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

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Nico Muhly's Marnie at ENO

Winston Graham’s 1961 novel Marnie was bold for its time. Its themes of sexual repression, psychological suspense and criminality set within the dark social fabric of contemporary Britain are but outlier themes of the anti-heroine’s own narrative of deceit, guilt, multiple identities and blackmail.

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

Tremendous revival of Katie Mitchell's Lucia at the ROH

The morning sickness, miscarriage and maundering wraiths are still present, but Katie Mitchell’s Lucia di Lammermoor, receiving its first revival at the ROH, seems less ‘hysterical’ this time round - and all the more harrowing for it.

Manon in San Francisco

Nothing but a wall and a floor (and an enormous battery of unseen lighting instruments) and two perfectly matched artists, the Manon of soprano Ellie Dehn and the des Grieux of tenor Michael Fabiano, the centerpiece of Paris’ operatic Belle Époque found vibrant presence on the War Memorial stage.

A beguiling Il barbiere di Siviglia from GTO

I had mixed feelings about Annabel Arden’s production of Il barbiere di Siviglia when it was first seen at Glyndebourne in 2016. Now reprised (revival director, Sinéad O’Neill) for the autumn 2017 tour, the designs remain a vibrant mosaic of rich hues and Moorish motifs, the supernumeraries - commedia stereotypes cum comic interlopers - infiltrate and interact even more piquantly, and the harpsichords are still flying in, unfathomably, from all angles. But, the drama is a little less hyperactive, the characterisation less larger-than-life. And, this Saturday evening performance went down a treat with the Canterbury crowd on the final night of GTO’s brief residency at the Marlowe Theatre.

Brett Dean's Hamlet: GTO in Canterbury

‘There is no such thing as Hamlet,’ says Matthew Jocelyn in an interview printed in the 2017 Glyndebourne programme book. The librettist of Australian composer Brett Dean’s opera based on the Bard’s most oft-performed tragedy, which was premiered to acclaim in June this year, was noting the variants between the extant sources for the play - the First, or ‘Bad’, Quarto of 1603, which contains just over half of the text of the Second Quarto which published the following year, and the First Folio of 1623 - no one of which can reliably be guaranteed superiority over the other.

WNO's Russian Revolution series: the grim repetitions of the house of the dead

‘We lived in a heap together in one barrack. The flooring was rotten and an inch deep in filth, so that we slipped and fell. When wood was put into the stove no heat came out, only a terrible smell that lasted through the winter.’ So wrote Dostoevsky, in a letter to his brother, about his experiences in the Siberian prison camp at Omsk where he was incarcerated between 1850-54, because of his association with a group of political dissidents who had tried to assassinate the Tsar. Dostoevsky’s ‘house of the dead’ is harrowingly reproduced by Maria Björsen’s set - a dark, Dantesque pit from which there is no possibility of escape - for David Pountney’s 1982 production of Janáček’s final opera, here revived as part of Welsh National Opera’s Russian Revolution series.

The 2017 Glyndebourne Tour arrives in Canterbury with a satisfying Così fan tutte

A Così fan tutte set in the 18th century, in Naples, beside the sea: what, no meddling with Mozart? Whatever next! First seen in 2006, and now on its final run before ‘retirement’, Nicholas Hytner’s straightforward account (revived by Bruno Ravella) of Mozart’s part-playful, part-piquant tale of amorous entanglements was a refreshing opener at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury where Glyndebourne Festival Opera arrived this week for the first sojourn of the 2017 tour.

Richard Jones's Rodelinda returns to ENO

Shameless grabs for power; vicious, self-destructive dynastic in-fighting; a self-righteous and unwavering sense of entitlement; bruised egos and integrity jettisoned. One might be forgiven for thinking that it was the current Tory government that was being described. However, we are not in twenty-first-century Westminster, but rather in seventh-century Lombardy, the setting for Handel’s 1725 opera, Rodelinda, Richard Jones’s 2014 production of which is currently being revived at English National Opera.

Amusing Old Movie Becomes Engrossing New Opera

Director Mario Bava’s motion picture, Hercules in the Haunted World, was released in Italy in November 1961, and in the United States in April 1964. In 2010 composer Patrick Morganelli wrote a chamber opera entitled Hercules vs. Vampires for Opera Theater Oregon.

Rigoletto at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If a credible portrayal of the title character in Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto is vital to any performance, the success of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s current, exciting production hinges very much on the memorable court jester and father sung by baritone Quinn Kelsey.

Wexford Festival Opera 2017

‘What’s the delay? A little wind and rain are nothing to worry about!’ The villagers’ indifference to the inclement weather which occurs mid-way through Jacopo Foroni’s opera Margherita - as the townsfolk set off in pursuit of two mystery assailants seen attacking a man in the forest - acquired an unintentionally ironic slant in Wexford Opera House on the opening night of Michael Sturm’s production, raising a wry chuckle from the audience.

The Genius of Purcell: Carolyn Sampson and The King's Consort at the Wigmore Hall

This celebration of The Genius of Purcell by Carolyn Sampson and The King’s Consort at the Wigmore Hall was music-making of the most absorbing and invigorating kind: unmannered, direct and refreshing.

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Allison Ulrich [Photo by Mark Shelby Perry]
12 Nov 2015

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

A review by Alexis Rodda

Above: Allison Ulrich

Photos by Mark Shelby Perry

 

Though the story remains faithful to the well-known and oft-interpreted Cinderella story, Company XIV dazzles the audience with novelty from every angle. The dancers move with the grace of trained ballet dancers while seamlessly shifting to modern dance, propelling their sculpted bodies in rhythmic thrusts. There’s the nod to the traditional movement of the court of Louis the XIV, particularly in the courtly scenes of the Prince’s ball, but only for a moment, after which the party devolves into a series of hypersexualized dance duos.

What’s most satisfying about it all, especially for the opera aficionado, is that it works. Of all the recent attempts to bring opera back into relevance or to recapture the excitement, sensuality, and titillation opera and ballet held for audiences in the Baroque Era, this production is the most successful. It combines sex with beauty, novelty with tradition, and never feels like an unconvincing effort to innovate innovation’s sake. It is sexy, it is innovative, and yet it’s still just the same fairy tale of Cinderella—except the audience is thrown between ecstasies of laughter, fascination, and confusing sympathies with characters usually given perfunctory depictions.

Company_XIV_2.pngAllison Ulrich and Davon Rainey

The true queen of the stage is Davon Rainey, playing the part of Cinderella’s Step-Mother. He manages to portray the fragility of a woman fearing the passing of time and the loss of her own beauty, while instantly snapping to a cruel, vindictive version of the classic evil step-mother. He sashays around the stage with equal parts feminine sexiness and masculine vitality, his body firm and robust with every sharply executed bit of choreography. The oscillation between the longing between hope for the success of her daughters combined with her own secret desires to retain her youth and sex appeal causes the Step-Mother to become one of the most compelling characters in the show. The final moment of Rainey strutting across the stage, staring concernedly into a mirror, with Cinderella dutifully at her side, is one of the most devastating and moving moments of the show. No longer a confusingly abusive foster mother for Cinderella as in the classic tale, the Step-Mother evokes simultaneous sympathy and disgust. Rainey inhabits this complex interpretation perfectly, bursting with an aggressive sexuality that’s both titillating and tragic.

Austin McCormick’s choreography is rife with symbolism and teeming with creativity, with profound commentary on not only the story of Cinderella but greater issues of heteronormative relationships and gender as a social construct. Cinderella (Allison Ulrich) spends the first half of Act I on her hands and knees into total servitude to her step-sisters (who first appear in a comedic, German cabaret-style entrance, the first of many brilliant syntheses of historical musical periods and art forms dreamt up by McCormick.) Ulrich spends most of Act I scurrying around, mouselike, as Cinderella endures abuse and ridicule by her step-mother and step-sisters, used by them as a literal footstool as the trio cackles their way through excess and frivolity. With Cinderella on her hands and knees, her step-sisters (Marcy Richardson and Brett Umlauf, two opera singers with bright and lovely sounds) sing joyfully of their enjoyment of the finer things in life, with a version of Lorde’s pop hit “Royal” so seamlessly rendered into classical-sounding duet that it took me a moment to register what was happening.

Company_XIV_1.pngAllison Ulrich and Katrina Cunningham

Katrina Cunningham (The Fairy Godmother) takes the stage by storm with a husky-voiced rendition of Lana del Ray’s “Born to Die,” and proves in a few fluid movements that she’s there not just to sing, but to dance. As a younger, sexier interpretation of The Fairy Godmother, she embraces Cinderella in an unforgettable dance duet that fluctuates between a struggle for sexual power and a sensual display of lovemaking. The duet leaves the atmosphere uncomfortably erotic right before the first of the “drink breaks” that broke up the acts of the evening. McCormick, seeming to never forget a thread in the story he’s weaving, allows The Fairy Godmother one last longing glance at her protégé, Cinderella, as she winds her body with the Prince in a display of consummation of their love at the end of Act III.

Ulrich takes the traditionally innocent-minded Cinderella and gives her a trajectory into truly realized womanhood during Acts II and III, her hair loose and her body open in acceptance of the Prince’s desires; the Prince, played smarmily by Steven Trumon Gray, croons beautifully before pulling himself up for a dance into the suspended ring, just in case the audience thought those rippling muscles were just for show. Richardson, Umlauf, and Rainey appear and reappear like mirages throughout the ball and the search for Cinderella, their antics to ensnare the Prince’s affections culminating in The Jewel Song from Gounod’s Faust. Sung beautifully by Marcy Richardson, this feat of physical and musical skill has to be seen to be believed. The ensemble struts across stage with large black narration cards, when they’re not busy dancing with finely executed fervor across the stage.

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is a true modern Gesamtkunstwerk. No detail is left unforgotten, from the careful bedazzling of the Louis XIV-style dance shoes to the final spotlight on Cinderella, a fairytale maiden who learns that all dreams must end.

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):