Recently in Performances
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.
As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus
tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra
from the depths of her soul.
Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.
Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.
On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.
Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement,
but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment
“is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga
Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.
Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.
Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.
On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.
Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.
You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.
If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.
Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.
I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.
For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.
Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.
Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.
19 Feb 2016
Arizona Opera Presents an Interesting Carmen
Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based their libretto for Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. On March 3, 1875, Carmen was premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.
Because the subject matter was considered vulgar and inappropriate for the Comique’s family-oriented audience, it was not well received. The opera’s depiction of lawlessness and immorality broke new ground in French opera. Carmen would later be considered the bridge between opéra-comique and the verismo style of late nineteenth century Italian opera.
Although Carmen was not revived in Paris until 1883, productions outside of France drew large audiences before that and the opera was soon on its way to becoming the immensely popular work it is today. According to Operabase, Carmen is now the world’s second most popular opera. The only opera that is more popular than Carmen is Verdi’s La traviata.
On February 5, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Carmen in an updated but otherwise traditionally realistic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Douglas Provost’s functional set allowed the story to unfold in a straightforward manner.
Daniela Mack and Adam Diegel as Carmen and Don José.
As Carmen, Daniela Mack sang her lines with an exquisite palette of colorations and smooth dynamic range. A singer with dark hued sultry tones, she also had a fine sense of French style. Her personality could have been more fiery and her acting more intense in the dramatic scenes, but she did keep all eyes upon her when she sang. Her renditions of the Habañera and Seguidilla established her passionate nature and the deviousness of her character and she continued to emphasize Carmen’s fickleness as the plot unfolded. Her Chanson Bohème showed her love of unrestricted freedom and her Card Song proved her belief in the power of fate.
Adam Diegel was a rough-edged and dramatic Don José whose burnished, virile sound rang free throughout the auditorium. He delivered his lines with dramatic conviction and his acting conveyed considerable emotional impact. The Micaëla, Karin Wolverton was a great deal more than a simple country girl who wanted to marry a soldier. A brave and feisty young woman, she readily faced the dangers of looking for her boy friend among a band of soldiers and searching for him at night at an international border crossing. Best of all, Wolverton sang with silvery tones that blossomed into exquisite top notes.
Daniela Mack and Joseph Lattanzi as Carmen and Morales
Calvin Griffin as Zuniga and Joseph Lattanzi as Morales contributed effective portraits as two of the coarse, unrefined soldiers. Ryan Kuster gave a strong impression as the handsome and charismatic celebrity, Escamillo. The difficult tessitura of the Toreador Song seemed easy for him as he sang it to his fans at Lillas Pastia’s Tavern. Amy Mahoney and Alyssa Martin as Frasquita and Mércèdes, Joseph Lattanzi and Andrew Penning as El Dancaïro and El Remendado handled their assignments with alacrity. Together with Mack as Carmen the group gave a strong rendition of the tricky Quintet.
Henri Venanzi’s chorus was well prepared and sang in fine French style, but they tended to move as a group rather than as individuals. Conductor Keitaro Harada gave a balanced reading of the score that had a lucidity of musical detail and a good helping of emotional tension. He gave every phrase its proper shape and drew especially fine playing from the orchestra in the delightful entr'acte that opens the third act.
Audiences never seem to tire of Carmen and it always seems to retain its power to quicken the pulse. The many bows and the standing ovation that greeted Arizona Opera’s fine cast at the end of this performance only serve as a reminder of the opera's well deserved place in the repertoire.
Cast and production information:
Carmen, Daniela Mack; Don José, Adam Diegel; Escamillo, Ryan Kuster; Micaela, Karen Wolverton; Morales/El Dancaïro, Joseph Lattanzi; El Remendado, Andrew Penning; Frasquita, Amy Mahoney; Mércèdes, Alyssa Martin; Zuniga, Calvin Griffin; Conductor, Keitaro Harada; Director, Tara Faircloth; Lighting and Scenic Director, Douglas Provost; Projection Designer, S. Katy Tucker; Chorus Master, Henri Venanzi; Fight Director, Andrea Robertson.