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

A Donizetti world premiere: Opera Rara at the Royal Opera House

There may be sixty or so operas by Donizetti to choose from, but if you’ve put together the remnants of another one, why not give everyone a chance to hear it? And so, Opera Rara brought L’Ange de Nisida to the concert stage last night, 180 years after it was composed for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, conductor Sir Mark Elder leading a team of bel canto soloists and the Choir and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a committed and at times stirring performance.

A stellar Ariadne auf Naxos at Investec Opera Holland Park

Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos is a strange operatic beast. Originally a Molière-Hofmannsthal-Strauss hybrid, the 1916 version presented in Vienna ditched Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which had preceded an operatic telling of the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus, and replaced it with a Prologue in which buffa met seria as competing factions prepared to present an entertainment for ‘the richest man in Vienna’. He’s a man who has ordered two entertainments, to follow an epicurean feast, and he wants these dramatic digestifs served simultaneously.

PROM 5: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Stefan Herheim’s production of Debussy’s magnificent 1902 opera for Glyndebourne has not been universally acclaimed. The Royal Albert Hall brought with it, in this semi-staged production, a different set of problems - and even imitated some of the production’s original ones, notably the vast shadow of the organ which somewhat replicates Glyndebourne’s 1920’s Organ Room, and by a huge stretch of the imagination the forest in which so much of the opera’s action is set.

Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

Sopranos Elise Brancheau and Shannon Jones, along with pianists Martin Néron and Keith Chambers, presented a thrilling evening of French-themed music in an evening entitled: “Salut à la France,” at the South Oxford Space in Brooklyn this past Saturday, July 14th.

Dido in Deptford: Blackheath Halls Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty. The artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera has overseen a production which brings together professional soloists, students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a cast of more than 80 south-east London adults and children for this, the 12th, annual Blackheath Halls Community Opera.

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Mefistofele at Orange’s Chorégies

This is the one where a very personable devil tells God that mankind is so far gone it isn’t worth his time to bother corrupting it further.

Mascagni's Isabeau rides again at Investec Opera Holland Park

There seemed to me to be something distinctly Chaucerian about Martin Lloyd-Evans’ new production of Mascagni’s Isabeau (the first UK production of the opera) for Investec Opera Holland Park.

The 2018 BBC Proms opens in flamboyant fashion

Anniversaries and commemorations will, as usual, feature significantly during the 2018 BBC Proms, with the works of Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger all prominently programmed during the season’s myriad orchestral, vocal and chamber concerts.

Banff’s Hell of an Orphée+

Against the Grain Theatre brought its award winning adaptation of Gluck’s opera to the Banff Festival billed as “an electronic baroque burlesque descent into hell.”

A Choral Trilogy at the Aix Festival

What Seven Stones (the amazing accentus / axe 21), and Dido and Aeneas (the splendid Ensemble Pygmalion) and Orfeo & Majnun (the ensemble [too many to count] of eleven local amateur choruses) share, and virtually nothing else, is spectacular use of chorus.

Vintage Audi — Parsifal, Kaufmann, Pape

From the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Wagner Parsifal with a dream cast - René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Pierre Audi. The production is vintage Audi - stylized, austere, but solidly thought-through.

Flight Soars High in Des Moines

Jonathan Dove’s innovative opera Flight is being lavished with an absolutely riveting new production at Des Moines Metro Opera’s resoundingly successful 2018 Festival.

Fledermaus Pops the Cork in Iowa

Like a fizzy bottle of champagne, Des Moines Metro Opera uncorked a zesty tasting of Johan Strauss’s vintage Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

A spritely summer revival of Falstaff at the ROH

Robert Carson’s 2012 ROH Falstaff is a bit of a hotchpotch, but delightful nevertheless. The panelled oak, exuding Elizabethan ambience, of the first Act’s gravy-stained country club reeks of the Wodehouse-ian 1930s, but has also has to serve as the final Act’s grubby stable and the Forest of Windsor, while the central Act is firmly situated in the domestic perfection of Alice Ford’s 1950s kitchen.

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

Ingenious Des Moines Metro Opera continued its string of site-specific hits with an endearing production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land on the grounds of the Maytag Dairy farm.

Des Moines’ Ravishing Rusalka

Let me get right to the point: This is the Rusalka I have been waiting for all my life.

L'Ange de feu (The Fiery Angel)
in Aix

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is rarely performed. This new Aix Festival production to be shared with Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki exemplifies why.

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.

The Skating Rink: Garsington Opera premiere

Having premiered Roxanna Panufnik’s opera Silver Birch in 2017 as part of its work with local community groups, Garsington Opera’s 2018 season included its first commission for the main opera season. David Sawer's The Skating Rink premiered at Garsington Opera this week; the opera is based on the novel by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano with a libretto by playwright Rory Mullarkey.

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):