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

A Donizetti world premiere: Opera Rara at the Royal Opera House

There may be sixty or so operas by Donizetti to choose from, but if you’ve put together the remnants of another one, why not give everyone a chance to hear it? And so, Opera Rara brought L’Ange de Nisida to the concert stage last night, 180 years after it was composed for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, conductor Sir Mark Elder leading a team of bel canto soloists and the Choir and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a committed and at times stirring performance.

A stellar Ariadne auf Naxos at Investec Opera Holland Park

Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos is a strange operatic beast. Originally a Molière-Hofmannsthal-Strauss hybrid, the 1916 version presented in Vienna ditched Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which had preceded an operatic telling of the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus, and replaced it with a Prologue in which buffa met seria as competing factions prepared to present an entertainment for ‘the richest man in Vienna’. He’s a man who has ordered two entertainments, to follow an epicurean feast, and he wants these dramatic digestifs served simultaneously.

PROM 5: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Stefan Herheim’s production of Debussy’s magnificent 1902 opera for Glyndebourne has not been universally acclaimed. The Royal Albert Hall brought with it, in this semi-staged production, a different set of problems - and even imitated some of the production’s original ones, notably the vast shadow of the organ which somewhat replicates Glyndebourne’s 1920’s Organ Room, and by a huge stretch of the imagination the forest in which so much of the opera’s action is set.

Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

Sopranos Elise Brancheau and Shannon Jones, along with pianists Martin Néron and Keith Chambers, presented a thrilling evening of French-themed music in an evening entitled: “Salut à la France,” at the South Oxford Space in Brooklyn this past Saturday, July 14th.

Dido in Deptford: Blackheath Halls Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty. The artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera has overseen a production which brings together professional soloists, students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a cast of more than 80 south-east London adults and children for this, the 12th, annual Blackheath Halls Community Opera.

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Mefistofele at Orange’s Chorégies

This is the one where a very personable devil tells God that mankind is so far gone it isn’t worth his time to bother corrupting it further.

Mascagni's Isabeau rides again at Investec Opera Holland Park

There seemed to me to be something distinctly Chaucerian about Martin Lloyd-Evans’ new production of Mascagni’s Isabeau (the first UK production of the opera) for Investec Opera Holland Park.

The 2018 BBC Proms opens in flamboyant fashion

Anniversaries and commemorations will, as usual, feature significantly during the 2018 BBC Proms, with the works of Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger all prominently programmed during the season’s myriad orchestral, vocal and chamber concerts.

Banff’s Hell of an Orphée+

Against the Grain Theatre brought its award winning adaptation of Gluck’s opera to the Banff Festival billed as “an electronic baroque burlesque descent into hell.”

A Choral Trilogy at the Aix Festival

What Seven Stones (the amazing accentus / axe 21), and Dido and Aeneas (the splendid Ensemble Pygmalion) and Orfeo & Majnun (the ensemble [too many to count] of eleven local amateur choruses) share, and virtually nothing else, is spectacular use of chorus.

Vintage Audi — Parsifal, Kaufmann, Pape

From the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Wagner Parsifal with a dream cast - René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Pierre Audi. The production is vintage Audi - stylized, austere, but solidly thought-through.

Flight Soars High in Des Moines

Jonathan Dove’s innovative opera Flight is being lavished with an absolutely riveting new production at Des Moines Metro Opera’s resoundingly successful 2018 Festival.

Fledermaus Pops the Cork in Iowa

Like a fizzy bottle of champagne, Des Moines Metro Opera uncorked a zesty tasting of Johan Strauss’s vintage Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

A spritely summer revival of Falstaff at the ROH

Robert Carson’s 2012 ROH Falstaff is a bit of a hotchpotch, but delightful nevertheless. The panelled oak, exuding Elizabethan ambience, of the first Act’s gravy-stained country club reeks of the Wodehouse-ian 1930s, but has also has to serve as the final Act’s grubby stable and the Forest of Windsor, while the central Act is firmly situated in the domestic perfection of Alice Ford’s 1950s kitchen.

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

Ingenious Des Moines Metro Opera continued its string of site-specific hits with an endearing production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land on the grounds of the Maytag Dairy farm.

Des Moines’ Ravishing Rusalka

Let me get right to the point: This is the Rusalka I have been waiting for all my life.

L'Ange de feu (The Fiery Angel)
in Aix

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is rarely performed. This new Aix Festival production to be shared with Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki exemplifies why.

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.

The Skating Rink: Garsington Opera premiere

Having premiered Roxanna Panufnik’s opera Silver Birch in 2017 as part of its work with local community groups, Garsington Opera’s 2018 season included its first commission for the main opera season. David Sawer's The Skating Rink premiered at Garsington Opera this week; the opera is based on the novel by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano with a libretto by playwright Rory Mullarkey.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Marnie Breckenridge as the Mother and Lauren Worsham as Lisa [Photo by Greg Grudt]
19 Jun 2015

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Dog Days at REDCAT

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Marnie Breckenridge as the Mother and Lauren Worsham as Lisa

Photos by Greg Grudt

 

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. Audiences had already seen the work in Montclair, New Jersey, and Fort Worth, Texas. Los Angeles Opera presented it at the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater (REDCAT), a tiny black box theater located in Walt Disney Hall. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Baritone James Bobick sings the part of her harried father who would have provided for his wife and children if he could. Since that was not possible, his emotions turned to anger. Although he walked around with a gun, there were no animals to hunt. Bobick’s part was huge and he sang it with gusto even though most of it was declamatory. His wife, sung by Marnie Breckenridge, tried to keep up appearances, but that, too, was impossible.

Dog-Days-15206-085.pngJames Bobick as the Father

Except for a harmonized prayer before each of the family’s scant meals, the orchestral instruments seldom backed up the vocal line. Thus, the voices often lacked the support of traditional opera accompaniment. The Newspeak Orchestra, conducted by Alan Pierson, consisted of clarinet, guitar, piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, and percussion team. This unusual group of instruments produced some interesting sonorities that were most effective in the instrumental interludes.

If your idea of opera is melodic music sung unamplified by some of the world’s most beautiful voices, Dog Days is not for you. Garth MacAleavey’s sound engineering amplified the voices as well as the noise and vibrations of a helicopter, which brought the family food, water and blankets. I wished Little had chosen to write his musical impression of a helicopter instead of using the actual sounds.

Lauren Worsham gave a magnificent interpretation of the teenaged Lisa who carefully chronicled this horrific story, knowing all the time that those who were most likely to read it had already died. Strangely, there were no supertitles shown except for a short space of time when Lisa wrote to a friend who might no longer have been living. Perhaps Lisa is a fictional Anne Frank for post apocalyptic times. As the reader can see by now, there is little uplifting about this opera.

Dog-Days-Photo-Greg-Grudt-15206-116.pngJohn Kelly as the Dog

The Dog, played by actor John Kelly, is actually a young man who wears a dog suit and crawls around on all fours. After a while, he seemed more human than the people. The least savory family members were Lisa’s two brothers, Elliott, sung by Michael Marcotte, and Pat, played by Peter Tantsits. They spent the last days of their lives smoking pot and looking at pornography.

The one scene that brought out some emotional reactions from the audience occurred when Lisa realized her mother had died. She looked at the dirt on her mother’s face and began to wash the body in an attempt to give her mother a decent burial. A moment later the helicopter noise and vibration was back and the emotional impact vanished. David T. Little has the makings of an interesting composer. I hope he will continue to write for the voice, possibly having learned some lessons from this opera.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Father, James Bobick; Mother, Marnie Breckenridge; Captain, Cherry Duke; Dog, John Kelly (actor); Elliott, Michael Marcotte; Soldier, Steve Polites; Pat, Peter Tantsits; Lisa, Lauren Worsham; Creative Producer, Beth Morrison; Director, Robert Woodruff; Scenic and Video Design, Jim Findlay; Lighting Design, Christopher Kuhl; Costume Design, Victoria “Vita”; Tzykun; Sound engineering, Garth MacAleavey; Musical Direction, Alan Pierson; Newspeak Ensemble.

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):