Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.



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):