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

Down in flames: Les Troyens, Opéra de Paris

Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens with Philippe Jordan conducting the Opéra National de Paris. Since Les Troyens headlined the inauguration of Opéra Bastille 30 years ago, we might have expected something special of this new production. It should have been a triumph, with such a good conductor and some of the best singers in the business. But it wasn't.

Andrew Davis conducts Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ at Hoddinott Hall

A weekend commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) entitled Berlioz: The Ultimate Romantic was launched in style from Cardiff’s Hoddinott Hall with a magnificent account of L’enfance du Christ (Childhood of Christ). The emotional impact of this ‘sacred trilogy’ seemed to gain further weight for its performance midway between Christmas and Easter, neatly encapsulating Christ’s journey from birth to death.

Love Songs: Temple Song Series

In contrast to the ‘single-shaming’ advertisement - “To the 12,750 people who ordered a single takeaway on Valentine’s Day. You ok, hun?” - for which the financial services company, Revolut, were taken to task, this Temple Music recital programme on 14th February put the emphasis firmly on partnerships: intimate, impassioned and impetuous.

Philip Glass: Akhnaten – English National Opera

There is a famous story that when Philip Glass first met Nadia Boulanger she pointed to a single bar of one of his early pieces and said: “There, that was written by a real composer”. Glass recalls that it was the only positive thing she ever said about him

Rachvelishvili excels in ROH Orchestra's Russian programme

Cardboard buds flaming into magic orchids. The frenzied whizz of a Catherine Wheel as it pushes forth its fiery petals. A harvest sky threshed and glittering with golden grain.

Lucrèce Borgia in Toulouse

This famed murderess worked her magic on Toulouse’s Théâtre du Capitole stage, six dead including her beloved long lost son. It was Victor Hugo’s carefully crafted 1833 thriller recrafted by Italian librettist Felice Romano that became Donizetti’s fragile Lucrezia Borgia.

Amanda Majeski makes a stunning debut at Covent Garden in Richard Jones's new production of Kát’a Kabanová

How important is ‘context’, in opera? Or, ‘symbol’? How does one balance the realism of a broad social milieu with the expressionistic intensity of an individual’s psychological torment and fracture?

Returning to heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

The Cardinall’s Musick invited us for a second time to join them in ‘the company of heaven’ at Wigmore Hall, in a recital that was framed by musical devotions to St Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary.

Diana Damrau’s Richard Strauss Residency at the Barbican: The first two concerts

Listening to these two concerts - largely devoted to the music of Richard Strauss, and given by the soprano Diana Damrau, and the superlative Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the second - I was reminded of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s observation that German music would be unthinkable without him.

De la Maison des Morts in Lyon

The obsessive Russian Dostoevsky’s novel cruelly objectified into music by Czech composer Leos Janacek brutalized into action by Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski beatified by Argentine conductor Alejo Pérez.

La Nuova Musica perform Handel's Alcina at St John's Smith Square

There was a full house at St John’s Smith Square for La Nuova Musica’s presentation of Handel’s Alcina.

Ermonela Jaho is an emotively powerful Violetta in ROH's La traviata

Perhaps it was the ‘Blue Monday’ effect, but the first Act of this revival of Richard Eyre’s 1994 production of La Traviata seemed strangely ‘consumptive’, its energy dissipating, its ‘breathing’ rather laboured.

Vivaldi scores intriguing but uneven Dangerous Liaisons in The Hague

“Why should I spend good money on tables when I have men standing idle?” asks a Regency country squire in the British sitcom Blackadder the Third. The Marquise de Merteuil in OPERA2DAY’s Dangerous Liaisons would agree with him. Her servants support her dinner table, groaning with gateaux, on their backs.

Porgy and Bess at Dutch National Opera – Exhilarating and Moving

Thanks to the phenomenon of international co-productions, Dutch National Opera’s first-ever Porgy and Bess is an energizing, heart-stirring show with a wow-factor cast. Last year in London, co-producer English National Opera hosted it to glowing reviews. Its third parent, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will present it at a later date. In the meantime, in Amsterdam the singers are the crowing glory in George Gershwin’s 1935 masterpiece.

Il trovatore at Seattle Opera

After a series of productions somehow skewed, perverse, and/or pallid, the first Seattle Opera production of the new year comes like a powerful gust of invigorating fresh air: a show squarely, single-mindedly focused on presenting the work of art at hand as vividly and idiomatically as possible.

Opera as Life: Stefan Herheim's The Queen of Spades at Covent Garden

‘I pitied Hermann so much that I suddenly began weeping copiously … [it] turned into a mild fit of hysteria of the most pleasant kind.’

Venus Unwrapped launches at Kings Place, with ‘Barbara Strozzi: Star of Venice’

‘Playing music is for a woman a vain and frivolous thing. And I would wish you to be the most serious and chaste woman alive. Beyond this, if you do not play well your playing will give you little pleasure and not a little embarrassment. … Therefore, set aside thoughts of this frivolity and work to be humble and good and wise and obedient. Don’t let yourself be carried away by these desires, indeed resist them with a strong will.’

Burying the Dead: Ceruleo offer 'Baroque at the Edge'

“Who are you? And what are you doing in my bedroom?”

'Sound the trumpet': countertenor duets at Wigmore Hall

This programme of seventeenth-century duets, odes and instrumental works was meticulously and finely delivered by countertenors Iestyn Davies and James Hall, with The King’s Consort, but despite the beauty of the singing and the sensitivity of the playing, somehow it didn’t quite prove as affecting as I had anticipated.

Brenda Rae's superb debut at Wigmore Hall

My last visit of the year to Wigmore Hall also proved to be one of the best of 2018. American soprano Brenda Rae has been lauded for her superb performances in the lyric coloratura repertory, in the US and in Europe, and her interpretation of the title role in ENO’s 2016 production of Berg’s Lulu had the UK critics reaching for their superlatives.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Andriana Chuchman as Susanna and Gordon Bintner as Figaro [Photo by R. Tinker]
30 Nov 2015

Le Nozze di Figaro, Manitoba Opera

To borrow from the great Bard himself: “the course of true love never did run smooth.”

Le Nozze di Figaro, Manitoba Opera

A review by Holly Harris

Above: Andriana Chuchman as Susanna and Gordon Bintner as Figaro

Photos by R. Tinker

 

However, it does make for a terrific night of madcapopera buffa as proven during Manitoba Opera’s 2015/16 season-opener of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro ( The Marriage of Figaro).

Last staged by the 43-year old company in 2006, the four-act opera buffa based on Lorenzo Da Ponte’s Italian libretto is regarded among the top 10 operas performed worldwide. The three-hour plus production directed by MO newcomer Brent Krysa featured the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra led by Tadeusz Biernacki (who also prepared the Manitoba Opera Chorus), as well as a dream team of accomplished Winnipeg-born sopranos.

The first of those is Andriana Chuchman, whose skyrocketing career has already taken her to the Metropolitan Opera house as well as seeing her gracing the stage with fabled Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo during her LA Opera debut this fall. An equally compelling actor who last appeared on the MO stage in 2011, Chuchman crafted a radiant Susanna with her Act III aria “Deh, vieni, non tardar” particularly showcasing her luminous, soaring vocals.

_RWT3601.png

Charismatic local soprano Lara Ciekiewicz continues to prove her gifts as a natural stage chameleon, able to crack viewers up one moment with her razor sharp comic timing before breaking their hearts the next with her soulful performances — such as her MO debut as slave girl Liù in Turandot last April. Her two solos as the Countess Almaviva: “Porgi, Amor,” matched only by her later mesmerizing “Dove sono I bei momenti” did the latter, as she revealed the complex emotional underbelly of her deeply conflicted, all-too-human character.

Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch likewise dazzled with his swaggering portrayal of the skirt chasing Count who petulantly stomps his feet and wields large axes. His robust vocals, as displayed during his Act III recitative and aria “Hai già vinta la causa! ... Vedrò, mentr'io sospiro,” added brooding gravitas to the comic froth. His truly touching finale “Contessa perdono! added its own grace note to the entire show.

Kudos to veteran mezzo-soprano Donnalynn Grills, grappling with real-life illness as housekeeper Marcellina. Singing mostly sotto voce, Grills’ strong acting chops helped sell her character for all she’s worth, aided by simpatico sidekicks Dr. Bartolo (baritone Peter McGillivray) and Don Basilio (tenor David Menzies) who valiantly rallied by her side in support.

_RWT3716.png

Canadian bass-baritone Gordon Bintner (MO debut) created a convincing Figaro, including his “Non piu andrai farfollone amoroso” sung with military precision, with his portrayal noticeably growing more confident throughout the performance. He also received the night’s biggest guffaws after leaping into Grills’ waiting lap as his long-lost mother, later tossing off his tongue-twisting “Aprite un po’ quegli occhi” that earned cries of bravo.

Mezzo-soprano Alicia Woynarski (MO debut) created an admirably convincing male persona in the trouser role of page Cherubino, despite suffering minor intonation issues during “Non so piu cosa son.” Her later “Voi che sa pate” fared better, although her lovesick character mooning for women could have gone much further.

A highlight proved to be seeing now Toronto-based colouratura soprano Anne-Marie MacIntosh, a recent graduate from the University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music marking her impressive MO debut as Barbarina. This rising star made every minute of her relatively short stage time count, including delivering a riveting “L'ho perduta, me meschina” under a starry night sky.

The stylish, albeit decidedly traditional production included ornate period costumes and effective sets originally created for Pacific Opera Victoria and Calgary Opera. Revolving mirrored door panels spun throughout the production at strategic moments captured designer Bill Williams’ flashing shards of light, adding to the overall, crazy funhouse atmosphere that’s a bit like love itself.

Holly Harris

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):