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

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. Perfection, as one would expect from arguably the finest Rameau interpreters in the business, and that's saying a lot, given the exceptionally high quality of French baroque performance in the last 40 years.

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. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.

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. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.

Rossini is Alive and Well and Living in Iowa

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.

Gergiev : Janáček 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. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

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.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Rising Stars in Concert [Photo courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
11 Jun 2014

Rising Stars at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its annual concert devoted to performances by current members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, Lyric Opera of Chicago showcased a roster of talented singers who will doubtless add greatly to operatic and concert stages of the immediate future.

Rising Stars at Lyric Opera of Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Rising Stars in Concert [Photo courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]

 

All of the singers performed their chosen pieces and ensembles admirably, indeed each selection as sung was memorable for the degree of lyrical and dramatic commitment transmitted. As a supplement to the vocal offerings Maureen Zoltek, the Ryan Opera Center’s new pianist, played the first movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major. The conductor for the entire program was Kelly Kuo.

The first half of the program spanned operatic selections, in four languages, ranging from the eighteenth through the twentieth century. The second half of the evening was dominated by American and French selections after the performance of the movement from the Ravel Concerto. Perhaps most revealing from this program was the opportunity to hear each of the talented singers in a variety of repertoire, with performances that emphasized an encouraging versatility. As an example of such range, Tracy Cantin sang, in the first part of the concert, Cressida’s recitative and aria, “How can I sleep? … At the haunted end of the day,” from Sir William Walton’s Troilus and Cressida. Ms. Cantin’s involvement in this brief evocation of the title character was riveting. Her searing top notes emphasizing “betrayed” and “a phantom” led to the dramatic concluding declaration of “my conqueror.” In the second part of the program Cantin was equally impressive in a very different role, the concluding scene of Jules Massenet’s Thaïs. Here as she was supported by the Athanaël of baritone Anthony Clark Evans the vision of Thaïs came alive and her transformation from courtesan to saint was believable. Cantin produced soft, pure pitches in contrast to the appropriately urgent, sincere appeals by Evans. The final “Je vois Dieu” [“I see God”] communicated the apotheosis of a blessed figure. A comparable set of performances was offered by bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba. In his rendering of Figaro’s Act IV aria, “Tutto è disposto … Aprite un po quegl’occhi” [“All is prepared … open your eyes a little”], Ollarsaba demonstrated excellent sense of color and the ability to use his resonant sound as a means to suggesting varying emotional states. Even within the single word “Ingrata” the expressive range that Ollarsaba attached to individual vowels communicated both distress felt by the character portrayed and a growing sense of irritation. Ollarsaba’s later contribution was also by Mozart, this time in the trio ensemble, “Soave sia il vento,” from Act I of Così fan tutte, sung together with soprano Laura Wilde and mezzo soprano Julie Anne Miller. Each of the three performers retained a distinct vocal personality while also blending effectively at requisite moments. As Don Alfonso, Ollarsaba’s upper register and fluid legato connecting multiple pitches outlined an impressive backdrop for the myriad emotions expressed, just as the women’s voices rose and fell in touching pathos. In their solo pieces during the concert both Miller and Wilde also gave exciting performances. Ms. Miller showed a masterful sense of Handelian style in the aria of the title character, “Dopo notte,” [“After night”] from Act III of Ariodante. While communicating the sense of the text, Miller took the word “splende” [“radiantly”] with appropriate forte emphasis. Especially noteworthy are Miller’s breath control and Italian diction, both serving her well in the embellishments she used in the repeat of the A section of the aria. In the second part of the program Ms. Wilde sang Marguerite’s aria, “Oh Dieu! Que de bijoux!,” [“O God! What jewels!”] from Gounod’s Faust; she held a mirror in hand and acted through her character’s delight with the jewel box as she sang this famous showpiece aria. In decorating the line of this piece Wilde was careful in observing textual import, so that her decorations on the “princesse,” whom she fantasized at becoming, were especially well chosen. Her final notes showed an emotional outburst that spoke more of the character’s naïveté than of her entrancement with the jewels produced by Mephistopheles.

Among other singers performing in both solo and shared pieces J’nai Bridges gave a sublime account of Sapho’s aria, “Où suis je … Ô ma lyre immortelle” [“Where am I … o my immortal lyre”] from Gounod’s opera Sapho. Bridges led the listeners into Sapho’s emotional world, the character’s distress at the end of her life being expressed in contrasting lines with “nuit eternal” [“eternal night”] and “douleur” [“pain”], both descending to full deep notes, and her wounded “cor” [“heart”] showing the singer’s glistening upper register. As Sapho’s inevitable act of suicide approached, Bridges’s voice rose at the contemplation “sous les andes” [“beneath the waves”]; she invoked her watery death with chilling, individual low pitches on “dans las mer” [“in the sea”] before appealing to the ocean to indeed open itself up [“ouvre toi”] with a final, shockingly dramatic top note on the repetition of “dans la mer.” A very different sort of character emerged in her duet from Porgy and Bess, shared with the Porgy of baritone Will Liverman. Mr. Liverman has an excellent command of legato which he sustained throughout, just as Bridges declared “I’s your woman now.” Both singers’ voices suggested the mutually enveloping emotions of their characters as the line “We is one now” remained the predominant theme communicated. In his solo contribution, “Batter my heart” from John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, Liverman showed very effectively the tension felt by Oppenheimer as he struggled with the responsibilities of his scientific research and its effects on humanity. Yet another couple deserves mention for their vocal and dramatic commitment. Soprano Emily Birsan and tenor John Irvin sang a delightful account of “Chiedi all’aura lusinghiera” from Act I of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. Both artists demonstrated their ease and technical skill at bel canto singing, while each was especially sensitive to weaving a lyrical statement that suggested a growing sense of attraction and an independent resistance to the same. As a fitting conclusion to the evening the latter two performers were joined by Miller, Evans, and Ollarsaba, as well as the full ensemble, in “The promise of living” from Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land.

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):