Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ten years ago, I saw one of the first performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Now, Music Theatre Wales and National Dance Company Wales give the opera its first United Kingdom production - in an English translation by Amanda Holden from the original Italian: the first time, I believe, that a Dusapin opera has been performed in translation. (I shall admit to a slight disappointment that it was not in Welsh: maybe next time.)

Tosca in San Francisco

The story was bigger than its actors, the Tosca ritual was ignored. It wasn’t a Tosca for the ages though maybe it was (San Francisco’s previous Tosca production hung around for 95 years). P.S. It was an evening of powerful theater, and incidentally it was really good opera.

Fine performances in uneven War Requiem at the Concertgebouw

At the very least, that vehement, pacifist indictment against militarism, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, should leave the audience shaking a little. This performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra only partially succeeded in doing so. The cast credits raised the highest expectations, but Gianandrea Noseda, stepping in for an ailing Mariss Jansons and conducting the RCO for the first time, did not bring out the full potential at his disposal.

The Tallis Scholars at Cadogan Hall

In their typical non-emphatic way, the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips presented here a selection of English sacred music from the Eton Choirbook to Tallis. There was little to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, little in the way of overt ‘interpretation’ – certainly in a modern sense – but ample opportunity to appreciate the mastery on offer in this music, its remoteness from many of our present concerns, and some fine singing.

Dido and Aeneas: Academy of Ancient Music

“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” Well, the spectral Queen of Carthage atop the poppy-strewn sarcophagus wasn’t quite yet “laid in earth”, but the act of remembering, and remembrance, duly began during the first part of this final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s Purcell trilogy at the Barbican Hall.

Poignantly human – Die Zauberflöte, La Monnaie

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at La Monnaie /De Munt, Brussels, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Romeo Castellucci. Part allegory, part Singspeile, and very much a morality play, Die Zauberflöte is not conventional opera in the late 19th century style. Naturalist realism is not what it's meant to be. Cryptic is closer to what it might mean.

Covent Garden: Wagner’s Siegfried, magnificent but elusive

How do you begin to assess Covent Garden’s Siegfried? From a purely vocal point of view, this was a magnificent evening; it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this was as fine a cast as you are likely to hear anywhere today.

Powerful Monodramas: Zender, Manoury and Schoenberg

The concept of the monologue in opera has existed since the birth of opera itself, but when we come to monodramas - with the exception of Rousseau’s Pygmalion (1762) - we are looking at something that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century.

ENO's Salome both intrigues and bewilders

Femme fatale, femme nouvelle, she-devil: the personification of patriarchal castration-anxiety and misogynistic terror of female desire.

In the Company of Heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

Palestrina led from the front, literally and figuratively, in this performance at Wigmore Hall which placed devotion to the saints at its heart, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria, Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary all musically honoured by The Cardinall’s Musick and their director Andrew Carwood.

Roberto Devereux in San Francisco

Opera’s triple crown, Donizetti’s tragic queens — Anna Bolena who was beheaded by her husband Henry VIII, their daughter Elizabeth I who beheaded her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and who executed her lover Roberto Devereux.

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

A lunchtime feast of English song: Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

The September sunshine that warmed Wigmore Street during Monday’s lunch-hour created the perfect ambience for this thoughtfully compiled programme of seventeenth- and twentieth-century English song presented by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall.

O18: Mad About Lucia

Opera Philadelphia has mounted as gripping and musically ravishing an account of Lucia di Lammermoor as is imaginable.

O18 Poulenc Evening: Moins C’est Plus

In Opera Philadelphia’s re-imagined La voix humaine, diva Patricia Racette had a tough “act” to follow ...

O18: Unsettling, Riveting Sky on Swings

Opera Philadelphia’s annual festival set the bar very high even by its own gold standard, with a troubling but mesmerizing world premiere, Sky on Wings.

Simon Rattle — Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, and Britten

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra marked the opening of the 2018-2019 season with a blast. Literally, for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new piece Donum Simoni MMXVIII was an explosion of brass — four trumpets, trombones, horns and tuba, bursting into the Barbican Hall. When Sir Harry makes a statement, he makes it big and bold !

OSJ: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Harem

Opera San Jose kicked off its 35th anniversary season with a delectably effervescent production of their first-ever mounting of Mozart’s youthful opus, The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Isouard's Cinderella: Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square

A good fairy-tale sweeps us away on a magic carpet while never letting us forget that for all the enchanting transformations, beneath the sorcery lie essential truths.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

22 Aug 2014

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Sun Yat-sen at Santa Fe Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Joseph Dennis as Sun Yat-sen and Corinne Winters as Soong Ching-ling [All photos by Ken Howard courtesy of Santa Fe Opera]

 

Huang Ruo’s opera, Sun Yat-sen, depicts a seminal period in Chinese history. The opera contains both romance and documented history. Sun was a charismatic leader who tried to unify China and bring it into the modern world. Since his first wife, Lu Mu-zhen, had the traditional bound feet of an upper class bride, she was not able to keep up with Sun’s travels and many political appearances. Eventually, he found a more suitable companion in Soong Ching-ling.

Act I shows Ching-ling’s parents, Charlie Soong and Ni Gui-zhen, collecting money for Sun’s Revolutionary Alliance. Soon after Sun arrives, a messenger tells Charlie that there is a price on the leader’s head. During that visit Sun falls in love with Ching-ling, however, and their union will eventually become a part of history. In Act II they marry while exiled in Japan, after the self-sacrificing Mu-zhen grants him a divorce. Act III shows the couple’s return to China where the political strife continues. One terrible night Ching-ling miscarries while she and Sun are trying to escape from assassins. The finale of the opera shows a huge statue of the iconic leader, Sun Yat-Sen, and indicates his place in history.

By emphasizing the love between Sun and his second wife, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Also an important figure in modern Chinese history, Soong Ching-ling was vice-president of the People's Republic of China until she died in 1981. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

SunYS_SantaFe2.pngJoseph Dennis as Sun Yat-sen and Corinne Winters as Soong Ching-ling

Although Chinese censors passed the opera, planned performances were eventually cancelled. Chinese tenor, Warren Mok, cancelled his Santa Fe appearances saying he had to return to Asia. Thus, American apprentice tenor Joseph Dennis found himself interpreting the title role with less than two weeks’ notice. A genuine trouper, he passed this trial by fire magnificently with high notes of gleaming bronze. The rest of the cast of was equally fine. Corinne Winters, especially, was an impressive Ching-ling. Winters is a graceful singer and an outstanding actress on the opera stage. Her lament in Act III, Scene 1 was profoundly moving.

Dong-Jian Gong was a most believable Charlie. MaryAnn McCormick sang the role of his wife with a glowing, warm mezzo. Chen-Ye Yuan and Katherine Carroll as Mr. and Mrs. Umeya made their characters come to life. Rebecca Witty was vocally and histrionically impressive as Sun’s first wife. It will be interesting to see her in a larger part.

Director James Robinson created a realistic atmosphere and decorated it with stylized dances by Seàn Curran. Allen Moyer’s practical bamboo sets indicated the constant construction of the new government. It culminated in the appearance of a giant figure of the immortal leader. Conductor Carolyn Kuan led the excellent Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in an eloquent rendition of Ruo’s wonderfully well-orchestrated score. Ruo's Chinese instruments gave the work its driving rhythms while his distinctive lyricism and affecting vocal writing produced its more romantic moments.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Sun Yat-sen, Joseph Dennis; Soong Ching-ling, Corinne Winters; Charlie Soong, Gong Dong-jian; Ni Gui-zhen, MaryAnn McCormick; Mr. Umeya, Chen Ye-yuan; Mrs. Umeya, Katherine Carroll; Lu Mu-zhen, Rebecca Witty; Assassins, Yoni Rose, Patrick Guetti; Dancers, Hiroki Ichinose; Stanton Jacinto; Kerry Kim; Scott Weber; Stacey Yuen; Conductor, Carolyn Kuan; Director, James Robinson; Scenic Design, Allen Moyer; Costume Design, James Schuette; Lighting Design, Christopher Akerlind; Choreography, Seàn Curran; Choir Master, Susanne Sheston.


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):