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

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Gergiev, Mariinsky

Sergei Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op 74, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus. One Day That Shook the World to borrow the subtitle from Sergei Eisenstein's epic film October : Ten Days that Shook the World.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Photo by Jiyang Chen
15 May 2015

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

New York Opera Exchange’s production of Carmen from May 8th to 10th highlighted that which opera devotees have been saying for years: Opera, far from being dead, is vibrant and evolving.

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

A review by Alexis Rodda

Photos by Jiyang Chen

 

Audience members packed into the church hall at the Church of the Covenant on East 42nd Street to witness the spectacle of a small, emerging company taking on one of the grandest operas in the common repertory.

While not a traditional performance space, the production team managed to make this small church hall feel much like a genuine theater. Creative lighting placement added to the authenticity of the theatricality, and while the set was simple and unchanging for the duration of the opera, it was beautifully designed and offered a basic backdrop for the action of the opera. The stadium-style set suggested a metaphor oft-utilized in many previous Carmen productions — that Carmen and Jose are but two sparring members of a bullfighting ring.

IMG_0192.png

Indeed, the entirety of the production existed in the realm of the traditional, taking very few liberties that might have contributed to a more creatively imagined Carmen. At the same time, the production found its strength in remaining traditional. The costuming was temporally nebulous and at times inconsistent, but in general costume designer Taylor Mills offered beautiful displays of craftsmanship, in particular with Micaela’s and Carmen’s attire. The score was well-preserved, with few cuts. This allowed for the audience to experience beautiful music often missing from productions by smaller companies, particularly the chorus numbers, which shimmered in this production, especially those sung by the female chorus.

The orchestra was on the same level as the audience, but partitioned to create a semblance of a pit. There are few things more pleasing than the opportunity to hear a full, unreduced orchestra; however, in this case, the orchestra provided proof that bigger is not always better. The orchestra, under the baton of music director Alden Gatt, grew increasingly ragged throughout the night, with some notable moments of unraveling that were obvious even to the untrained ear. Intonation and rhythmic problems were rampant throughout the night, while dynamics and musical variation were sorely underutilized. Gatt appeared at times oblivious to the breathing needs of his singers, forcing the singers into some awkward phrasing choices. There were moments of beauty, however, which hinted at the potential of this orchestra with some polishing, particularly during the overture and entr’acte.

IMG_0193.png

It is to the credit of the fine group of singers that they managed as well as they did. The ensemble of singers struggled against a languid orchestra to stay on the beat, but they pulled it off admirably, especially in the jaunty smuggler’s ensemble at the close of Act II. The vocal talent was remarkable and the strongest element of NYOE’s Carmen. Avery Amereau (Carmen) has an effortlessly rich mezzo-soprano voice worthy of any professional stage in the industry, with the charisma to match. Victor Starsky’s Don Jose is terrifying and compelling, with a voice that performs vocal acrobatics with strength and beauty that remains undiminished through his final line. The scenes between Amereau and Starsky were electric like nothing else in the opera, both vocally and dramatically. The ensemble scenes sagged beneath banal and stiff staging, but vocally, each singer shone with professionalism and artistry. Of the smaller roles, Kate Farrar (Mercedes) stunned with a remarkably rich mezzo-soprano sound, while Kaley Lynn Soderquist (Micaela) soared through her high range.

Despite the kinks in this production, New York Opera Exchange is onto something, which is bringing together a community of artists, entrepreneurs, and culture-seekers. Artistic Director Justin Werner manages to infect others with his enthusiasm through sheer force of charisma and passion. Only four years old, New York Opera Exchange has serious potential to grow in excellence and artistry, and this vibrant production of Carmen suggested the beginning of this budding future.

Alexis Rodda

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):