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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.



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

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