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

Peter Sellars' kinaesthetic vision of Lasso's Lagrime di San Pietro

On 24th May 1594 just a few weeks before his death on 14 June, the elderly Orlando di Lasso signed the dedication of his Lagrime di San Pietro - an expansive cycle of seven-voice penitential madrigale spirituali, setting vernacular poetry on the theme of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ - to Pope Clement VIII.

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Donnerstag aus Licht

Stockhausen was one of the most visionary of composers, and no more so than in his Licht operas, but what you see can often get in the way of what you hear. I’ve often found fully staged productions of his operas a distraction to the major revelation in them - notably the sonorities he explores, of the blossoming, almost magical acoustical chrysalis, between voices and instruments.

David McVicar's Andrea Chénier returns to Covent Garden

Is Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chenier a verismo opera? Certainly, he is often grouped with Mascagni, Cilea, Leoncavallo and Puccini as a representative of this ‘school’. And, the composer described his 1876 opera as a dramma de ambiente storico.

Glyndebourne presents Richard Jones's new staging of La damnation de Faust

Oratorio? Opera? Cantata? A debate about the genre to which Berlioz’s ‘dramatic legend’, La damnation de Faust, should be assigned could never be ‘resolved’.

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

The Muse
15 Oct 2015

Loft Opera Presents an Evening of Excellent Ensembles, No Beer Required

Loft Opera has been hailed as the future of opera by multiple newspapers, magazines, and blogs across the nation, and even said to be “in the process of reinventing opera for the 21st Century” according to James Jorden from The New York Observer.

Loft Opera Presents an Evening of Excellent Ensembles, No Beer Required

A review by Alexis Rodda

Above: The Muse

 

Thus, with curiosity I ventured forward to their Verdi night in Bushwick, down a dark, industrial street with no signs of life besides other couples, hand-in-hand, also clearly on their way to a night of opera. I went in with some preconceived notions: Loft Opera was considered edgy, young, and best of all (according to some), served beer at all their performances, from none other than the Brooklyn Brewery.

When I finally stumbled upon the venue, it felt more like entering a speakeasy than a concert venue. The only indicator that this wasn’t another boarded up building next to the rows of buildings with cracked windows and decaying brick was a friendly woman outside ushering people in, who later, I learned, was General Manager Brianna Maury. The space was industrial and the production staff took no pains to hide the raw nature of the space, instead outfitting the center of the loft with only a grand piano, several unfinished wooden platforms, and a giant “Verdi” marquee hanging on one wall.

The place was packed, and the best I could do was sit, half-perched, on a bench entirely too crowded for the amount of people seated upon it. My companion for the evening wandered through a sea of people to grab us two Brooklyn Lagers, while I anxiously watched her seat, the rest of the latecomers relegated to standing in the back. My curiosity was piqued by the entire experience, my mind awash with raving articles about the uniqueness of such an event as well as with the overall atmosphere of the place, which was young, hip, and titillated. The entire thing felt like a secret club I’d stumbled upon and was lucky enough to have found entry to. Intrigued, I waited eagerly for the performance, to see what made Loft Opera so unique to have spawned the ravings of almost every arts section of papers and magazines across the nation.

That moment of revelation never quite came. That’s not to say that the performance wasn’t excellent. The performers were incredibly strong, with each singer gracefully outfitted in full recital attire—I certainly did not envy the ladies who gracefully navigated the wooden steps up and down the platforms in their ball gowns.

Soprano Suzanne Vinnik was graceful and beautiful in her expression, though her voice sounded a few sizes too small for the rep. The legato was broken with excessive use of straight tone in her lower register as well as vocal anachronisms that caused both the authenticity of Verdi’s music as well as the purity of her Italian to suffer. High notes seemed laborious and broke the dramatic moment as she thrust her sound forward, her hands clenched with effort. Despite this, she handled the characters, especially Leonora, with skill and nuance, evoking an emotional but poised performance.

Baritone Joshua Jeremiah excelled in both the role of La Traviata’s Germont and Trovatore’s Count di Luna, bringing a rich, full baritone voice to his impeccable performance of Verdi’s music. He convincingly portrayed the older father figure of Germont as well as the love-manic role of Count di Luna, all within a span of a half hour. His strong physicality, easily produced sound, and impeccable Italian made him the standout of the evening.

The chemistry between Suzanne Vinnik and Joshua Jeremiah was palpable in every scene, particularly in their treatment of scenes from Il Trovatore, and I found myself eagerly awaiting their reappearance throughout the evening.

Mezzo-soprano Karolina Pilou was set against tenor Dominick Rodriguez in scenes from Luisa Miller and Aida, and both blossomed beneath the demands of the music. Pilou’s first scene from Luisa Miller was pleasing, with her round and present lower voice, but in the scenes from Aida, the dramatic demands on her voice thrilled the listener. Her high notes were powerful without ever bordering on shrill, and her steady stage presence suggested all the gravity of a princess wronged. Her counterpartner, Rodriguez, had a bright, well-balanced, and smooth voice that left me longing to hear more from him.

Overall, the ensemble was exceptionally tight, with pianist and music director Sean Kelly combining both acuity of instinct in following his singers, as well as great facility with the reduced orchestral score. There wasn’t a sloppy end of a phrase all evening, which further contributed to the professionalism of the performances.

It’s always a pleasure to see good music performed well, but the wild appeal of Loft Opera continued to evade me. Months earlier, I’d seen a production of Orlando produced by R.B. Schlather in a similarly bare space, and with similar musical excellence—with libations provided, of course—except that production blossomed with creativity and daring. With Loft Opera, the “sets” of the evening appeared to be hastily constructed platforms, with the staging as traditional as could be. The program note mentions the reduced staging so that the focus could be upon the singers performing only a few feet away, but the loft space was so large that the majority of the audience would barely have a view of the action.

With the hype surrounding Loft Opera, I expected the extraordinary. I left the performance feeling satisfied, but not moved to exclamations of hope for the future of opera. Perhaps my real point is that a good performance—which this absolutely was—is a good performance, no matter how dingy the loft or how cool the attending crowd. I’ll come to see opera done well any day-- with or without a Brooklyn Lager in my hand.

Alexis Rodda

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):