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

Cave: a new opera by Tansy Davies and Nick Drake

Opera seems to travel far from the opera house these days. Alongside numerous productions in community spaces and pub theatres, in the last few years I’ve enjoyed productions staged on the shingle shore of Aldeburgh beach, at the bottom of the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe, and in a renovated warehouse in Shoreditch on the roof of which perch four ‘creative studios’ in the form of recycled Jubilee line train carriages and shipping containers.

Götterdämmerung in San Francisco

The truly tragic moments of this long history rich in humanity behind us we embark on the sordid tale of the Lord of the Gibichungs’s marriage to Brünnhilde and the cowardly murder of Siegfried, to arrive at some sort of conclusion where Brünnhilde sacrifices herself to somehow empower women. Or something.

Siegfried in San Francisco

We discover the child of incestuous love, we ponder a god’s confusion, we anticipate an awakening. Most of all we marvel at genius of the composer and admire the canny story telling of the Zambello production.

Boris Godunov in San Francisco

Yes, just when you thought Wotan was the only big guy in town San Francisco Symphony (just across a small street from San Francisco Opera), offered three staged performances of the Mussorgsky masterpiece Boris Godunov in direct competition with San Francisco Opera’s three Ring des Nibelungen cycles.

Garsington Opera transfers Falstaff from Elizabeth pomp to Edwardian pompousness

Bruno Ravella’s new production of Verdi's Falstaff for Garsington Opera eschews Elizabethan pomp in favour of Edwardian pompousness, and in so doing places incipient, insurgent feminism and the eternal class consciousness of fin de siècle English polite society centre stage.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

A culinary coupling from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

What a treat the London Music Conservatoires serve up for opera-goers each season. After the Royal Academy’s Bizet double-bill of Le docteur Miracle and La tragédie de Carmen, and in advance of the Royal College’s forthcoming pairing of Huw Watkins’ new opera, In the Locked Room, based on a short story by Thomas Hardy, and The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have delivered a culinary coupling of Paul Hindemith’s The Long Christmas Dinner and Sir Lennox Berkeley’s The Dinner Engagement which the Conservatoire last presented for our delectation in November 2006.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Anna Christy as Marie
30 Aug 2015

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

A review by James Sohre

Above: Anna Christy as Marie

Photos by Ken Howard

 

After a sparkling, infectious overture, expertly led by Speranza Scappucci, a Les Miz style barricade rotates to reveal the choristers, not in colorful folk costumes, but in severely styled black funeral wear (think: Amish look).

Belying the set-up of the sprightly overture, director Ned Canty got things off to a rather somber start, more William Tell than Donizetti’s comic opus. After this stolid beginning, Mr. Canty seemed to have second thoughts, and in short order the tale gets liberally peppered with the usual (and some unusual) shameless jokes and inspired (and some uninspired) physical comedic schtick, and then some. Canty wrote the English dialogue with the music sung in the original French.

Allen Moyer’s sets and costumes were quite witty and adaptable. The barricade of Act I yields furniture and props that cleverly get plucked off the pile, and there are ample levels to create interesting stage pictures. The ornate false proscenium, hunter green with panels painted with Tyrolean scenes, created a sense of place and established a highly theatrical style. A stylish carriage conveys the Marquise on- and off-stage. The Berkenfeld manse of Act II is sumptuous inside and out, its exterior paraphrasing Linderhof. Rick Fisher’s efficient lighting design was up to his usual high standard.

After the drab opening attire, Mr. Moyer’s costumes add color little by little, first with red and blue uniform jackets, then with Tonio’s red and black Trachten, later with lavish party gowns. Marie’s over-the-top pink dress for the Lesson Scene was a riot of invention and that scene crackled with good humor. And then the director seemed to change his mind again with the mood becoming soul-searching, earnest, and well, a bit ponderous. By the time he changed his mind yet again with the interpolated and extraneous announcement of silly German names and titles of all of the party guests, the Duchess of Krakenthorp was thoroughly pre-empted and upstaged.

15-Alek-Shrader-(Tonio),-Anna-Christy-(Marie),-and-Kevin-Burdette-(Sulpice-Pingot)-in-'The-Daughter-of-the-Regiment.'-Photo-(c)-Ken-Howard-for-The-Santa-Fe-Opera,-2015.pngAlek Shrader as Tonio, Anna Christy as Marie and Kevin Burdette as Sulpice-Pingot

By that point, the return to frivolity was too little too late. Self-indulgence marred Act II with too many lilies being gilded with too much “added material,” too much deference to the (secondary character) Marquise’s “feelings,” and too little regard for pacing in what is, after all, a pretty slight comedy. By removing non-essential business, tightening the repetitious dialogue, keeping the focus on Marie-Tonio, and urging the pace along, about ten minutes could be taken off the second act and the show would be even better than the audience already thinks it is.

Whatever the (only) occasional longueurs of the staging, Maestra Scappucci snapped the proceedings back into focus every time her authoritative baton came down, eliciting a reading of the score that was characterized by audacious spontaneity, effervescence and a keen sense of style. The conductor not only admirably partnered her singers with breadth and flexibility on poignant arias, but also took firm control over such tricky allegro passages as that breathless account of the Act II trio Tous les trois réunis. Clearly, the talented Speranza Scappucci is a podium star on the rise.

A lot is asked of the four principles in carrying The Daughter on their backs, and they did not disappoint. The great Beverly Sills once described the vivandière Marie as “Lucille Ball with high notes.” Just as we all loved Lucy, we were enchanted by pretty, perky and petite Anna Christy who proved a natural as the canteen girl, a supposed orphan who has been “adopted” by the 21st Regiment.

Ms. Christy takes the stage as an unapologetic tomboy and shows off awesome comic timing. Adding to the appeal, she also has a finely spun, meticulously schooled, silvery soprano of great agility and admirable range. While she offers sparkling vocalizing throughout the evening, it is in the slower arias that she finds the most personalized tone and most engaging pathos. If I had one wish for Anna, it might be to eliminate a few of the held notes in alt. The couple of thrilling successes were offset by a few that wanted to splay. When you are as accomplished as this, when we are already eating out of your hand, when we wouldn’t miss the additional stratospheric notes, why take chances? That minor quibble aside, Anna Christy is giving a wholly accomplished star performance.

16-Phyllis-Pancella-(Marquise-of-Berkenfeld)-and-Alek-Shrader-(Tonio)-in-'The-Daughter-of-the-Regiment.'-Photo-(c)-Ken-Howard-for-The-Santa-Fe-Opera,-2015.pngPhyllis Pancella as the Marquise of Berkenfeld and Alek Shrader as Tonio

Alek Shrader is easily the funniest Tonio of my experience. From his first entrance, picture postcard handsome in his Tyrolean get-up, he immediately betrays a puppy dog eagerness and gangliness that is consistently appealing. His physical comedy was superb. When he tried to be Joe Cool, listening to Marie’s story, he kept feigning casual positions that were impossible to maintain, with one of these finding him clinging to the barricade and dangling like a dyspeptic monkey.

Mr. Shrader’s singing was assured and correct, although the tone has taken on a slightly veiled quality since last I heard him. He has a fine sense of legato, to be sure, and he injects personality and purpose into all he sings. The very top notes thin out a mite these days, and while he certainly had the goods for “Mes amis,” he lacked that final ounce of real distinction. Like his co-star, he scored decisively in such touching moments as Pour me rapprocher de Marie, in which his beautiful instrument, comfortable tessitura, and heartfelt intent magically merged.

As Sergeant Sulpice, it was hard to believe that Kevin Burdette was the same performer who was so serious and compelling in Cold Mountain some days prior. Here, he was all loose limbs and German-challenged orator, a marriage of Dick Van Dyke and Mr. Magoo. Forget about solar panels, Mr. Burdette generates enough energy to power greater Santa Fe. That he also sang with a direct, polished delivery was icing on the pratfall.

Far from the usual dotty Marquise de Berkenfeld, Phyllis Pancella offered a glamorous and elegant interpretation. If her ripe mezzo has gained a more mature sheen over the years, she remains a very gifted singer. Her craft is on full display as she deftly utilizes a change of registers to underscore comic shifts in her musical lines. Moreover, she proved herself once again to be a fine comedienne, delivering her lines with an endearing self-importance, while mugging with a vaudevillian’s understated expertise.

17-Judith-Christin-(Duchess-of-Krakenthorp)-and-chorus-in-'The-Daughter-of-the-Regiment.'-Photo-(c)-Ken-Howard-for-The-Santa-Fe-Opera,-2015.pngJudith Christin as the Duchess of Krakenthorp

The accomplished singer Judith Christin seemed wasted as the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Heavily made up in clown white greasepaint and overstated features, got up in an over-the-top silvery-white gown, and topped with an ostentatious wig, when Ms. Christin spoke in her distinctive contralto and rasped an exhortation with a heavy German accent, she could have been a man in drag. She did all that was asked of her with conviction to be sure, but I for one wish more had been asked.

Apprentice Calvin Griffin offered an imposing, handsome presence and sang with an assured bass-baritone as the servant Hortensius. Susanne Sheston had the chorus singing with gusto and personality. Seán Curran crafted some delightful, natural choreography, especially the Regiment’s fist pounding “salute” that delectably recalled the hand jive.

All in all, this Daughter had quite a successful romp across the SFO stage, but when she got too regimented and moody I just wish someone had told her to lighten back up.

James Sohre


Cast and production information:

Hortensius: Calvin Griffin; Marquise of Berkenfeld: Phyllis Pancella; Peasant: Jack Swanson; Sergeant Sulpice Pingot: Kevin Burdette; Marie: Anna Christy; Tonio: Alek Shrader; Corporal: Adrian Smith; Duchess of Krakenthorp: Judith Christin; Notary: Jorell Williams; Conductor: Speranza Scappucci; Director: Ned Canty; Set and Costume Design: Allen Moyer; Lighting Design: Rick Fisher; Choreographer: Seán Curran; Chorus Master: Susanne Sheston; English Dialogue: Ned Canty.

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):