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Bellini I puritani : gripping musical theatre

Vividly gripping drama is perhaps not phrase which you might expect to be used to refer to Bellini's I Puritani, but that was the phrase which came into my mind after seen Annilese

Strong music values in 1940's setting for Handel's opera examining madness

As part of their Madness season, presenting three very contrasting music theatre treatments of madness (Handel's Orlando, Bellini's I Puritani and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd) Welsh National Opera (WNO) presented Handel's Orlando at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 3 October 2015.

Bostridge, Isserlis, Drake, Wigmore Hall

Benjamin Britten met Mstislav Rostropovich in 1960, in London, where the cellist was performing Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto. They were introduced by Shostakovich who had invited Britten to share his box at the Royal Festival Hall, for this concert given by the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. Britten’s biographer, Humphrey Carpenter reports that a few days before Britten had listened to Rostropovich on the radio and remarked that he ‘“thought this the most extraordinary ‘cello playing I’d ever heard”’.

Falstaff at Forest Lawn

Sir John Falstaff appears in three plays by William Shakespeare: the two Henry IV plays and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Music and Drama Interwoven in Chicago Lyric’s new Le nozze di Figaro

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La traviata, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia mixes boutique performances of avant-garde opera in a small house with more traditional productions of warhorse operas performed in the Academy of Music, America’s oldest working opera house.

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

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Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.



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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