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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

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):