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

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.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

Billy Budd in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera’s Billy Budd confirms once again that Britten’s reworking of Melville’s novella is among the great masterpieces of the repertory. It boasted an exemplary cast in an exemplary production, and enlightened conducting.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Photo: Karen Almond
05 Nov 2015

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

A review by Ian MacKenzie

Above photo by Karen Almond

 

To get her pet opera produced, Arden has come back to her hometown where the American Opera, run by impressaria Winnie Flato (Federica von Stade), is based. Winnie’s husband runs the local pro football team and makes enough money to indulge his wife’s passion for opera. The team is playing across town in the Super Bowl the night “Rosa Dolorosa” opens. Onstage with Arden is a fiercely ambitious young Eastern European soprano, Tatyana Bakst (Ailyn Perez), who is eager to supplant the veteran diva. There are romantic subplots between Arden and her former high school sweetheart (Nathan Gunn), and between the cute young stage manager (Anthony Roth Costanzo), and the conductor (Kevin Burdette). In addition, there is a barihunk intent on revealing his torso onstage and a witty tenor.

As you can see from this description, there’s a lot going on in Great Scott. Master playwright Terrence McNally has created characters that are much fully drawn than is usual in opera. The libretto is witty, warm-hearted and eloquent.

Jake Heggie’s score for Great Scott raises all sorts of questions. It’s a meta-operatic work, an opera about the making of an operatic production filled with pastiche of bel canto composers plus a dollop of Richard Strauss. Heggie’s virtue is his talent for writing melodies for the voice in an era in which many operatic composters think of the human voice as just another instrument in the orchestra and often not the most important one. No wonder singers love his music. However, the score for Great Scott is so easy on the ear that, apart from the pseudo Rossini, the sweet, melodic music often sounds like old-fashioned Broadway. Its best moments, like the rapturous quartet toward the end, echoing the trio from Der Rosenkavalier, tend to sound like someone else. There were times when I thought the opera would be better if Heggie had gone more in the direction of Broadway. The echoes of Rossini in Cy Coleman’s brilliant score for On the Twentieth Century are wittier than Heggie’s parodies. There’s nothing wrong with musicals combining Broadway and opera – think of Porgy and Bess, Street Scene, Regina or The Most Happy Fella. McNally’s libretto does this masterfully. Heggie’s music isn’t quite in either camp. He wants the music to be approachable, but is it distinctive?

On opening night, Great Scott ran for nearly three and a half hours. Here is a case where less would be more. The longish overture is weak and could easily be cut and there’s too much operatic parody. The joke wears a bit thin after a while. An edited version of Great Scott focusing more on the backstage story with less faux Rossini would be far more potent.

The premiere production couldn’t have had a better cast. Great Scott calls for singers with excellent technique and personal charisma. This cast had both. It’s difficult to single out any of the leads for particular praise. Joyce DiDonato sang like an angel but acted equally well as a star in midlife crisis. Federica von Stade still has a beautiful voice and made Winnie into a lovable character. Ailyn Perez has certainly met sopranos like Tatyana Bakst and gives a spot-on performance as an embodiment of diva ambition. Her star turn is a bizarre version of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl that almost steals the show. Anthony Roth Costanzo, is totally winning as Roane, the stage manager who can’t decide whether he is a realist or a romantic. Costanzo also gets a show stopping number in which he confesses to his non-operatic musical preferences. He can dance too! As he always does, veteran director Jack O’Brien gives the work both warmth and pizzazz. Opera never gets enough rehearsal. I wish I had seen the last performance instead of the first. I’m sure the production will settle in even more over time.

I doubt that Great Scott will withstand the test of time. I couldn’t help thinking of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Last Savage, another comic opera filled with pastiche that doesn’t have a firm enough musical profile. Great Scott is thoroughly enjoyable but not great.

Ian MacKenzie

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):