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

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.

Expressive Monteverdi from Les Talens Lyriques at Wigmore Hall

This was an engaging concert of madrigals and dramatic pieces from (largely) Claudio Monteverdi’s Venetian years, a time during which his quest to find the ‘natural way of imitation’ - musical embodiment of textual form, meaning and affect - took the form not primarily of solo declamation but of varied vocal ensembles of two or more voices with rich instrumental accompaniments.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Jamie Barton as Adalgisa in LA Opera's 2015 production of
30 Nov 2015

LA Opera Norma: A Feast for the Ears

Vincenzo Bellini composed Norma to a libretto that Felice Romani had fashioned after Alexandre Soumet’s French play, Norma, ossia L'infanticidio (Norma, or The Infanticide).

LA Opera Norma: A Feast for the Ears

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Jamie Barton as Adalgisa [Photo by Ken Howard]

 

The Teatro alla Scala in Milan gave the first performance in 1831, on the day after Christmas. The role of Norma was written for Giuditta Pasta who regularly sang leading bel canto roles in London, Paris, Milan and Naples between 1824 and 1837. Besides Norma, Pasta created the title role in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and Amina in Bellini’s La sonambula. Maria Callas, the most famous bel canto diva of the twentieth century, portrayed Norma in eighty-nine performances with important opera companies around the world.

On Saturday evening, November 21, 2015, Los Angeles Opera premiered Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma in a production by Anne Bogart that was originally seen at the Washington National Opera. It featured a severely raked minimal set by Neil Patel and colorful, luxurious costumes by James Schuette. Like many operas of the bel canto era, Norma is more about singing than acting and LAO assembled an outstanding cast that easily handled Bellini’s difficult music.

Angela Meade was the Druid priestess and dedicated virgin who had secretly borne two children to her Roman lover. Meade sang her music in the grand style of this seminal opera. Despite an occasional shrill high note, her singing grew in authority, confidence and effect as the voice warmed and her “Casta Diva” was emotionally and dramatically eloquent. Although not much action was played out on stage, this Norma always used her vocal resources to express the drama.

Bellini used simple technical methods of instrumentation, together with long melodies bolstered by conventional harmony, to produce the passionate emotional qualities of the score. Casting some of the finest singers performing today, Bogart relied on their ability to act with their voices and she allowed them to put the story of the love triangle across the footlights with their vocal colorations. She showed the Gauls’ dislike of Roman occupation by her treatment of Grant Gershon’s chorus, members of which sang their melodic and rhythmic lines with gusto.

The most beautiful voice in the performance belonged to debutante mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton who sang a creamy-smooth Adalgisa. It’s unfortunate that her character has no aria, but Barton showed her virtuosity in a most exquisite rendering of the duet “Mira o Norma.” Also debuting that night, tenor Russell Thomas was Pollione, the Roman proconsul in Gaul. Because Pollione has betrayed Norma with Adalgisa it is an ungrateful part, but Thomas sang it with a powerful dark voice that he used in fine bel canto style. Morris Robinson’s Oroveso commanded the stage and provided all the breadth, dignity and ocean-deep sonority that Bellini's music demanded.

Two members of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program sang the parts of Flavio and Clotilde. Rafael Moras and Lacey Jo Benter showed great promise and proved they can hold the stage with the best singers of our age. Choreographer Barney O’Hanlon’s dancers reminded us that the piece takes place in a Druid stronghold and they added to its religious aspect. James Conlon’s masterly conducting grounded and emphasized the beauty of the singing. His translucent interpretation reminded listeners of the numerous simple but original strokes of genius to be found in Bellini's instrumentation. Sometimes opera is great theater, at other times it is simply incredible singing. Los Angeles Opera’s Norma was a feast for the ears.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Conductor, James Conlon; Director, Anne Bogart; Set Designer, Neil Patel; Costume Designer, James Schuette; Lighting Designer, Duane Schuler; Chorus Director, Grant Gershon; Choreographer, Barney O’Hanlon; Oroveso, Morris Robinson; Pollione, Russell Thomas; Flavio, Rafael Moras; Norma, Angela Meade; Adalgisa, Jamie Barton; Clotilde, Lacey Jo Benter.

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):