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

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

Predatory power and privilege in WNO's Rigoletto at the Birmingham Hippodrome

At a party hosted by a corrupt and dissolute political leader, wealthy patriarchal predators bask in excess, prowling the room on the hunt for female prey who seem all too eager to trade their sexual favours for the promise of power and patronage. ‘Questa o quella?’ the narcissistic host sings, (this one or that one?), indifferent to which woman he will bed that evening, assured of impunity.

Virginie Verrez captivates in WNO's Carmen at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen for Welsh National Opera presents not the exotic Orientalism of nineteenth-century France, nor a tale of the racial ‘Other’, feared and fantasised in equal measure by those whose native land she has infiltrated.

Die Zauberflöte brings mixed delights at the Royal Opera House

When did anyone leave a performance of Mozart’s Singspiel without some serious head scratching?

Haydn's La fedeltà premiata impresses at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

‘Exit, pursued by an octopus.’ The London Underground insignia in the centre of the curtain-drop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Silk Street Theatre, advised patrons arriving for the performance of Joseph Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded, 1780) that their Tube journey had terminated in ‘Arcadia’ - though this was not the pastoral idyll of Polixenes’ Bohemia but a parody of paradise more notable for its amatory anarchy than any utopian harmony.

Van Zweden conducts an unforgettable Walküre at the Concertgebouw

When native son Jaap van Zweden conducts in Amsterdam the house sells out in advance and expectations are high. Last Saturday, he returned to conduct another Wagner opera in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series. The Concertgebouw audience was already cheering the maestro loudly before anyone had played a single note. By the end of this concert version of Die Walküre, the promise implicit in the enthusiastic greeting had been fulfilled. This second installment of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung was truly memorable, and not just because of Van Zweden’s imprint.

Purcell for our time: Gabrieli Consort & Players at St John's Smith Square

Passing the competing Union and EU flags on College Green beside the Palace of Westminster on my way to St John’s Smith Square, where Paul McCreesh’s Gabrieli Consort & Players were to perform Henry Purcell’s 1691 'dramatic opera' King Arthur, the parallels between England now and England then were all too evident.

The Dallas Opera Cockerel: It’s All Golden

I greatly enjoyed the premiere of The Dallas Opera’s co-production with Santa Fe Opera of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel when it debuted at the latter in the summer festival of 2018.

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is featuring Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Philip Glass: Music with Changing Parts - European premiere of revised version

Philip Glass has described Music with Changing Parts as a transitional work, its composition falling between earlier pieces like Music in Fifths and Music in Contrary Motion (both written in 1969), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-4) and the opera Einstein on the Beach (1975). Transition might really mean aberrant or from no-man’s land, because performances of it have become rare since the very early 1980s (though it was heard in London in 2005).

Wexford Festival Opera 2019

The 68th Wexford Festival Opera, which runs until Sunday 3rd November, is bringing past, present and future together in ways which suggest that the Festival is in good health, and will both blossom creatively and stay true to its roots in the years ahead.

Cenerentola, jazzed to the max

Seattle Opera’s current staging of Cenerentola is mostly fun to watch. It is also a great example of how trying too hard to inflate a smallish work to fill a huge auditorium can make fun seem more like work.

Bottesini’s Alì Babà Keeps Them Laughing

On Friday evening October 25, 2019, Opera Southwest opened its 47th season with composer Giovanni Bottesini and librettist Emilio Taddei’s Alì Babà in a version reconstructed from the original manuscript score by Conductor Anthony Barrese.

Ovid and Klopstock clash in Jurowski’s Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’

There were two works on this London Philharmonic Orchestra programme given by Vladimir Jurowski – Colin Matthews’s Metamorphosis and Gustav Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. The way Jurowski played it, however, one might have been forgiven for thinking we were listening to a new work by Mahler, something which may not have been lost on those of us who recalled that Matthews had collaborated with Deryck Cooke on the completion of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Quinn Kelsey as Rigoletto [Photo by Ken Howard]
30 Aug 2015

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

A review by James Sohre

Above Quinn Kelsey as Rigoletto

Photos by Ken Howard

 

Like SFO itself, the Verdi opus proved to be evergreen.

This was owing in no small part to a high-powered cast that would be at home on any world stage. In the title role, Quinn Kelsey served notice that he surely has few contemporary equals in this demanding part. Mr. Kelsey dominated the proceedings from his first appearance, not only with a hulking physical presence but also with a superlative baritone that had urgency and menace.

His measured, sarcastic barbs were served up with a honeyed malice, and his introspective musings had a possessed, haunting humanity. In the duets with his daughter, his opulent legato conveyed a depth of feeling not often captured by other interpreters. His was a top tier performance of one of the greatest baritone roles in the canon.

25-Bruce-Sledge-(Duke-of-Mantua)-and-Georgia-Jarman-(Gilda)-in-'Rigoletto'-(c)-Ken-Howard-for-Santa-Fe-Opera,-2015.pngBruce Sledge as the Duke of Mantua and Georgia Jarman as Gilda

As Gilda, Georgia Jarman matched him in every respect, displaying a sizable lyric soprano, capable of great nuance and color. The hints of gold in her upper register conveyed a youthful, infatuated girl in her first scene, while the touch of tremulous intensity in lower ranges communicated her conflicted disobedience of her father’s wishes.

After the Duke rapes Gilda, Ms. Jarman infused the sound with a touching despair, then maintained a firm resolve to the end. Her delicate, ethereal singing in the final bars was not meant for mere human ears; it was ravishing and heartbreaking.

Bruce Sledge brings such a secure lyric tenor to the Duke of Mantua, so lovingly produced that you could almost be seduced that he is not a shitheel. Mr. Sledge has all the notes in his arsenal and then some, and he sings the famous arias and the treacherous quartet with abandon. His acting and vocal coloring are a bit generalized but he is never unengaged. Time and experience will allow this talented singer to find his own unique qualities that he can bring to the role.

Apprentice Peixin Chen was sonorous and unctuous as the villainous Sparafucile. His rich, dark bass poured forth effortlessly, and he had a fine stage presence. As his sister (and murderous cohort) Maddalena, Nicole Piccolomini pinned our ears back with a steely mezzo of substantial size and import. Although not announced as indisposed, there seemed to be hints of a troubling rasp to some attacked phrases. Still, Ms. Piccolomini gave an assured performance.

Robert Pomakov was a coiled spring of a Monterone, his thunderous bass frightening in its intensity. Young artist Jarrett Ott took advantage of every note the master wrote for Marullo and sang with a solid, attractive baritone. Shabnam Kalbasi similarly imbued Countess Ceprano’s critical phrases with poised, attractive singing. Anne Marie Stanley made much out of Giovanna with sassy, classy vocalizing and a well-rounded characterization.

28-Nicole-Piccolomini-(Maddalena)-in-'Rigoletto'-(c)-Ken-Howard-for-Santa-Fe-Opera,-2015.pngNicole Piccolomini as Maddalena

From Jader Bignamini’s first downbeat, the conductor led a propulsive, taut reading weighted with dramatic conviction. The foreshadowing of the curse in the prelude has never seemed so urgent. Maestro Bignamini crafts a thrilling dramatic arc to the familiar score that not only moves forward inexorably but also takes time to relish subtleties in the diverse emotional journeys of the characters. Susanne Sheston has the marvelous chorus trained to a fare-thee-well.

The physical production could hardly have been better. Adrian Linford does double duty as Set and Costume Designer and excels at both. The production has been placed in the time of its composition. To solve the challenge of the multiple settings required within the limits of the SFO stage, Mr. Linford has crafted a marvel of a rotating structure that is a veritable kaleidoscopic collage of stairs and colonnades and fences and windows and chambers, all slightly askew, and all multi-functional. The colors, textures and architectural fragments skillfully evoke Mantua.

Mr. Linford’s costumes are very inventive, especially for the jester, decked out in a large overcoat, with a Charlie Chaplin hat, thick orthopedic shoe on one foot, and a false vest front that Gilda helps him change out during their first duet. Courtiers look sufficiently wealthy but with a patina of debauchery. The women are mostly got up (or not clothed much at all) as lurid, willing and available sex objects. Giovanna is an abused maid who has a visible syphilis scar on her pallid face.

This is a crumbling, decadent environment, tellingly lit with a twilight-of-the-gods finality by Rick Fisher. Within this effective visual environment, Director Lee Blakely directs a straight forward, no-nonsense telling of the tragedy that is breathtaking in its accurate simplicity. Mr. Blakely has crafted an evening of movement and interaction that is always true to the story and that clarifies the shifting dynamics of mood and character development. His use of the many available levels creates visual interest and variety. When he does inject some innovative sub-text, it pays handsome dividends.

29-Quinn-Kelsey-(Rigoletto)-and-Georgia-Jarman-(Gilda)-in-'Rigoletto'-(c)-Ken-Howard-for-Santa-Fe-Opera-2015.pngQuinn Kelsey as Rigoletto and Georgia Jarman as Gilda

The usually forgettable maid Giovanna is a case in point. Blakely’s take is that she is a spectral, unhappy (perhaps abused) creature, who appears to be starving. Her complicity in tricking Rigoletto is born of revenge, and after Rigoletto sinks to his knees with the realization that his daughter has been kidnaped, she spits on him as she stalks off. It is such attention to detail, and commitment to honest interplay that makes this a near perfect “Rigoletto,” shattering in its cumulative effect.

I can’t think of a better two-thousandth milestone present than this fine evening of opera with the company operating on all cylinders at its very best.

James Sohre


Cast and production information:

Duke of Mantua: Bruce Sledge; Borsa: Adrian Kramer; Countess Ceprano: Shabnam Kalbasi; Rigoletto: Quinn Kelsey; Marullo: Jarett Ott; Count Ceprano: Calvin Griffin; Count Monterone: Robert Pomakov; Sparafucile: Peixin Chen; Gilda: Georgia Jarman; Giovanna: Anne Marie Stanley; Monterone’s Daughter: Andrea Nunez; Court Usher: Michael Adams; Maddalena: Nicole Piccolomini; Conductor: Jader Bignamini; Director: Lee Blakeley; Set and Costume Design: Adrian Linford; Lighting Design: Rick Fisher; Choreographer: Nicola Bowie; Chorus Master: Susanne Sheston.

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):