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 Performances

Works by Beethoven and Gerald Barry

As a whole, this concert proved a curious affair. It probably made more sense in the context of Thomas Adès’s series of Beethoven and Barry concerts with the Britten Sinfonia. The idea of a night off from the symphonic Beethoven to turn to chamber works was, in principle, a good one, but the sole Gerald Barry piece here seemed oddly out of place – and not in a productive, provocative way. Even the Beethoven pieces did not really seem to fit together especially well. A lovely performance of the op.16 Quintet nevertheless made the evening worthwhile.

Le Concert Royal de la Nuit - Ensemble Correspondances

Le Concert Royal de la Nuit with Ensemble Correspondances led by Sébastien Daucé, the glorious culmination of the finest London Festival of the Baroque in years on the theme "Treasures of the Grand Siècle". Le Concert Royal de la Nuit was Louis XIV's announcement that he would be "Roi du Soleil", a ruler whose magnificence would transform France, and the world, in a new age of splendour.

Voices of Revolution – Prokofiev, Exile and Return

Seven, they are Seven , op.30; Violin Concerto no.1 in D minor, op.19; Cantata for the Twentieth Anniverary of the October Revolution, op.74. David Butt Philip (tenor), Pekka Kuusisto (violin), Aidan Oliver (voice of Lenin, chorus director), Philharmonia Voices, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Students of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (military band), Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor). Royal Festival Hall, London, Sunday 20 May 2018.

Charpentier Histoires sacrées, staged - London Baroque Festival

Marc-Antoine Charpentier Histoires sacrées with Ensemble Correspondances, conducted by Sébastien Daucé, at St John's Smith Square, part of the London Festival of the Baroque 2018. This striking staging, by Vincent Huguet, brought out its austere glory: every bit a treasure of the Grand Siècle, though this grandeur was dedicated not to Sun God but to God.

Aïda in Seattle: don’t mention the war!

When Francesca Zambello presented Aïda at her own Glimmerglass Opera in 2012, her staging was, as they say, “ripped from today’s headlines.” Fighter planes strafed the Egyptian headquarters as the curtain rose, water-boarding was the favored form of interrogation, Radames was executed by lethal injection.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 opens with Annilese Miskimmon's Madama Butterfly

As the bells rang with romance from the tower of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the rolling downs of Sussex - which had just acquired a new Duke - echoed with the strains of a rather more bitter-sweet cross-cultural love affair. Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s 2018 season opened with Annilese Miskimmon’s production of Madama Butterfly, first seen during the 2016 Glyndebourne tour and now making its first visit to the main house.

Remembering Debussy

This concert might have been re-titled Remembrance of Musical Times Past: the time, that is, when French song, nurtured in the Proustian Parisian salons, began to gain a foothold in public concert halls. But, the madeleine didn’t quite work its magic on this occasion.

A chiaroscuro Orfeo from Iestyn Davies and La Nuova Musica

‘I sought to restrict the music to its true purpose of serving to give expression to the poetry and to strengthen the dramatic situations, without interrupting the action or hampering it with unnecessary and superfluous ornamentations. […] I believed further that I should devote my greatest effort to seeking to achieve a noble simplicity; and I have avoided parading difficulties at the expense of clarity.’

Lessons in Love and Violence: powerful musical utterances but perplexing dramatic motivations

‘What a thrill -/ My thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone/ Except for a sort of hinge/ Of skin,/ A flap like a hat,/ Dead white. Then that red plush.’ Those who imagined that Sylvia Plath (‘Cut’, 1962) had achieved unassailable aesthetic peaks in fusing pain - mental and physical - with beauty, might think again after seeing and hearing this, the third, collaboration between composer George Benjamin and dramatist/librettist Martin Crimp: Lessons in Love and Violence.

Les Salons de Pauline Viardot: Sabine Devieilhe at Wigmore Hall

Always in demand on French and international stages, the French soprano Sabine Devieihle is, fortunately, becoming an increasingly frequent visitor to these shores. Her first appearance at Wigmore Hall was last month’s performance of works by Handel with Emmanuelle Haïm’s Le Concert d’Astrée. This lunchtime recital, reflecting the meetings of music and minds which took place at Parisian salon of the nineteenth-century mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), was her solo debut at the venue.

Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago is now featuring as its spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar with music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production originated with the Regent’s Park Theatre, London with additional scenery by Bay Productions, U.K. and Commercial Silk International.

Persephone glows with life in Seattle

As a figure in the history of 20th century art, few deserve to be closer to center stage than Ida Rubenbstein. Without her talent, determination, and vast wealth, Ravel’s Boléro, Debussy’s Martyrdom of St. Sebastien, Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, and Stravinsky’s Perséphone would not exist.

La concordia de’ pianeti: Imperial flattery set to Baroque splendor in Amsterdam

One trusts the banquet following the world premiere of La concordia de’ pianeti proffered some spicy flavors, because Pietro Pariati’s text is so cloying it causes violent stomach-churning. In contrast, Antonio Caldara’s music sparkles and dances like a blaze of crystal chandeliers.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final 2018

The 63rd Competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2018 was an unusually ‘home-grown’ affair. Last year’s Final had brought together singers from the UK, the Commonwealth, Europe, the US and beyond, but the six young singers assembled at Wigmore Hall on Friday evening all originated from the UK.

Affecting and Effective Traviata in San Jose

Opera San Jose capped its consistently enjoyable, artistically accomplished 2017-2018 season with a dramatically thoughtful, musically sound rendition of Verdi’s immortal La traviata.

Brahms Liederabend

At his best, Matthias Goerne does serious (ernst) at least as well as anyone else. He may not be everyone’s first choice as Papageno, although what he brings to the role is compelling indeed, quite different from the blithe clowning of some, arguably much closer to its fundamental sadness. (Is that not, after all, what clowns are about?) Yet, individual taste aside, whom would one choose before him to sing Brahms, let alone the Four Serious Songs?

Angel Blue in La Traviata

One of the most beloved operas of all time, Verdi’s “ La Traviata” has never lost its enduring appeal as a tragic tale of love and loss, as potent today as it was during its Venice premiere in 1853.

Matthias Goerne and Seong-Jin Cho at Wigmore Hall

Is it possible, I wonder, to have too much of a ‘good thing’? Baritone Matthias Goerne can spin an extended vocal line and float a lyrical pianissimo with an unrivalled beauty that astonishes no matter how many times one hears and admires the evenness of line, the controlled legato, the tenderness of tone.

Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis

Madness - or perhaps, more widely, insanity - in opera goes back centuries. In Handel’s Orlando (1733) it’s the dimension of a character’s jealousy and betrayal that drives him to the state of delusion and madness. Mozart, in Idomeneo, treats Electra’s descent into mania in a more hostile and despairing way. Foucault would probably define these episodic operatic breakdowns as “melancholic”, ones in which the characters are powerless rather than driven by acts of personal violence or suicide.

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Susannah Biller as Marie and Stefano De Peppo as Sergeant Sulpice [Photo by Tim Trumble for Arizona Opera]
13 Apr 2015

Arizona Opera Ends Season in Fine Style with Fille du Régiment

On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera ended its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.

Arizona Opera Ends Season in Fine Style with Fille du Régiment

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Susannah Biller as Marie and Stefano De Peppo as Sergeant Sulpice

Photos by Tim Trumble for Arizona Opera

 

While in Paris working on the French versions of his other operas, Gaetano Donizetti took some time to write an opéra-comique, La Fille du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment). Its French text is by Jean-François Bayard, a nephew of the famous librettist Eugène Scribe, and the prolific but rather old fashioned Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges.

After its premiere at the Opéra-Comique on February 11, 1840, Marie-Julie Halligner, who sang the Marquise of Berkenfeld, said that the performance was "a barely averted disaster" because the tenor was frequently off pitch. French critic and composer Hector Berlioz claimed that the new work could not be taken seriously, but in all probability his opinion was colored by jealousy. During a single year, Donizetti had two works performed at the Opéra, two at the Théâtre de la Renaissance, two at the Opéra-Comique, and one at the Théâtre-Italien.

La Fille du Régiment soon became popular at the Opéra-Comique and it achieved its thousandth performance within seventy years. One of the reasons for its success was the aria that defeated the premiere’s tenor, Mécène Marié de l'Isle. "Ah! Mes amis, quel jour de fête!” ("Ah, my friends, what an exciting day"), is best known for containing nine high Cs.

DofR PORTILLO reg  BILLER N REG snd 11.pngDavid Portillo as Tonio, Susannah Biller as Marie with Regiment including Stefano De Peppo as Sergeant Sulpice

On March 7, 1843, the first American performance of Fille took place at the Théâtre d'Orléans in New Orleans. It was so successful there that the company brought the opera to New York City where it was highly praised by local newspapers. As time went on, artists such as Jenny Lind, Henriette Sontag, Adelina Patti, Lily Pons, and Joan Sutherland enjoyed singing the role of Marie.

On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera finished its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.

Tenor David Portillo, who has a beautiful lyric sound, had no difficulty reaching the nine high Cs in the famous aria. As lively and buoyant as Biller, bass Stefano de Peppo was a nimble, hilariously funny Sergeant Sulpice who sang with a colorful, robust voice. Donizetti did not often write major roles for lower women’s voices but the comedic Marquise of Berkenfeld is an exception. Mezzo Margaret Gawrysiak played her part broadly and showed her true vocal ability in her aria, “Pour une Femme de mon Nom” (“For a Woman with my Name”).

Arizona Opera Young Artist Program member Calvin Griffin has become a valuable member of the company. A lithe and limber comedian, he made an attentive Hortensius. Chris Carr was an amusing corporal while actress Didi Conn was an entertaining Duchess of Krakenthorpe. Like many other operas of this era, Fille has a great deal of choral music. Henri Venanzi’s singers conveyed in idiomatic French style and grace.

Right from the opening notes of the overture, the audience knew that conductor Keitaro Harada was putting his individual stamp on this piece. He combined Donizetti’s delightful melodies with dramatic musical coherence. His dynamic range was huge and he kept the playing transparent so that listeners heard all the melodic strands in the fabric of the score. This was one of the best shows of the year at Arizona Opera and it leaves us waiting with bated breath for next season. Personally, I can’t wait for Emmerich Kálmán’s operetta, Arizona Lady, a piece that has never before been seen in Arizona.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Marie, Susannah Biller; Tonio, David Portillo; Sergeant Sulpice, Stefano De Peppo; The Marquise, Margaret Gawrysiak; Hortensius, Calvin Griffin; Corporal, Chris Carr; Duchess of Krakenthorpe, Didi Conn; Notary, Ian Christiansen; Peasant, Justin Carpenter; Conductor, Keitaro Harada; Stage Director, John de los Santos; Scenic Design, Boyd Ostroff; Lighting Designer, Douglas Provost; Chorus Master, Henri Venanzi; Dancers, Phoenix Ballet; Supertitles, Keith Wolfe.

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):