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On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.
In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.
Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.
On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.
There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.
For the first time in its history, this summer Garsington Opera will present four productions as well as a large community opera. 2017 also sees the arrival of the Philharmonia Orchestra for one opera production each season for the next five years.
New work by the English artist Rachel Kneebone will be exhibited at Glyndebourne Festival 2017, which opens for public booking on 5 March.
The London-based artist has created three new sculptures inspired by two of the operas being staged at the Festival this summer - Cavalli’s Hipermestra and a new opera based on Hamlet by composer Brett Dean and librettist Matthew Jocelyn.
With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia
Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory
mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola,
whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the
Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.
Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.
Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.
It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.
Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.
American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no
less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series
feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera,
Nixon in China.
Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.
'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.
On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.
In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener
Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.
In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the
Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in
a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.
I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and
Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series
programmes opening the New Year.
There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.
19 May 2015
Pacific Opera Project Presents Ariadne auf Naxos
Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented a production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Ebell Club with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers.
Richard Strauss’s opera, Ariadne auf Naxos, is always a bit complicated. On May 14, 2015, Pacific Opera Project portrayed the opera’s setting as the actual opening of the Ebell Club in Highland Park, CA, in 1913. There were two contenders for the opening night’s entertainment: a newly commissioned opera, Ariadne auf Naxos, by an important new composer, and a very popular vaudeville show starring the well known entertainer, Zerbinetta. H.H. Meyer, husband of one of the club members, suggested having both shows run simultaneously. Members passed his motion so that all the indoor entertainment could conclude by 10:30 PM when technicians would set off a display of fireworks.
Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented the production of the Strauss opera with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers. Although the setting was 1913, the Ebell Club audience heard the 1916 edition of the opera rather than the far more difficult original version. The auditorium was set up so that the audience of two hundred sat at tables with refreshments while they watched the opera.
Sara Duchovnay as Zerbinetta with her troupe
The main character in the first act was The Composer. Played by Claire Shackleton, she moved extremely well and had exemplary diction but her voice tended to be unsteady on longer notes. Dialoguing with her, Music Teacher Ryan Thorn sang with burnished bronze tones. After the intermission he and Timothy Campbell sang an amusing version of Cole Porter’s Brush Up Your Shakespeare to advertise the company’s next production: Falstaff.
Tracy Cox, the Ariadne, had a huge dramatic voice that seemed ready for a much larger space. Her sound was opulent and her top notes radiant. She did not have a great deal to sing in the first act but her glorious Act II aria, Es gibt ein Reich, was definitely worth waiting for. Her accompanying trio consisted of Maria Elena Altany, Kelci Hahn, and Sarah Beaty. Altany, the Susanna in Los Angeles Opera’s Figaro 90210, sang Naiad with honeyed tones. Hahn was an attractive Echo, and Beaty handled the low notes gracefully as Dryad. Dramatic tenor Brendan Sliger sang Bacchus, the god of wine and lover of Princess Ariadne. With powerful resonant tones and firm stagecraft, he took her from dark lamentation over the loss of Theseus into the light of new love and an eternal place in the heavens.
Brendan Sliger as Bacchus and Tracy Cox as Ariadne
Sara Duchovnay sang Zerbinetta, the leading lady of the vaudeville company who finds herself onstage at the same time as the operatic tragedy. Duchovnay is a charismatic stage creature. Although she does not have a trill and she tossed some of the coloratura runs off rather lightly, she was a fascinating Zerbinetta. When she was onstage all eyes were upon her. Her troupe included Nicholas LaGesse as Harlequin, Jon Lee Keenan as Scaramuccio, Robert Norman as Brighella and Keith Colclough as Truffaldino. All were capable vaudevillians with the most interesting voices coming from Norman and LaGesse.
This production did not need a full sized orchestra because of the size of the hall. Christopher Fechteau’s reduction of each group to a single instrument was adequate accompaniment. Conductor Stephen Karr led his players in smart, brisk tempi while giving the singers enough leeway to create believable characters and bring out emotional expression. This production of Ariadne auf Naxos introduced an interesting young company and allowed the Los Angeles audience to hear some fine new singers.