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

Handel's Brockes-Passion: The Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Hall

Perhaps it is too fanciful to suggest that the German poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747) was the Metastasio of Hamburg? But, the meditative, poetic, sacred drama on the Passion story -known as the Brockes-Passion, though its full title is Der für die Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus aus den vier Evangelisten in gebundener Rede vorgestellt (Jesus who was martyred and died for the sins of the world, presented in verse out of the four Evangelists) - which the Hamburg writer and politician published in 1712 was set almost as many times as some of the Caesarean Poet’s opera seria libretti.

POP Butterfly: Oooh, Cho-Cho San!

I was decidedly not the only one who thought I was witnessing the birth of a new star, as cover artist Janet Todd stepped in to make a triumphant appearance in the title role of Pacific Opera Project’s absorbing Madama Butterfly.

The Maryland Opera Studio Defies Genre with Fascinating Double-Bill

This past weekend, the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS) presented a double-billed performance of two of Kurt Weill’s less familiar staged works: Zaubernacht (1922) and Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927).

Nash Ensemble at Wigmore Hall: Focus on Sir Harrison Birtwistle

The Nash Ensemble’s annual contemporary music showcase focused on the work of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, a composer with whom the group has enjoyed a long and close association. Three of the six works by Birtwistle performed here were commissioned by the Nash Ensemble, as was Elliott Carter’s Mosaic which, alongside Oliver Knussen’s Study for ‘Metamorphosis’ for solo bassoon, completed a programme was intimate and intricate, somehow both elusive in spirit and richly communicative.

McVicar's Faust returns to the ROH

To lose one Marguerite may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. But, with the ROH Gounod’s Faust seemingly heading for ruin, salvation came in the form of an eleventh-hour arrival of a redeeming ‘angel’.

A superb Semele from the English Concert at the Barbican Hall

It’s good to aim high … but be careful what you wish for. Clichéd idioms perhaps, but also wise words which Semele would have been wise to heed.

A performance of Vivaldi's La Senna festeggiante by Arcangelo

In 1726 on 25 August, Jacques-Vincent Languet, Comte de Gergy, the new French ambassador to the Venetian Republic held a celebration for the name day of King Louis XV of France. There was a new piece of music performed in the loggia at the foot of Languet's garden with an audience of diplomats and, watching from gondolas, Venetian nobles.

Matthew Rose and Tom Poster at Wigmore Hall

An interesting and thoughtfully-composed programme this, presented at Wigmore Hall by bass Matthew Rose and pianist Tom Poster, and one in which music for solo piano ensured that the diverse programme cohered.

Ekaterina Semenchuk sings Glinka and Tchaikovsky

To the Wigmore Hall for an evening of magnificently old-school vocal performance from Ekaterina Semenchuk. It was very much her evening, rather than that of her pianist, Semyon Skigin, though he had his moments, especially earlier on.

Hubert Parry's Judith at the Royal Festival Hall

Caravaggio’s depiction (1598-99) of the climactic moment when the young, beautiful, physically weak Judith seizes the head of Holofernes by the enemy general’s hair and, flinching with distaste, cleaves the neck of the occupying Assyrian with his own sword, evokes Holofernes’ terror with visceral precision - eyes and screaming mouth are wide open - and is shockingly theatrical, the starkly lit figures embraced by blackness.

La Pietà in Rome

Say "La Pietà" and you think immediately of Michelangelo’s Rome Pietà. Just now Roman Oscar-winning film composer Nicola Piovani has asked us to contemplate two additional Pietà’s in Rome, a mother whose son is dead by overdose, and a mother whose son starved to death.

Orfeo ed Euridice in Rome

No wrecked motorcycle (director Harry Kupfer’s 1987 Berlin Orfeo), no wrecked Citroen and black hearse (David Alagna’s 2008 Montpellier Orfée [yes! tenorissimo Roberto Alagna was the Orfée]), no famed ballet company (the Joffrey Ballet) starring in L.A. Opera’s 2018 Orpheus and Eurydice).

Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel - a world premiere at English National Opera

Jack the Ripper is as luridly fascinating today as he was over a century ago, so it was no doubt sensationalist of the marketing department of English National Opera to put the Victorian serial killer’s name first and the true subject of Iain Bell’s new opera - his victims, the women of Whitechapel - as something of an after-thought. Font size matters, especially if it’s to sell tickets.

Tosca at the Met


The 1917 Met Tosca production hung around for 50 years, bested by the 1925 San Francisco Opera production that lived to the ripe old age of 92.  The current Met production is just 2 years old but has the feel of something that can live forever.

Drama Queens and Divas at the ROH: Handel's Berenice

A war ‘between love and politics’: so librettist Antonio Salvi summarised the conflict at the heart of Handel’s 1737 opera, Berenice. Well, we’ve had a surfeit of warring politics of late, but there’s been little love lost between opposing factions, and the laughs that director Adele Thomas and her team supply in this satirical and spicy production at the ROH’s stunningly re-designed Linbury Theatre have been in severely short supply.

Mozart’s Mass in C minor at the Royal Festival Hall

A strange concert, this, in that, although chorally conceived, it proved strongest in the performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto: not so much a comment on the choral singing as on the conducting of Dan Ludford-Thomas.

Samson et Dalila at the Met


It was the final performance of the premiere season of Darko Tresnjak’s production of Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila. Four tenors later. 

The Enchantresse and Dido and Aeneas
in Lyon

Dido and Aeneas, Il ritorno d’Ulisse and Tchaikowsky’s L’Enchantresse, the three operas of the Opéra de Lyon’s annual late March festival all tease destiny. But far more striking than the thematic relationship that motivates this 2019 festival is the derivation of these three productions from the world of hyper-refined theater, far flung hyper-refined theater.

The devil shares the good tunes: Chelsea Opera Group's Mefistofele

Every man ‘who burns with a thirst for knowledge and life and with curiosity about the nature of good and evil is Faust ... [everyone] who aspires to the Unknown, to the Ideal, is Faust’.

La forza del destino at Covent Garden

Prima la music, poi la parole? It’s the perennial operatic conundrum which has exercised composers from Monteverdi, to Salieri, to Strauss. But, on this occasion we were reminded that sometimes the answer is a simple one: Non, prima le voci!

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

29 Feb 2016

Fascinating Magic Flute in Los Angeles

Barrie Kosky, intendant of the Komische Oper in Berlin, initially thought of combining live performance with animation when he saw British theater company 1927’s production of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. For that presentation, Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt mixed the worlds of silent film and music hall theater, a combination that Kosky wanted for his production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

A singspiel (sing play) is a work made up of arias, duets, ensembles, and spoken dialogue. Kosky describes the Flute as a “mix of fantasy, surrealism, magic, and deeply touching human emotions.”

Thus, Kosky, Andrade, and Barritt condensed the Magic Flute’s dialogue and turned it into silent film intertitles. The result was the Kosky/Andrade/Barritt Magic Flute seen at Los Angeles opera in 2013 and again this year. In the Kosky production, the cast sings the musical numbers while the audience reads spoken dialogue on silent-movie-type screens and pianist Peter Walsh plays excerpts from Mozart’s C Minor and D Minor Fantasies. It is, without a doubt, one of the most imaginative productions of the work this critic has seen in more than fifty years of opera going.

At the performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on February 20, 2016, director Kosky gave Papageno an amusing cat that followed his every move while barely controllable vicious dogs led Monastatos about. Other animals were also ingeniously animated. Esther Bialas dressed The Three Ladies in Roaring Twenties costumes. When they punished Papageno for lying, the audience saw an enlarged picture of his constantly moving mouth.

Conductor James Conlon’s tempi were often fast but they always fit the twists and turns of the story and at times he gave us serenity. Always aware of the singers’ needs, he gave this performance clearly balanced sonorities in a vigorous, evocative rendition of Mozart’s singspiel.

Ben Bliss, a recent alumnus of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program (YAP), was an elegant, silken voiced Tamino with golden top notes. A new artist, he was a perfect young lover who sang his first aria, "Dies Bildnis is bezaubernd schön," (This portrait is enchantingly beautiful) with a resonant, virile sound. Bliss is a tenor to watch. Marita Sølberg was a suave, feminine, Pamina who sang with vocal refinement and admirable phrasing.

As Papageno, Jonathan Michie offered an appealing dramatic impersonation that was both amusing and touching. Whether bragging, longing for a lover or merely calling for a good meal, Michie’s irrepressible bird catcher offered delightful comedy that always held the audience’s interest. Watching him made the audience understand why Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist, wrote the role for himself.

Soprano So Young Park (YAP) sang the Queen of the Night with considerable verve and fine enunciation. She had the twinkling staccati as well as a smooth Mozartean line that the role calls for. William Schwinghammer was somewhat underpowered Sarastro but he created a visually authoritative character.

As the Three Ladies, Stacey Tappan, Summer Hassan (YAP), and Peabody Southwell were endearing flappers who formed an idyllic trio. Program member Vanessa Becerra was an expressive Papagena, while fellow member Brenton Ryan created a refined, evil characterization as Monostatos. Frederick Ballentine (YAP) was a sturdy First Armored Mann and bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee (YAP) was a resonant Speaker and Second Armored Man.

The Los Angeles Children’s chorus provided three treble soloists who sang well and handled themselves adroitly. Grant Gershon directed the Los Angeles Opera Chorus as they added their graceful harmony to this most interesting production which captured the wonder and fantasy of Mozart’s last opera.

Maria Nockin


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):