Recently in Performances
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.
Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.
Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.
The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of
Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a
Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.
The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.
On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.
A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
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.
16 May 2015
Varispeed pushes the possibilities of opera forward with Robert Ashley’s Crash
Six people, dressed in ordinary clothing, sitting in a row at desks adorned only with microphones and glasses of water, and talking for ninety minutes: is it opera?
According to Robert Ashley, the composer himself, “Well, if I say
it’s opera, it’s opera! Who’s running this show, anyway?” The composer,
who died in March of last year, was known for anecdotal libretti and
“television operas” that invite close listening and that range in tone from
tragic to comic to cosmically, bewilderingly existential.
Crash , the last of his operas, was performed at Roulette by
Varispeed, an experimental music group consisting of a younger generation of
Ashley disciples: Brian McCorkle, Dave Ruder, Gelsey Bell, Paul Pinto, Aliza
Simons, and Amirtha Kidambi. First performed last year at the Whitney Biennial,
Crash was reincarnated for four nights in April by director Tom
Hamilton and producer Mimi Johnson. The opera is divided into six acts of
fifteen minutes each, during which three of the speakers, in a Cageian fashion,
take turns talking for 30 seconds each: “Thoughts” rambles, as if partaking
in a phone conversation, about fourteen-year life cycles, evil short men, and
the frustrations of neighbors; “Crash” swirls out a string of poetic fears
and musings; “The Journal” stammers out descriptions of each year from
Ashley’s life. Meanwhile, the other three voices murmur quietly in the
background. The members of Varispeed rotated through the parts so that, by the
sixth act, each had taken his or her turn assuming each of the voices and their
varying tempos and amplifications.
Roulette TV: ROBERT ASHLEY // Crash: Act 1 from Roulette Intermedium on Vimeo.
Unlike other of Ashley’s operas, which feature loosely outlined piano or
electronic parts, Crash is distinct in its accompaniment: each of the
three trains of thought, which thread in and around each other like a braid of
multicolored ribbons, is joined only by the quick but quiet mumbling of three
other voices and an array of three different photo projections. This symphony
of voices and abstract images allows the focus to fall not just on Ashley’s
texts but on the spotlighted speaker and the hills and valleys of their
inflections, vocal register and timbre, and unique embodiment of the
“character”. So although the opera is sparse in requisites, it feels
inordinately full and rich in tone as the six voices—four voices at any given
moment—complement each other in continually new ways. (The interpretations of
“The Journal” were most striking in their differences, as each of the
members of Varispeed adopted the required stutter in a particular way.)
Despite this sense of evolution in the ever-fluctuating vocal combinations,
there was an overall sensation of constancy and meditation throughout the
comforting rhythms and switch-offs of the 30-second segments. Each time one of
the characters started back up, no matter who was speaking, the carefully
intricate yet seemingly stream-of-conscious themes and anecdotes of Ashley’s
life fell into their familiar patterns. The mathematically predictable
structure of the opera was the perfect framework for Ashley’s unpredictable
and often humorous observations. Each of the vocalists managed to capture the
ponderous, philosophical, and psychological ramblings—which in the case of
“The Journal” were highly linear and easy to follow, while during
“Crash” they were more obscure—with not just humor but sensitivity and
Another reason, aside from the scrupulous performance of Varispeed, that
Ashley’s personal accounts and musings never felt heavy-handed or forced were
the photographs by Philip Makanna, who collaborated with Ashley on the
latter’s 14-hour video opera/documentary Music with Roots in the
Aether. Throughout the “projection score” by Katie Cox, Eric Magnus,
and Andie Springer, the abstract and peaceful visual component did not feel
like a contrived, maladroit powerpoint sequence as so many new music
projections do. Rather, the photographed landscapes not only depicted the
American scenery so important to Ashley, but also allowed the audience to
“hear the singing and the texts without the typical visual distractions”,
as Ashley desired. In combination with lighting designer David Moodey’s
skillful spotlight maneuvering and Kate Brehm’s stage management, the photo
projections did not hammer home a message but allowed the viewers to form their
own responses alongside their listening. This was the rare opera experience
wherein the visual and aural experiences were united with not a blip of
More straightforward than Ashley’s other operas, which can be oblique and
convoluted in narrative and musical structure, Crash delivers a
wondrous yet meditative experience. Written at the end of the sixth
fourteen-year cycle of his life—and it’s surely no coincidence Ashley died
just before his 84th birthday, considering his self-imposed
significance on the number—the opera feels as if Ashley is looking back on
his life while also looking towards the future, using the voices of young
people to explore concepts of voice, story-telling, and, yes, opera.
Rebecca S. Lentjes