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 Reviews

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.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

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).

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

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.”

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

Kurt Weill’s Street Scene

Kurt Weill’s “American opera,” Street Scene debuted this past weekend in the Kay Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with a diverse young cast comprised of students and alumni of the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

20 Oct 2015

Pelleas and Melisande in Brooklyn

The past few years have marked a renaissance in Brooklyn's cultural life, from food to fashion, and quite notably, opera. From BAM to Bushwick, audiences have crowded in for a taste of something different.

Pelleas and Melisande in Brooklyn

A review by Andreas Hager

Above: Christopher Dylan Herbert as Pelleas, Aude Cardona as Melisande [All photos copyright Tony Gale courtesy of Floating Opera New York].

 

Few performances, though, have been further off the beaten path than Floating Opera New York's recent Pelleas and Melisande at the Water Front Museum in Redhook.

The hundred-year-old barge sits on a dark pier, giving spectacular views of lower Manhattan. Audience members were given detailed instructions on the location, and asked to please arrive on time. As the last of the full house were seated, the gangplank was raised, and barge drifted next to the dock; late seating was not an option.

Performed in English translation with piano accompaniment, this production starts off with a handicap. Despite Eric Kramer's sensitive conducting and George Hemcher firm hands at the piano, this is a score that pales in reduction. Tucked away in a corner, Kramer was able to keep the cast together, even with the difficult sight-lines of playing in the round.
The ensemble cast was strong, and in the small space, words were understandable without supertitles.

Pelleas_Brooklyn2.pngPelleas caressing Melisande's hair

As Melisande, Aude Cardona gave a rivetingly physical performance. Like Von Stade, she brought a darker tone than normally associated with the role, and sounded more human than ethereally pre-Raphaelite. As Pelleas, Christopher Dylan Herbert sang with a bright, clear baritone, matching Cardona's physical abandon.

Sidney Outlaw's brought a rich baritone to the brooding role of Golaud, and projected the clearest diction of the evening. He clearly delineated the path from enthrallment with Melisande, to eventual jealousy and rage. As the aging monarchs Arkel and Genvieve, Paul Goodwin-Groen and Jazmin DeRice sang and acted with intensity, giving memorable characterizations of these brief roles. Caroline Rose Loeb as Yniold, and Brett Harrison Vogel as the Doctor rounded out a strong ensemble cast.

Pelleas_Brooklyn3.pngSidney Outlaw as Golaud, Aude Cardona as Melisande

Isabel Milenski's production was paired down to the most essential elements. Like Weiland Wagner's minimalist productions at Bayreuth in the 1950s, Milenski has discarded with the traditional rings and flowing locks. So cleanly had the staging been conceived, that when props did appear, they felt superfluous. Jian Jung's set consisted of a rowboat, moored with an oversized tangle of rope. The rope was both a nod at the history of the barge, and to Melisande's long hair.

Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew added delicate strips of floor-lights which helped delineate the playing space, and managed to keep the space feeling dynamic through the evening with a very limited set of tools. Christina Lorraine Bullard's costumes suggested barge workers, as though the tiny floating world was the kingdom in contention.

As in the best site-specific work, the location was the undisputed star. The atmosphere was ephemeral, with the gently swaying of the barge echoing the sinuously shifting harmonies of Debussy's music. Milenski's staging had the singers using every corner, even climbing the walls behind the audience and singing inches above their heads. As the evening finished, Melisande rose slowly from a deathly stupor, throwing open the barge doors, and disappearing into the Manhattan Skyline.

Andreas Hager



Andreas Hager is a New York based opera critic who has written for Feast of Music, Theatre is Easy and Parterre Box. www.andreashager.com

Casts and production information:

Pelleas: Christopher Dylan Herbert; Melisande: Aude Cardona; Golaud: Sidney Outlaw; Arkel: Paul Goodwin-Groen; Genevieve: Jazmin DeRice; Ynold: Caroline Rose Loeb; the doctor: Brett Harrison Vogel. Steinway B piano: George Hemcher, pianist. Conductor: Eric Kramer; Stage Director: Isabel Milenski; Scene Design:Jian Jung; Costumes: Christina Lorraine Bullard; Lighting:Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew. Lehigh Valley Barge #79 (1914) now the Water Front Museum, Red Hook, Brooklyn. October 15, 2015

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):