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

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):