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The mysteries and myths surrounding Mozart’s Requiem Mass - left unfinished at his death and completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr - abide, reinvigorated and prolonged by Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus as directed on film by Miloš Forman. The origins of the work’s commission and composition remain unknown but in our collective cultural and musical consciousness the Requiem has come to assume an autobiographical role: as if Mozart was composing a mass for his own presaged death.
I saw two operas consecutively at Oper Koln. First, the utterly
bewildering Lucia di Lammermoor; then Thilo Reinhardt’s
thrilling Tosca. His staging was pure operatic joy with some
Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with
the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music.
His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in
C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the
Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.
Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.
‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.
This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?
A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert. Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.
On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.
On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.
When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.
It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.
Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.
This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at
’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.
With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.
When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.
Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe
Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.
Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.
Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.
A funny thing happened on the way to Andalusia.
The tale of a Syrian donkey driver. And, yes, the donkey stole the show! The competition was intense — the Vienna Philharmonic and the Grosses Festspielhaus in full production regalia for starters.
29 Aug 2014
Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale
On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!
In the early eighteenth century, opera buffa began to emerge as a separate entity, different from opera seria. Opera seria depicted kings and was designed to entertain the nobility. Opera buffa depicted ordinary people with more common problems and it was sung in the language of the audience. Opera buffa often used stock characters with which the audience was already familiar, such as those of the commedia dell’arte. Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale follows that tradition in making reference to familiar characters. Pasquale is a blustering Pantalone, Ernesto a lovesick Pierrot, Malatesta a scheming Scapino, and Norina a wily Columbina.
The atmosphere at the rehearsals for the opera’s Paris world premiere had been cool and dispassionate until the final dress rehearsal. It was then that Donizetti added a new piece for the tenor. Ernesto would sing the lyrical melody, “Com'è gentil” in the third act. The opera was wildly successful at its premiere in the Théâtre-Italien on January 3, 1843. Today, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love), along with Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), are still the most popular operatic comedies.
On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down and it seemed hard for the singers to play their scenes against it. Duane Schuler’s lighting added to the perception of incongruity.
Andrew Shore as the Don and Zachary Nelson as Dr. Malatesta created memorable characters, but had some difficulty in synchronizing their patter duet. The singer who actually held this performance together was Brenda Rae, the Norina. Having sung impressively as Vlada Vladimirescu in The Impresario and created the character of The Cook in Le Rossignol, she went on to show her versatility as a fascinating Norina. Her personality and musicality helped to keep this comedy on an even keel.
In the garden scene, Ernesto, Alek Shrader, sings while climbing a ladder to attach a wooden moon to a roof and it seemed like he was doing too many things at once. He is a fine young singer with a slender voice that should be heard to best advantage. Apprentice Calvin Griffin who has been a fine singing actor in the Young Artist Program at Arizona Opera this year, was most convincing as the Notary.
Conductor Corrado Rovaris played the score with crisp tempi that underlined its comic origins. Unfortunately, their playing tended to be quite loud and sometimes they drowned out the lower voiced singers. However, the performance was a comedic winner and the audience went home laughing and singing Donizetti’s memorable melodies.
Cast and production information:
Don Pasquale, Andrew Shore; Dr. Malatesta, Zachary Nelson; Ernesto, Alek Shrader; Norina, Brenda Rae; Notary, Calvin Griffin; Conductor, Corrado Rovaris; Director and Costume Designer, Laurent Pelly; Scenic Designer, Chantal Thomas; Lighting Designer, Duane Schuler; Chorus Master, Susanne Sheston