Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.



Scene at the Turkish Embassy (Act I)  [Photo by Craig Matthew]
15 Feb 2015

LA Opera Revives The Ghosts of Versailles

In 1980, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned composer John Corigliano to write an opera celebrating the company’s one-hundredth anniversary. It was to be ready in 1983.

LA Opera Revives The Ghosts of Versailles

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Scene at the Turkish Embassy (Act I)

Photos by Craig Matthew


The composer started to set Caron de Beaumarchais’ third book, La Mère Coupable (‘The Guilty Mother’) but he and librettist William M. Hoffmann could not complete their work in the allotted three years. Actually, writing The Ghosts of Versailles took seven years and the Met did not premiere it until December 19, 1991. It was a major success, however, and the company revived it for the 1994-1995 season.

On February 7, 2015, Los Angeles Opera mounted a monumental production of The Ghosts of Versailles. The work, which composer Corigliano calls a grand opera buffa, opens after the deaths of many of its characters. Costume designer Linda Cho clothed the singers in detailed soft colored eighteenth century costumes. Because many people had been beheaded she wrapped the heads of dancers in black. Director Darko Tresnjak made sense of the opera’s complicated story and enabled his singers to create realistic characters. Scenic Designer Alexander Dodge gave us a fabulous illusion of the palace at Versailles and accommodated some short opera-within-an-opera scenes on the set.

Ghosts herub Rosina 027-P.pngChristopher Maltman as Beaumarchais with Guanqun Yu as Rosina and Renée Rapier as Cherubino

Some characters, of course, came directly from the Mozart and Rossini operas. Tenor Joshua Guerrero was a handsome, robust voiced Count Almaviva. Mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer was an amusing Susanna who sang a charming duet with soprano Guanqun Yu as Rosina. Following the story line of La Mère Coupable in which Rosina has an affair with Cherubino, Yu sang a delightful duet with mezzo Renée Rapier as well. Rosina’s son and Almaviva’s daughter, Leon and Florestine, portrayed by Brenton Ryan and Stacey Tappan, sang with honeyed tones. For their pieces, Corigliano’s music had a Mozartian sound and included some quotations from the characters’ original music.

For scenes with ghosts, he offered much more modern sounds. Patricia Racette was a plaintive Marie Antoinette and Kristinn Sigmundsson a stentorian Louis XVI. Lucas Meachem was an energetic and sonorous Figaro who never tired despite the length of his role. Christopher Maltman, inhabited his role as Beaumarchais with conviction as he cared for the doomed queen. There were two fascinating cameos in the first act. Patti LuPone enchanted the audience as Turkish dancer, Samira, who enters on a pink elephant. Victoria Livengood sang a faux Wagner aria with gusto, only to end with a pie to her face. Later she was a sophisticated woman with an enormous hat.

The villain, Bégearss, sung by tenor Robert Brubaker, pretends to befriend the nobility, but in reality he is an unscrupulous double agent. In Act II he is first seen abusing his servant, Wilhelm, played by the amusing Joel Sorensen. Later he leads a mob that raids the Count’s ball in an effort to secure the queen’s most valuable necklace. In the end, Figaro and Susanna leave in a hot air balloon as Beaumarchais regains the necklace for Marie Antoinette who chooses to go to her execution rather than change history.

This buffa opera offered aerialists and other circus acts, enchanting dances, and precise choral ensembles. Aaron Rhyne’s projections created varied ambiances and York Kennedy’s lighting made everything come to life. Under Grant Gershon’s direction, the chorus sang with harmonic precision while acting as individuals. James Conlon held the entire enterprise together with flexible rhythms and dramatic tension that never lagged. Ghosts is a truly enthralling opera that deserves to be seen and heard more often. This was, indeed, an extraordinary evening.

Maria Nockin

Cast and production information:

Almaviva, Joshua Guerrero; Rosina, Guanqun Yu; Susanna, Lucy Schaufer; Figaro, Lucas Meachem; Cherubino, Renée Rapier; Florestine, Stacey Tappan; Léon, Brenton Ryan; Bégearss, Robert Brubaker; Samira, Patti LuPone; Suleyman Pasha, Philip Cokorinos; Wilhelm, Joel Sorensen; English Ambassador, Museop Kim. Beaumarchais, Christopher Maltman; Marie Antoinette, Patricia Racette; Woman in a Hat, Wagnerian soprano, Victoria Livengood; Louis XVI, Kristinn Sigmundsson; Marquis, Scott Scully; Three Gossips: So Young Park, Vanessa Becerra, Peabody Southwell; Four Aristocrats: Summer Hassan, Lacey Jo Benter, Frederick Ballentine, Patrick Blackwell; Conductor, James Conlon; Director, Darko Tresnjak; Chorus Director, Grant Gershon; Choreographer Peggy Hickey; Costume Designer, Linda Cho; Scenic Designer, Alexander Dodge; Lighting Designer, York Kennedy; Projection Designer, Aaron Rhyne.

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):