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Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.
On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.
Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”
Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live
music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible
stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at
opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it
premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.
I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.
At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.
On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.
The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.
The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.
Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.
Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.
Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.
Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner
Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a
stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he
embodied a perfect Rodolfo.
Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of
watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It
scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you
can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its
A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.
On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.
Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.
Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered
as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.
Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.
26 Mar 2015
Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco
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.
Ars Minerva is a new San Francisco based company that is presenting the Carnival Series Project: music that was played during the seventeenth century Venetian season of Carnevale, the name of which means goodbye to meat. This time of year culminated in Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday) the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the penitential season of Lent. Carnevale di Venezia was famous not only for its music but also for its elaborate masks, facsimiles of which were on view in the lobby of the Marines Memorial Theater at La Cleopatra.
On March 14 and 15, 2015, Céline Ricci directed the up-to-date, realistic action of Castrovillari’s timeless opera. I saw the matinee performance on the fifteenth. The stage design by Matthew Holmes consisted of necessary pieces of furniture and a screen on which scenic elements were projected as though reflected in an imaginary pool. Together with Brian Poedy’s lighting, each scene was effectively put in its correct setting. Ricci was a glorious Queen Cleopatra whose regal persona turned romantic when she was with Marc Antonio. Vocally, she endowed her music with a wide variety of colors while conveying every emotional expression from protestations of love to death threats.
In this piece, Marc Antonio, sung with a secure line by countertenor Randall Scotting, was a straying husband whose wife, Ottavia, was anything but a wilting flower. Nell Snaidas sang Ottavia with power and passion as she tried to persuade a servant to kill the queen. Igor Viera, dressed in rough clothing and a grass hat, sang Clisterno with a robust sound. Together with Michael Desnoyers as the smart-mouthed, cross dressing elderly servant, Filenia, he brought moments of comic relief to this otherwise dramatic story.
Jennifer Ellis Kampani sang Coriaspe with sumptuous tones and iridescent waves of musical color. Hers is a voice from which I hope to hear a great deal more. Molly Mahoney was a mellifluous Arsinoe and Spencer Dodd sang with burnished tones in the dual roles of Dolabella and Arante.
The Marines Memorial Theater is not overly big and Derek Tam’s Baroque players filled the space with gorgeous sound. Tam played the harpsichord and conducted. Adam Cockerham played theorbo and guitar. Gretchen Claassen played cello, while Natalie Carducci and Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo played first and second violins. It was a great treat to hear this beautiful, well-composed opera that has been unjustly forgotten for so long. Thank you, Céline Ricci, for bringing it to us.
Cast and production information:
Cleopatra, Céline Ricci; Marc Antonio, Randall Scotting; Ottavia, Nell Snaidas; Coriaspe, Jennifer Ellis Kampani; Arsinoe, Molly Mahoney; Filenia, Michael Desnoyers; Clisterno, Igor Viera; Dolabella/Ariante, Spencer Dodd; Augusto, Anders Froelich; Domitio, James Hogan; Director, Céline Ricci; Video Stage Design, Matthew Holmes, Lighting Design, Brian Poedy; Conductor, Derek Tam; Theorbo and Guitar, Adam Cockerham; Cello, Gretchen Claassen; Violin I, Natalie Carducci; Violin II, Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo.