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

Irish soprano Paula Murrihy on Salzburg, Sellars and Singing

For Peter Sellars, Mozart’s Idomeneo is a ‘visionary’ work, a utopian opera centred on a classic struggle between a father and a son written by an angry 25-year-old composer who wanted to show the musical establishment what a new generation could do.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

The Gardeners: a new opera by Robert Hugill

‘When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot,/ Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,/ And flowers will shine in this now barren plot/ And fame upon it through the years descend:/ But many a heart upon each simple cross/ Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.’

Richard Jones's Boris Godunov returns to Covent Garden

There are never any real surprises with a Richard Jones production and Covent Garden’s Boris Godunov, first seen in 2016, is typical of Jones’s approach: it’s boxy, it’s ascetic, it’s over-bright, with minimalism turned a touch psychedelic in the visuals.

An enchanting Hansel and Gretel at Regent's Park Theatre

If you go out in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. And, it will be no picnic! For, deep in the broomstick forest that director Timothy Sheader and designer Peter McKintosh have planted on the revolving stage at Regent’s Park Theatre is a veritable Witches’ Training School.

First staged production of Offenbach's Fantasio at Garsington

Offenbach's Fantasio is one of the works where, replacing the mad-cap satire of his earlier operettas with a more romantic melancholy, he paved the way for Les contes d'Hoffmann. Unpopular during his lifetime, Fantasio disappeared and only work by the musicologist Jean-Christophe Keck brought the score together again.

Rusalka in San Francisco

It must be a dream. Though really it is a nightmare. The water sprite Rusalka tortures herself if she is telling the story, or tortures the man who has imagined her if he is telling the story. Either way the bizarrely construed confusion of Czech fairy tales has no easily apparent meaning or message.

Orlando in San Francisco

George Frederic Handel was both victim and survivor of the San Francisco Opera’s Orlando seen last night on the War Memorial stage.

Anthony Negus conducts Das Rheingold at Longborough

There are those in England who decorate their front lawns with ever-smiling garden gnomes, but in rural Gloucestershire the Graham family has gone one better; their converted barn is inhabited, not by diminutive porcelain figures, but fantasy creatures of Norse mythology - dwarves, giants and gods.

Carmen in San Francisco

A razzle-dazzle, bloodless Carmen at the War Memorial, further revival of Francesca Zambello’s 2006 Covent Garden production already franchised to Oslo, Sidney and Washington, D.C.

Weimar Berlin - Bittersweet Metropolis: Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra

Strictly speaking, The Weimar Republic began on 11th August 1919 when the Weimar Constitution was announced and ended with the Enabling Act of 23rd March 1933 when all power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag was disbanded.

A superb Un ballo in maschera at Investec Opera Holland Park

Investec Opera Holland Park’s brilliantly cast new production of Un ballo in maschera reunites several of the creative team from last year’s terrific La traviata, with director Rodula Gaitanou, conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren and lighting designer Simon Corder being joined by the designer, takis.

A Classy Figaro at The Grange Festival

Where better than The Grange’s magnificent grounds to present Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Hampshire’s neo-classical mansion, with its aristocratic connections and home to The Grange Festival, is the perfect setting to explore 18th century class structures as outlined in Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto.

A satisfying Don Carlo opens Grange Park Opera 2019

Grange Park Opera opened its 2019 season with a revival of Jo Davies fine production of Verdi's Don Carlo, one of the last (and finest) productions in the company's old home in Hampshire.

Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, 2019

The first woman composer to receive the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize could not have been a worthier candidate.

Josquin des Prez and His Legacy: Cinquecento at Wigmore Hall

The renown and repute of Josquin des Prez (c.1450-1521) both during his lifetime and in the years following his death was so extensive and profound that many works by his contemporaries, working in Northern France and the Low Countries, were mis-attributed to him. One such was the six-part Requiem by Jean Richafort (c.1480-c.1550) which formed the heart of this poised concert by the vocal ensemble Cinquecento at Wigmore Hall, in which they gave pride of place to Josquin’s peers and successors and, in the final item, an esteemed forbear.

Symphonie fantastique and Lélio United – F X Roth and Les Siècles, Paris

Symphonie fantastique and Lélio together, as they should be, with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles livestreamed from the Philharmonie de Paris (link below). Though Symphonie fantastique is heard everywhere, all the time, it makes a difference when paired with Lélio because this restores Berlioz’s original context.

Ivo van Hove's The Diary of One Who Disappeared at the Linbury Theatre

In 1917 Leoš Janáček travelled to Luhačovice, a spa town in the Zlín Region of Moravia, and it was here that he met for the first time Kamila Stösslová, the young married woman, almost 40 years his junior, who was to be his muse for the remaining years of his life.

Manon Lescaut opens Investec Opera Holland Park's 2019 season

At this end of this performance of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at Investec Opera Holland Park, the first question I wanted to ask director Karolina Sofulak was, why the 1960s?

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Cosmic traveling through his Klavierstücke, Kontakte and Stimmung

Stockhausen. Cosmic Prophet. Two sequential concerts. Music written for piano, percussion, sound diffusion and the voice. We are in the mysterious labyrinth of one of the defining composers of the last century. That at least ninety-minutes of one of these concerts proved to be an event of such magnitude is as much down to the astonishing music Stockhausen composed as it is to the peerless brilliance of the pianist who took us on the journey through the Klavierstücke. Put another way, in more than thirty years of hearing some of the greatest artists for this instrument - Pollini, Sokolov, Zimerman, Richter - this was a feat that has almost no parallels.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Eric Owens as Macbeth and Soloman Howard as Banquo [Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival]
07 Aug 2015

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

A review by James Sohre

Above: Eric Owens as Macbeth and Soloman Howard as Banquo

Photo by Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival

 

Surely its raison d'être on the schedule was the availability of bass-baritone Eric Owens, who made a triumphant debut in the title role. Mr. Owens possesses one of the great voices of our time. While he was announced as indisposed, it made no matter as he lavished the part with rolling, refulgent tone and infused it with uncommon intelligence and heartfelt subtext.

He was mesmerizing in his dramatic focus, and his anguish was almost pitiable save for his unhinged commitment to cold-blooded murder. Eric went from strength to strength all evening long, with his gorgeous dusky approach to Pieta, rispetto, amore earning the boisterous ovation it prompted. Macbeth’s tragic death scene (not always performed) was masterfully calibrated, invested as it was with nuance, build and pathos. This was a noteworthy role assumption by a singer at the top of his game.

No less accomplished was the Lady Macbeth of Melody Moore, who set a new gold standard for interpreters of this fiendishly difficult part. Ms. Moore is possessed of a rich, round, gleaming tone that not only caresses legato phrases with ease, but also fires off incisive coloratura and accurate trills seemingly at will. Her take on the role as an aggressive, manipulative spouse, was febrile, feline, fierce and every other manner of F-word.

KarliCadel-Macbeth-GenDress-1353.pngMelody Moore as Lady Macbeth

Her seething determination in La luce langue, her incorporation of a stooped primal posture, all clenched fists and coiled spring, was electrifying. She almost made you wonder how one so strong could ultimately go so crazy! The haunting, hollow filigree of sound that Ms. Moore summoned in the great Sleepwalking Scene was chilling and utterly secure. Hers was a remarkable achievement.

In that same Sleepwalking scenario, the soprano was ably supported by the distinctive mezzo of Mithra Mastropierro as the Lady-in Waiting, and the warm baritone of Nathan Milholin as the Doctor, both Young Artists of fine promise.

Soloman Howard as Banquo is a young bass of tremendous stature and polish. Mr. Soloman already has the warmth and breadth of tone of a Simon Estes, and the easy, burly spontaneity of a Bryn Terfel. His tall, lean stature conveys an imposing presence, and he internalizes the part, so that we empathize with his character’s concern. Soloman has a potent vocal presence, and his vibrant, imposing, dark tone is even and solid. If the top occasionally gets a bit diffuse, he certainly sings higher phrases easily and convincingly. His rendition of Come dal ciel precipita was another production high point. Soloman Howard is a star on the rise.

Michael Brandenburg has an appealing, pointed tenor with an assured technique and an effortless delivery. A la paterna mano was beautifully intoned, and he certainly has the role in his throat. Now I would only urge him to loosen up a bit emotionally and get it in his heart. Marco D. Cammarota’s meaty tenor has presence, ping, and assertiveness. Both of these fine artists reflect great credit on the company’s Young Artist Program.

KarliCadel-Macbeth-GenDress-1185.pngMichael Brandenburg as Macduff

And that program’s fresh, shining voices contributed some pretty impeccable choral singing. Of necessity, the tradeoff is that some maturity and gravity of tone got lost. But Chorus Master David Moody elicited absolutely clean diction and impressive dramatic intent. The outstanding ensemble work had balance and an admirable unity of purpose.

Joseph Colaneri conducted with forward motion and authentic style. The Maestro never over-indulged the bathos and horror. His very brisk opening statements, and pulsing undercurrent to the floated, ethereal strings established his approach to the score. The orchestra exhibited excellent ensemble work, but there were also beautiful solo passages that mirrored the drama on stage. Maestro Colaneri was a willing partner in the breathless finale to the Macbeth-Lady duet as they scurry off stage after the murder of the King. I have heard some wonderful orchestras here over the years, but this was arguably the finest idiomatic playing I have yet heard from Glimmerglass pit.

James Schuette’s Set Design was mysterious yet multi-functional. Center stage is a wall unit that revolves to reveal an exterior and interior of an early 20th Century upscale mansion. It is contained by a box set with three entrance doors on each side, decorated with huge cabbage roses. At times, these images convey hominess and warmth, but at others they chillingly turn blood red thanks to Robert Wierzel’s vibrant lighting design. Mr. Wierzel has conjured up a wonderful bag of tricks, witness the beautiful isolation of Banquo’s ghost, and the stunning effect that makes the set almost look as though it were lit from within.

KarliCadel-Macbeth-GenDress-1288.pngMithra Mastropierro as Lady-in-Waiting and Nathan Milholin as Servant

The upstage walls can part and slide open, facilitating some beautiful backlighting effects, such as the beautiful silhouette of the chorus as they sang Patria oppressa. Mr. Schuette’s and Beth Goldenberg’s effective costumes conveyed station as well as hierarchy. I especially loved Duncan in his snooty top hat, overcoat, and gloves, which he removed deliberately and unctuously passed to the servants.

Director Anne Bogart has devised a personal and pervasive concept for the “Scottish Play.” She seems to have felt that the whole drama is played out in Macbeth’s mind. In the very first scene, the title character and Banquo enter shining flashlights hither and thither as if to look for clarity in the corners of Macbeth’s troubled mind.

One problem with this is (just as Jack Nicholson in The Shining) Macbeth seems kinda nuts from the beginning. He is therefore somewhat robbed of his journey. That said, the flashlight conceit paid off good dividends when Macbeth used it as “the dagger he sees before him.”

I quite liked the surreal concept of the refugee ladies who enter through the house during the prelude, and then become the witches. I wish the concept had gone even further in developing the women as omnipresent symbols. The use of the female chorus as set pieces in the Sleepwalking scene was inspired, with them holding candles as living “columns” that twisted and turned as facets of Lady Macbeth’s twisted mind.

Ms. Bogart forged highly specific character relationships, and facilitated outstanding ensemble work in which everyone seemed to have crafted and sustained an individual persona. The chorus was masterfully used in creating living tableaux.

Perhaps she allowed a bit too much moving about of furniture, which was sometimes brought on only to promptly be taken off again. But I loved her send-up of the soldier extras madly running through the doors of the wall, in a demented child’s game of war as though Macbeth had become totally unhinged.

The directors’ second witches’ prophecy scene was a mastery of groupings, and featured inventive use of props. The procession of primitive ritual dolls, family portraits, crests, et al, to terrorize Macbeth was highly effective, indeed the best solution I have ever seen. I also appreciated the suggestions of primitive ritual, like when the stick-wielding assassins circled Banquo with stylized, ominous motion.

No doubt about it, this Macbeth was a notable jewel in the crown of this 40th Anniversary celebration.

James Sohre


Cast and production information:

Macbeth: Eric Owens; Banquo: Soloman Howard; Lady Macbeth: Melody Moore; Macolm: Marco D. Cammarota; Macduff: Michael Brandenburg; Lady-in-Waiting: Mithra Mastropierro; Doctor/Servant: Nathan Milholin; Assassin: Derrell Acon; Herald: Hunter Enoch; Apparitions: Vanessa, Jasmine Habersham, Rhys Lloyd Talbot; Duncan: Simon Carr-Ellison; Fleanzio: Aiden Delany; Conductor: Joseph Colaneri; Director: Anne Bogart; Choreographer: Barney O’Hanlon; Set Design: James Schuette; Costume Design: James Schuette and Beth Goldenberg; Lighting Design: Robert Wierzel; Hair and Make-up Design: Anne Ford-Coates

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):