Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

19 Jul 2015

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

A review by James Sohre

Above:

 

It may not have the crackling tension of Tosca, the profound sacrifice of Butterfly, the appealing chinoiserie of Turandot, or the memorable tunes of La Boheme. But taken on its own colorful, often boisterous terms, Fanciulla can touch and delight.

The collaborators at Des Moines Metro Opera have obviously and lovingly believed in every measure of this work, and have mounted a winning new production that is nigh unto perfection.

At its center, its beating heart is the tremendous performance of Minnie by Alexandra LoBianco. The soprano not only has an exciting spinto voice, but she is able to weight each phrase with just the right dramatic intent. Upon her first appearance, I worried that her diminutive stature might hamper her effectiveness in carrying the show. My fears were unfounded.

Ms. LoBianco’s voice conveys all the stature a great Minnie requires: a creamy instrument that oozes charm and allure, a rock solid technique that is even from top to bottom, and an unerring theatrical savvy that can color dramatic utterances with conviction and yes, deeply felt emotion. I found myself tearing up in her penultimate scene as she begs her beloved “boys” for Dick Johnson’s life. Her connection to each of them was so meaningful, her singing so throbbing with urgency that I was quite undone. This was a true star turn from an artist at the top of her game.

Every inch her match, Jonathan Burton poured out impassioned, emotionally generous phrases as Dick Johnson (Ramerrez). Mr. Burton has an exciting squillo in his full-bodied tenor that is riveting. But Mr. Burton can also exude a persuasive charm as he croons gentler phrases and caresses them with a knowing legato. The pairing of these two artists was a cause for jubilation and their interaction created a musical frisson that was impossible to resist.

IMG_6453.png 

Strapping, handsome Kristopher Irmiter was a powerful and incisive Jack Rance. The celebrated Poker Scene found him in total control of a full palette of vocal effects and conflicted, turbulent emotions. Mr. Irmiter’s imposing baritone is dark and commanding, and his Rance was virile and compelling.

The huge cast of (almost exclusively) male singers is so uniformly excellent that it is hard to single anyone out. That said, Steven Sanders was a solid, clarion-voiced Nick. Christopher Job’s substantial baritone was deployed in fine service to Ashby’s characterization. I thought that Joshua Jeremiah’s individualized, slightly grainy baritone was completely winning as a memorable Sonora. Lanky Tyler Alessi contributed a solidly sung Beppo. And Andrew Potter proved to be a sensitive, appealing Larkens.

Director David Gately has created a vibrant staging that was not only grounded in truthful, meaningful relationships, but also filled the stage with well-motivated, seemingly spontaneous movement. I totally bought into Mr. Gately’s vision of this specific theatrical world, and admired his choices without reservation.

He was greatly assisted by his gifted design team. R. Keith Brumley has contributed a marvel of a realistic set, one that provoked much positive intermission chatter. From the folksiness of the expansive saloon that spilled onto the thrust area, to the isolation of Minnie’s contained cabin, to the tightly focused tableaus of the final act, Mr. Brumley provided an attractive environment unerring in its practicality and atmosphere.

The homey costumes provided by Utah Opera were all exactly the right “look” and greatly enhanced the actors’ efforts in creating realistic characters. And Barry Steele’s detailed lighting design added immeasurably to the effectiveness of the drama. His subtle gradations of area effects and color choices in general washes were masterful in their effect.

Conductor David Neely elicited a spirited reading from the orchestra, who seemed to revel in one of Puccini’s most diverse and luxuriant orchestrations. The attention to detail from the solo wind instrumentalists was complemented by richly satisfying playing from the banks of strings. The instrumentalists went from strength to strength and the overall arc that Maestro Neely was able to effect was as powerful as it was inevitable.

If you didn’t feel the hair rise on the back of your neck, or feel a chill down your spine at least once during this superbly realized performance, you were clearly at the wrong address. This Fanciulla was the operatic art form at its most persuasive.

James Sohre


Cast and production information:

Minne: Alexandra LoBianco; Jack Rance: Kristopher Irmiter; Dick Johnson/Ramerrez: Jonathan Burton; Nick: Steven Sanders; Ashby: Christopher Job; Sonora: Joshua Jeremiah; Trin: George Ross Somerville; Bello: Tyler Alessi; Harry: Lee Steiner; Happy: Zachary Owens; Joe: John Robert Lindsey; Larkens: Andrew Potter; Sid: Evan Ross; Billy Jackrabbit: Brent Michael Smith; Wowkle: Kristen Dininno; José Castro: César Méndez Silvagnoli; Conductor: David Neely; Director: David Gately; Set Design: R. Keith Brumley; Lighting Design: Barry Steele; Chorus Master: Lisa Hasson; Costume Design: Utah Opera, coordinated by Connie Petersen; Make-up and Hair Design: Brittany Crinson for Elsen Associates

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):