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 Reviews

A Donizetti world premiere: Opera Rara at the Royal Opera House

There may be sixty or so operas by Donizetti to choose from, but if you’ve put together the remnants of another one, why not give everyone a chance to hear it? And so, Opera Rara brought L’Ange de Nisida to the concert stage last night, 180 years after it was composed for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, conductor Sir Mark Elder leading a team of bel canto soloists and the Choir and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a committed and at times stirring performance.

A stellar Ariadne auf Naxos at Investec Opera Holland Park

Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos is a strange operatic beast. Originally a Molière-Hofmannsthal-Strauss hybrid, the 1916 version presented in Vienna ditched Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which had preceded an operatic telling of the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus, and replaced it with a Prologue in which buffa met seria as competing factions prepared to present an entertainment for ‘the richest man in Vienna’. He’s a man who has ordered two entertainments, to follow an epicurean feast, and he wants these dramatic digestifs served simultaneously.

PROM 5: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Stefan Herheim’s production of Debussy’s magnificent 1902 opera for Glyndebourne has not been universally acclaimed. The Royal Albert Hall brought with it, in this semi-staged production, a different set of problems - and even imitated some of the production’s original ones, notably the vast shadow of the organ which somewhat replicates Glyndebourne’s 1920’s Organ Room, and by a huge stretch of the imagination the forest in which so much of the opera’s action is set.

Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

Sopranos Elise Brancheau and Shannon Jones, along with pianists Martin Néron and Keith Chambers, presented a thrilling evening of French-themed music in an evening entitled: “Salut à la France,” at the South Oxford Space in Brooklyn this past Saturday, July 14th.

Dido in Deptford: Blackheath Halls Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty. The artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera has overseen a production which brings together professional soloists, students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a cast of more than 80 south-east London adults and children for this, the 12th, annual Blackheath Halls Community Opera.

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Mascagni's Isabeau rides again at Investec Opera Holland Park

There seemed to me to be something distinctly Chaucerian about Martin Lloyd-Evans’ new production of Mascagni’s Isabeau (the first UK production of the opera) for Investec Opera Holland Park.

The 2018 BBC Proms opens in flamboyant fashion

Anniversaries and commemorations will, as usual, feature significantly during the 2018 BBC Proms, with the works of Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger all prominently programmed during the season’s myriad orchestral, vocal and chamber concerts.

Banff’s Hell of an Orphée+

Against the Grain Theatre brought its award winning adaptation of Gluck’s opera to the Banff Festival billed as “an electronic baroque burlesque descent into hell.”

A Choral Trilogy at the Aix Festival

What Seven Stones (the amazing accentus / axe 21), and Dido and Aeneas (the splendid Ensemble Pygmalion) and Orfeo & Majnun (the ensemble [too many to count] of eleven local amateur choruses) share, and virtually nothing else, is spectacular use of chorus.

Vintage Audi — Parsifal, Kaufmann, Pape

From the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Wagner Parsifal with a dream cast - René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Pierre Audi. The production is vintage Audi - stylized, austere, but solidly thought-through.

Flight Soars High in Des Moines

Jonathan Dove’s innovative opera Flight is being lavished with an absolutely riveting new production at Des Moines Metro Opera’s resoundingly successful 2018 Festival.

Fledermaus Pops the Cork in Iowa

Like a fizzy bottle of champagne, Des Moines Metro Opera uncorked a zesty tasting of Johan Strauss’s vintage Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

A spritely summer revival of Falstaff at the ROH

Robert Carson’s 2012 ROH Falstaff is a bit of a hotchpotch, but delightful nevertheless. The panelled oak, exuding Elizabethan ambience, of the first Act’s gravy-stained country club reeks of the Wodehouse-ian 1930s, but has also has to serve as the final Act’s grubby stable and the Forest of Windsor, while the central Act is firmly situated in the domestic perfection of Alice Ford’s 1950s kitchen.

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

Ingenious Des Moines Metro Opera continued its string of site-specific hits with an endearing production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land on the grounds of the Maytag Dairy farm.

Des Moines’ Ravishing Rusalka

Let me get right to the point: This is the Rusalka I have been waiting for all my life.

L'Ange de feu (The Fiery Angel)
in Aix

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is rarely performed. This new Aix Festival production to be shared with Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki exemplifies why.

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.

The Skating Rink: Garsington Opera premiere

Having premiered Roxanna Panufnik’s opera Silver Birch in 2017 as part of its work with local community groups, Garsington Opera’s 2018 season included its first commission for the main opera season. David Sawer's The Skating Rink premiered at Garsington Opera this week; the opera is based on the novel by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano with a libretto by playwright Rory Mullarkey.

Madama Butterfly at the Princeton Festival

The Princeton Festival brings a run of three high-quality opera performances to town each summer, alternating between a modern opera and a traditional warhorse. John Adams’ Nixon in China has been announced for next summer. So this year Princeton got Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, for which the Festival assembled an impressive cast and delivered a polished performance.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

07 Nov 2014

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

Tosca in San Francisco

A review by Michael Milenski

Above:Lianna Haroutounian as Floria Tosca [All photos by Cory Weaver, courtesy of San Francisco Opera]

 

It begs asking why the opera comes back so soon. This is not a distinguished cast, and the production is the 1997 remake of the 1932 SFO production mounted for the umpteenth time.

Still it was an interesting and amusing experience.

The conducting was strikingly different from the powerfully present performances of 2012 (Nicola Luisotti). Just now the conductor was Riccardo Frizza, an Italian maestro who has worked in many important theaters around the world. If his program booklet biography is at all complete he has never before conducted a verismo opera.

Here in San Francisco he has earned critical accolades for the bel canto repertoire (Lucrezia Borgia and I Capuleti e i Montecchi. And this Tosca was pure bel canto — beautiful (pretty) music, lovely detail, flowing lines. It was music about singing, not about the brutal humanity of verismo. The first act was a delightful revelation of relaxed tempos that allowed a melodic flow. It was almost like you had never before seen the opera.

However the melodic flow was uncomfortably broken from time to time to accommodate a singer’s need/urge to exaggerate the duration of a high note, a basic stylistic impulse of later Italian style.

These same relaxed tempos imposed a dramatically flaccid second act. The pastoral beginning of the third act erased any hint, and there had been very few, of dramatic tension. We simply waited until Tosca leapt.

Young Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian was the Tosca. Mlle. Haroutounian is not a diva. Tosca is a diva. That Mlle. Haroutounian may soon be a diva is without question, though divas come in all manner, shape and size. Probably this wonderful young proto-diva will never be a Tosca, i.e. a character diva. She exudes little innate dramatic temperament.

Mlle. Haroutounian does exude a purity of voice that casts her as the Verdi heroine. She has the beauty of voice, the size of voice, and the security of technique to immediately place her among the most sought after choices for these roles. That she has the complexity of personality and the dramatic intelligence to become a great artist is yet to be seen.

Tosca_SF2.png Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi

Young American tenor Brian Jagde was the Cavaradossi. This former Adler Fellow has at last shown that he is ready for the War Memorial and other important stages, that he a finished artist. As the Luisotti Cavaradossi and Pinkerton he seemed over-parted, maybe even terrorized. Here with Maestro Riccardo Frizza in the pit he was given the musical space to sing, and that he did beautifully. While Mr. Jagde does not embody the Italian tenor emblematic of this role he did exhibit the fruits of his excellent American training.

Baritone Mark Delavan sang Scarpia. Without musical tension coming from the pit, and without a Tosca with whom he could emotionally spar his cardboard evil character was meaningless. Perhaps he was attempting to create character by slurring his words but the effect was that he might have had some caramel in his mouth. On the other hand the Italian diction of Kansas born Scott Conner as Angelotti was admirable.

Jose Maria Condemi was the stage director. This very able facilitator of remounted productions was sabotaged by the musical pace from the pit and the naiveté (inexperience) of Mlle. Haroutounian. What would have been effective staging in a dramatically pointed performance became too many clumsy moves.

It was an evening of beautiful music and beautiful singing. Maybe you wanted more.

Michael Milenski


Casts and production information:

Floria Tosca: Lianna Haroutounian; Mario Cavaradossi: Brian Jagde; Baron Scarpia: Mark Delavan; Cesare Angelotti: Scott Conner; Sacristan: Dale Travis; Spoletta: Joel Sorensen; Sciarrone: Efrain Solis; Jailer: Hadleigh Adams. San Francisco Opera Chorus and Orchestra. Conductor: Riccardo Frizza; Stage director: Jose Maria Condemi; Production designer: Thierry Bosquet; Lighting designer: Gary Marder. War Memorial Opera House, November 4, 2014, Row M.

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):