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

Eugene Onegin at Seattle

Passion! Pain! Poetry! (but hold the irony . . .)

Pow! Zap! Zowie! Wowie! -or- Arthur, King of Long Beach

If you might have thought a late 17thcentury semi-opera about a somewhat precious fairy tale monarch might not be your cup of twee, Long Beach Opera cogently challenges you to think again.

Philippe Jaroussky and Jérôme Ducros perform Schubert at Wigmore Hall

How do you like your Schubert? Let me count the ways …

Crebassa and Say: Impressionism and Power at Wigmore Hall

On paper this seemed a fascinating recital, but as I was traveling to the Wigmore Hall it occurred to me this might be a clash of two great artists. Both Marianne Crebassa and Fazil Say can be mercurial performers and both can bring such unique creativity to what they do one thought they might simply diverge. In the event, what happened was quite remarkable.

'Songs of Longing and Exile': Stile Antico at LSO St Luke's

Baroque at the Edge describes itself as the ‘no rules’ Baroque festival. It invites ‘leading musicians from all backgrounds to take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads them’.

Richard Jones' La bohème returns to Covent Garden

Richard Jones' production of Puccini's La bohème is back at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden after its debut in 2017/18. The opening night, 10th January 2020, featured the first of two casts though soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who was due to sing Mimì, had to drop out owing to illness, and was replaced at short notice by Simona Mihai who had sung the role in the original run and is due to sing Musetta later in this run.

Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Mozart’s Don Giovanni returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Robert Falls updating of the opera to the 1930s. The universality of Mozart’s score proves its adaptability to manifold settings, and this production featured several outstanding, individual performances.

Britten and Dowland: lutes, losses and laments at Wigmore Hall

'Of chord and cassiawood is the lute compounded;/ Within it lie ancient melodies'.

Tara Erraught sings Loewe, Mahler and Hamilton Harty at Wigmore Hall

During those ‘in-between’ days following Christmas and before New Year, the capital’s cultural institutions continue to offer fare both festive and more formal.

Prayer of the Heart: Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet

Robust carol-singing, reindeer-related muzak tinkling through department stores, and light-hearted festive-fare offered by the nation’s choral societies may dominate the musical agenda during the month of December, but at Kings Place on Friday evening Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet eschewed babes-in-mangers and ding-donging carillons for an altogether more sedate and spiritual ninety minutes of reflection and ‘musical prayer’.

The New Season at the New National Theatre, Tokyo

Professional opera in Japan is roughly a century old. When the Italian director and choreographer Giovanni Vittorio Rosi (1867-1940) mounted a production of Cavalleria Rusticana in Italian in Tokyo in 1917, with Japanese singers, he brought a period of timid experimentation and occasional student performances to an end.

Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall

For those of us who live in a metropolitan bubble, where performances of Handel's Messiah by small professional ensembles are common, it is easy to forget that for many people, Handel's masterpiece remains a large-scale choral work. My own experiences of Messiah include singing the work in a choir of 150 at the Royal Albert Hall, and the venue's tradition of performing the work annually dates back to the 19th century.

What to Make of Tosca at La Scala

La Scala’s season opened last week with Tosca. This was perhaps the preeminent event in Italian cultural and social life: paparazzi swarmed politicians, industrialists, celebrities and personalities, while almost three million Italians watched a live broadcast on RAI 1. Milan was still buzzing nine days later, when I attended the third performance of the run.

La traviata at Covent Garden: Bassenz’s triumphant Violetta in Eyre’s timeless production

There is a very good reason why Covent Garden has stuck with Richard Eyre’s 25-year old production of La traviata. Like Zeffirelli’s Tosca, it comes across as timeless whilst being precisely of its time; a quarter of a century has hardly faded its allure, nor dented its narrative clarity. All it really needs is a Violetta to sweep us off our feet, and that we got with Hrachuhi Bassenz.

'Aspects of Love': Jakub Józef Orliński at Wigmore Hall

Boretti, Predieri, Conti, Matteis, Orlandini, Mattheson: masters of the Baroque? Yes, if this recital by Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is anything by which to judge.

Otello at Covent Garden: superb singing defies Warner’s uneven production

I have seen productions of Verdi’s Otello which have been revolutionary, even subversive. I have now seen one which is the complete antithesis of that.

Solomon’s Knot: Charpentier - A Christmas Oratorio

When Marc-Antoine Charpentier returned from Rome to Paris in 1669 or 1670, he found a musical culture in his native city that was beginning to reject the Italian style, which he had spent several years studying with the Jesuit composer Giacomo Carissimi, in favour of a new national style of music.

A Baroque Odyssey: 40 Years of Les Arts Florissants

In 1979, the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor, William Christie, founded an early music ensemble, naming it Les Arts Florissants, after a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Miracle on Ninth Avenue

Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first recorded opera I ever heard. Each Christmas Eve, while decorating the tree, our family sang along with the (still unmatched) original cast version. We knew the recording by heart, right down to the nicks in the LP. Ever since, no matter what the setting or the quality of a performance, I cannot get through it without tearing up.

Detlev Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (UK premiere)

It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamburg-born composer Detlev Glanert should count Hans Werner Henze as one of the formative influences on his work - he did, after all, study with him between 1984 to 1988.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Isabel Leonard as Ada and Nathan Gunn as Inman [Photo by Ken Howard]
03 Aug 2015

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Isabel Leonard as Ada and Nathan Gunn as Inman

Photos by Ken Howard

 

The librettist was Gene Scheer who wrote texts for Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick as well as Tobias Picker’s Thérèse Raquin and An American Tragedy. Scheer based his libretto for Cold Mountain on Charles Frazier’s historical novel of the same name. Higdon has successfully redirected her formidable efforts from the symphony to the theatre, and in doing so has produced a most memorable first opera. Not only do her vocal lines underline the personalities of each character, they are melodic, witty at times, and generally reflect the time and place of the setting.

Although director Leonard Foglia told his tale with occasional flashbacks, the action generally surged forward to capture the emotional punch of the novel. Robert Brill made his scenic design of dark boards juxtaposed at various angles. With the addition of Brian Nason’s lighting and Elaine J. McCarthy’s projections, they could be made to resemble land, sea, and the star-filled sky. David C. Woolard’s costumes were accurate as to time and place.

13 Ensemble cast in ‘Cold Mountain.’ Photo © Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera.pngEnsemble cast

Baritone Nathan Gunn sang the leading role of W. P. Inman, a wounded infantryman who deserts the Confederate army in an desperate effort to make his way back to Ada, his beloved. Gunn’s large, warm, resonant voice endeared him to listeners from the very beginning of the opera and the audience felt a loss when he died. As Ada, Isabel Leonard was a well brought up young lady who, in Act I, had no knowledge of how to survive in wartime. Her light, lyric mezzo-soprano voice denoted her youth and occasional exuberance, but it was not until the second act that she solidified her portrayal. It was the darker-voiced mezzo-soprano, Emily Fons, who created an immediately recognizable character in her depiction of the edgy, strong-willed Ruby. With golden sounds that included an opulent mid-range, she sang that her only teacher was hunger while she taught Ada how to live off the land and plan for a Spartan future.

Many artists portrayed smaller parts in this panoramic opera. Kevin Burdette was a notable blind man and a selfish deadbeat dad. Roger Honeywell gave a nuanced dramatic performance as Veasey, whose boat seemed to capsize in the air, dumping him and Inman into the dark of night. As Lucinda, whom Inman found hunting for valuables on the bodies left to rot on the battlefield, Deborah Nansteel sang with formidable vocal power while expressing the desperation of a runaway slave.

7 Emily Fons (Ruby Thewes) and Jay Hunter Morris (Teague) in ‘Cold Mountain.’ Photo © Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera.pngEmily Fons as Ruby and Jay Hunter Morris as Teague

Although tenors are usually heroes who get the girl, Teague, sung with great gusto by heldentenor Jay Hunter Morris, was a murderous villain who continually tried to cause trouble for anyone who did not support ideas of the Confederacy. Morris proved to be a singer whose bronzed tones could enchant an audience while they resonated with evil. Surprisingly, in the end it was not Teague who killed Inman, it was the young boy he had trained to carry on his violent work.

Some of the music of Cold Mountain hit the audience directly in the solar plexus. One of its most stirring moments took place when the dead soldiers who said they had long been forgotten, rose from their graves to tell the audience what they died for. Chorus Master Susanne Sheston’s male apprentices sang with nuanced dramatic power:

“Buried and forgotten
In our beautiful country
Where we lie buried We rest beneath every step you take,
In the dust, in the ground on which you tread.”

Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya led an orchestra of interesting proportions that offered pungent harmonies and displayed an enormous tapestry of musical color thanks to the inclusion of considerable brass and percussion. Currently, the opera is being recorded by the Dutch label, PentaTone. Since Cold Mountain’s five scheduled Santa Fe performances sold out early, a sixth one has been added.

Maria Nockin

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):