Janet Dalrymple and her lover, Archibald, the third Lord Rutherfurd. The Dalrymple family, who lived in in the Lammermuir Hills of south-east Scotland, objected to the match because Rutherfurd was poor and supported King Charles II. The Dalrymples, who were staunch Whigs, preferred a constitutional monarchy to absolute rule.

An impassive Janet married her family’s choice, Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon Castle, on August 24, 1669. Not long after the couple retired, screaming was heard from their room. When the family forced the door open, they found David bleeding from stab wounds. Janet was trying to hide in a corner and she had blood on her nightgown. We only know that she appeared to be insane and died two weeks later. Scott had once been in love with a lady who jilted him for a richer man, so his novel may have reflected a personal emotional response.

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands. An 1882 Swedish law granted women the right to choose their own marriage partners. Women in Scotland could have known what rights might soon be theirs.

LdLed's enter2123.pngEdgardo, Saimir Pirgu, finds that Lucia, Albina Shagimuratova, is marrying Arturo, Vladimir Dmitruk

Carolina Angulo’s scenery for Pulitzer’s production was totally unembellished except for a few neon strips, and it became a background for Duane Schuler’s lighting and Wendall K. Harrington’s fascinating projections that realized much of what was being sung in the libretto. Christine Crook’s stylized costumes were equally lacking in detail, but they served to set the time of the action in the past.

Soprano Albina Shagimuratova portrayed a troubled Lucia who had hallucinations from the beginning. An accomplished virtuoso, she created a real character and sang the coloratura trills and cadenzas of the Mad Scene with freshness and verve. Commanding the stage as her passionate lover Edgardo, tenor Saimir Pirgu sang with great beauty of tone and a variety of sound colors. He was already a fine tenor when he first came to LA to sing Rinuccio in the company’s 2008 Gianni Schicchi, but he has since become one of the world’s most important interpreters of lyric tenor roles. Even with the inclusion of an extra scene in this production, he sounded as fresh at the end of the opera as he did when it began.

Baritone Stephen Powell who impressed the San Diego audience in Pagliacci, was thoroughly confrontational as Lucia’s bully of a brother, Enrico. His evenly focused stentorian tones let you know that he would have his way, no matter what the consequences. As the Calvinist preacher, Raimondo, James Cresswell was the sanest of the principal characters, but his version of religion was no help to the heroine. Vocally, his range was even from top to bottom as he sang Donizetti’s difficult music.

I hope this cast will record the opera. This sextet, in particular, with six equally strong wonderful voices, deserves to have a wider hearing. Vladimir Dmitruk, the Arturo, will probably make a good career in the future and D’Ana Lombard, the Alisa, may go on to more important roles. Joshua Guerrero, who had already been spotted as a new talent when he sang in last year’s Evening of Zarzuela and Latin American Music, was a committed Normanno.

LdLPOW SHAG 2083.pngEnrico, Stephen Powell, and Lucia, Albina Shagimuratova

This was a complete rendition of the opera that opened up the usual cuts. The inclusion of the Wolf’s Crag Scene brought some music to the stage that many operagoers might never have heard sung live before. It also added to the audience’s knowledge of Edgardo’s character. Although the movements of members of Grant Gershon’s chorus were stylized, they added greatly to dramatic tension of each of the scenes in which they appeared with their strong, well-harmonized singing.

James Conlon brought us not only the complete Lucia, he performed it for us the way Donizetti originally conceived it. That included Thomas Bloch’s exquisite playing of the glass harmonica as the accompaniment to Lucia’s madness. The instrument is composed of numerous blown crystal glass bowls fitted into one another but not touching. They are held in place by a horizontal rod. The diameter of each bowl determines its note and a pedal controls the rotation of all so that the player can rub their edges with wet fingers as the bowls turn.

Maestro Conlon gave his audience dramatic climaxes as well as long lyrical lines while supporting the singers by keeping the decibel level low enough for them to be heard with ease. This was an extraordinary rendition of this well known opera that many in the audience will remember for years to come.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Normanno, Joshua Guerrero; Enrico, Stephen Powell; Raimondo, James Creswell; Lucia, Albina Shagimuratova; Alisa, D’Ana Lombard; Edgardo, Saimir Pirgu; Arturo, Vladimir Dmitruk; Conductor, James Conlon; Director Elkhanah Pulitzer; Projection and Scenic Designer, Wendall K. Harrington; Scenery Designer, Carolina Angulo; Costume Designer, Christine Crook; Lighting Designer, Duane Schuler; Chorus Master, Grant Gershon; Movement, Kitty McNamee.

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):