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

There is no rose: Gesualdo Six at St John's Smith Square

This concert of Christmas music at St John’s Smith Square confirmed that not only are the Gesualdo Six and their director Owain Parks fine and thoughtful musicians, but that they can skilfully shape a musical narrative.

Temple Winter Festival: The Tallis Scholars

Hodie Christus natus est. Today, Christ is born! A miracle: and one which has inspired many a composer to produce their own musical ‘miracle’: choral exultation which seems, like Christ himself, to be a gift to mankind, straight from the divine.

A new Hänsel und Gretel at the Royal Opera House

Fairy-tales work on multiple levels, they tell delightful yet moral stories, but they also enable us to examine deeper issues. With its approachably singable melodies, Engelbert Humperdinck's Märchenoper Hänsel und Gretel functions in a similar way; you can take away the simple delight of the score, but Humperdinck's discreetly Wagnerian treatment of his musical material allows for a variety of more complex interpretations.

Rouvali and the Philharmonia in Richard Strauss

It so rarely happens that the final concert you are due to review of any year ends up being one of the finest of all. Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s all Richard Strauss programme with the Philharmonia Orchestra, however, was often quite remarkable - one might quibble that parts of it were somewhat controversial, and that he even lived a little dangerously, but the impact was never less than imaginative and vivid. This was a distinctly young man’s view of Strauss - and all the better for that.

‘The Swingling Sixties’: Stravinsky and Berio

Were there any justice in this fallen world, serial Stravinsky – not to mention Webern – would be played on every street corner, or at least in every concert hall. Come the revolution, perhaps.

The Pity of War: Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano at the Barbican Hall

During the past four years, there have been many musical and artistic centenary commemorations of the terrible human tragedies, inhumanities and utter madness of the First World War, but there can have been few that have evoked the turbulence and trauma of war - both past and present, in the abstract and in the particular - with such terrifying emotional intensity as this recital by Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano at the Barbican Hall.

First revival of Barrie Kosky's Carmen at the ROH

Charles Gounod famously said that if you took the Spanish airs out of Carmen “there remains nothing to Bizet’s credit but the sauce that masks the fish”.

Stanford's The Travelling Companion: a compelling production by New Sussex Opera

The first performance of Charles Villiers Stanford’s ninth and final opera The Travelling Companion was given by an enthusiastic troupe of Liverpudlian amateurs at the David Lewis Theatre - Liverpool’s ‘Old Vic’ - in April 1925, nine years after it was completed, eight after it won a Carnegie Award, and one year after the composer’s death.

Russian romances at Wigmore Hall

The songs of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov lie at the heart of the Romantic Russian art song repertoire, but in this duo recital at Wigmore Hall it was the songs of Nikolay Medtner - three of which were framed by sequences by the great Russian masters - which proved most compelling and intriguing.

Don Giovanni: Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera turned the art of seduction into bloodsport with its 2018/19 season-opener of Mozart’s dramma giocoso, Don Giovanni often walking a razor’s edge between hilarious social commentary and chilling battles for the soul.

Jonathan Miller's La bohème returns to the Coliseum

And still they come. No year goes by without multiple opportunities to see it; few years now go by without my taking at least one of those opportunities. Indeed, I see that I shall now have gone to Jonathan Miller’s staging on three of its five (!) outings since it was first seen at ENO in 2009.

Sir Thomas Allen directs Figaro at the Royal College of Music

The capital’s music conservatoires frequently present not only some of the best opera in London, but also some of the most interesting, and unusual, as the postgraduate students begin to build their careers by venturing across diverse operatic ground.

Old Bones: Iestyn Davies and members of the Aurora Orchestra 'unwrap' Time at Kings Place

In this contribution to Kings Place’s 2018 Time Unwrapped series, ‘co-curators’ composer Nico Muhly and countertenor Iestyn Davies explored the relationship between time past and time present, and between stillness and motion.

Cinderella goes to the panto: WNO in Southampton

Once upon a time, Rossini’s La Cenerentola was the Cinderella among his operatic oeuvre.

It's a Wonderful Life in San Francisco

It was 1946 when George Bailey of Bedford Falls, NY nearly sold himself to the devil for $20,000. It is 2018 in San Francisco where an annual income of ten times that amount raises you slightly above poverty level, and you’ve paid $310 for your orchestra seat to Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

Des Moines: Glory, Glory Hallelujah

A minor miracle occurred as Des Moines Metro Opera converted a large hall on a Reserve Army Base to a wholly successful theatrical venue, and delivered a stunning rendition of Tom Cipullo’s compelling military-themed one act opera, Glory Denied.

In her beginning is her end: Welsh National Opera's La traviata in Southampton

David McVicar’s La traviata for Welsh National Opera - first seen at Scottish Opera in 2008 and adopted by WNO in 2009 - wears its heavy-black mourning garb stylishly.

'So sweet is the pain': Roberta Invernizzi at Wigmore Hall

In this BBC Radio 3 lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall, soprano Roberta Invernizzi presented Italian songs from the first half of seventeenth-century, exploring love and loyalty, loss and lies, and demonstrating consummate declamatory mastery.

Staging Britten's War Requiem

“The best music to listen to in a great Gothic church is the polyphony which was written for it, and was calculated for its resonance: this was my approach in the War Requiem - I calculated it for a big, reverberant acoustic and that is where it sounds best.”

Moshinsky's Simon Boccanegra returns to Covent Garden

Despite the flaming torches of the plebeian plotters which, in the Prologue, etched chiaroscuro omens within the Palladian porticos of Michael Yeargan’s imposing and impressive set, this was a rather slow-burn revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s 1991 production of Simon Boccanegra.

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):