Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

The Threepenny Opera, London

‘Mack does bad things.’ The tabloid headline that convinces Rory Kinnear’s surly, sharp-suited Macheath that it might be time to take a short holiday epitomizes the cold, understated menace of Rufus Norris’s production of Simon Stephens’ new adaptation of The Threepenny Opera at the Olivier Theatre.

La bohème, LA Opera

On May 25, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of the Herbert Ross production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La bohème. Stage director, Peter Kazaras, made use of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s wide stage by setting some scenes usually seen inside the garret on the surrounding roof instead.

Amazons Enchant San Francisco

On May 21, 2016, Ars Minerva presented The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles (Le Amazzoni nelle Isole Fortunate), an opera consisting of a prologue and three acts by seventeenth century Venetian composer Carlo Pallavicino.

Mathis der Maler, Dresden

While Pegida anti-refugee demonstrations have been taking place for a while now in Dresden, there was something noble about the Semperoper with its banners declaring all are welcome, listing Othello, the Turk, and the hedon Papageno as examples.

The Makropulos Case, Munich

Opera houses’ neglect of Leoš Janáček remains one of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the ‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa, Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely hook most for life.

Orphée et Euridice, Seattle

It’s not easy for critics to hit the right note when they write about musical collaborations between students and professionals. We have to allow for inevitable lack of polish and inexperience while maintaining an overall high standard of judgment.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Munich

Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to see three different productions within little more than a couple of months).

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne

Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

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):