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Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.
It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.
Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.
Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.
Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.
The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.
On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.
There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.
It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.
At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.
RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for
musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing
for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write
About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from
those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.
Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican,
London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony
Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating
a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens
or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?
Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.
Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.
Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me
I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.
An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.
On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.
Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.
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