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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.

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.

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!”

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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

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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.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.



Renée Tatum as Rosina [Photo by Richard Brusky]
11 Jun 2014

Opera Las Vegas Presents Stellar Barber of Seville

On June 6, 2014, Opera Las Vegas presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville with a cast drawn from the Metropolitan Opera and other major companies.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Stellar Barber of Seville

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Renée Tatum as Rosina

Photos by Richard Brusky


Daniel Sutin, who sang the title role, held the audience in thrall as he described his activities with strong burnished bronzed tones in his “Largo al factotum.” As the beautiful and not-quite-so-meek Rosina, Renée Tatum sang with true bel canto tone, excellent taste, and fine musicianship.

Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais wrote his play, The Barber of Seville, in 1773, but could not get it publicly performed until two years later, because its politics offended French nobility. In the meantime it was often read privately read at artistic salons. Thus, when its content was becoming known without public performance, the authorities decided that they might as well allow it to be staged.

Beaumarchais invented the name Figaro for the character he modeled on Brighella in the traditional Italian Commedia dell’arte. The illegitimate son of Dr. Bartholo and his maid Marceline, Figaro is a clever flatterer and liar. He is usually is good humored and helpful. Only on rare occasions is he bitter and cynical, but in the play Figaro notes: "I must force myself to laugh at everything, lest I be obliged to weep.” It was the occasionally brazen actions of Figaro that upset the nobility. The opera audience does not see his bold tactics in Rossini’s work, but his actions in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro are quite revolutionary.

The first opera produced on Beaumarchais 1782 play was Giovanni Paisiello’s The Barber of Seville, which had a respectable run, but could not stand comparison with Gioachino Rossini's 1816 opera Il barbiere di Siviglia ossia L'inutile precauzione (The Barber of Seville or the Useless Precaution). The latter has remained in the repertoire ever since despite other operas having been based on Beaumarchais’ play.

10325511_10152048554047260_.gifRobert McPherson as Almaviva with chorus

On June 6, 2014, Opera Las Vegas presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville with a cast drawn from the Metropolitan Opera and other major companies. Daniel Sutin, who portrayed the Barber, Figaro, recently sang the title role in Alban Berg’s Wozzeck at the Met. Although this was his first portrayal of the Rossini character, he commanded the stage with his presence. He held the audience in thrall as he described his activities with strong burnished bronzed tones in his “Largo al factotum.”

As the beautiful and not-quite-so-meek Rosina, Renée Tatum appreciated Figaro’s assistance in helping her resist marriage to her elderly, controlling guardian, Don Bartolo. Tatum, who has been in several major productions at the Met, sang with true bel canto tone, excellent taste, and fine musicianship. Veteran bass-baritone Peter Strummer was a hysterically funny Bartolo who actually thought he could get his young ward to marry him. He sang his patter aria at lightening speed but the words were always intelligible. Bartolo’s partner in crime was the conniving Don Basilio who sang an amusing, resonant, and totally villainous “La calunnia.”

Coloratura tenor Robert McPherson was as perfect an Almaviva as you could find anywhere. He not only sang all the notes with gorgeous tone, he decorated just enough of his lines to create maximum interest in his interpretation. I understand he will be at the Met next season and the New York audience will love his artistry. Baritone Mark Covey, the Fiorello, who is also a guitar virtuoso, accompanied the opening serenade from the stage. As the maid, Berta, soprano Stephanie Weiss seemed to be the most sensible person in the house. She sang with bright silver tones that contrasted well with Tatum’s golden legato.

Henry Price’s stage direction was perfect for this audience, many of whom had seen few operas. He told the libretto’s story in a realistic manner. For the finale, he showed the marriage of Rosina and Almaviva. Berta catches Rosina’s bouquet, but from the look on Bartolo’s face she will have to find another man to marry. The charming scenery by Dennis Hassan and Jim Lydon was placed on the Bayley Theater’s turntable so that the audience saw one set showing the inside of Bartolo’s home and another showing its outside.

Maestro Gregory Buchalter gave his artists enough room to create meaningful characterizations. Together with the singers, orchestra, and recitative harpsichordist Karen McCann, he gave us a wonderful rendition of Rossini’s beloved comic opera. This excellent performance bodes well for Opera Las Vegas, from which that city's citizens and guests can hope to enjoy more great opera in the near future.

Maria Nockin

Cast and production information:

Rosina, Renée Tatum; Count Almaviva, Robert McPherson; Don Basilio, Philip Cokorinos; Don Bartolo, Peter Strummer; Figaro, Daniel Sutin; Fiorello (playing own guitar) Mark Covey; Berta, Stephanie Weiss; Notary, Erickson Franco; Ambrogio, David McKee; Sergeant, Eugene Richards;* Conductor, Gregory Buchalter; Harpsichord, Karen McCann; Stage Director, Henry Price; Costumes Malabar Ltd.; Scenery, Dennis Hassan and Jim Lydon; Production Coordinator, James Sohre.

* Member of Opera Las Vegas Young Artist Program.

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