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.



Marc Kudisch as Joshua Crouch [Photo by Craig T. Mathew / LA Opera]
27 Jun 2016

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

On June 16, 2016, Los Angeles Opera with Beth Morrison Projects presented the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's Anatomy Theater at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT).

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Marc Kudisch as Joshua Crouch

Photos by Craig T. Mathew / LA Opera


This reviewer saw the performance on June 19 which began with a celebration in the theater's open galleria featuring free beer and sausages. Eventually, the onlookers realize they have become part of a grisly spectacle. As they ate and drank, they celebrated the hanging of Sarah Osbourne.

Sarah was said to be the personification of evil because she killed her abusive husband and their two small children. Sarah, sung by mezzo-soprano Peabody Southwell, opens with her Confession, so unlike most operas, this work begins with a major aria. Southwell sang it with a tapestry of vocal colors that made listeners wish to hear more from her. Unfortunately, she did not sing again until the finale.

After the hanging, Marc Kudisch, as showman Joshua Crouch who has made a business of conducting public dissections, herded the audience into the theater. He reminded everyone that “gentlemen” who had paid their fees were invited to the anatomical exercises. Stage Director Bob McGrath based Crouch’s enterprise on the commonly-held eighteenth century thought that evil could be present and visible in the internal organs of a law breaker. Anatomy Theater, which has music by David Lang and a libretto by Lang and Mark Dion, points out vicious prejudices of the past and forces us to realize that remnants of them may still exist in contemporary social fabric.

SE5A8428.pngMarc Kudisch as Joshua Crouch and Peabody Southwell as Sarah Osborne

Mark Dion’s surgery contained only necessary furniture and a complete set of the tools needed to cut up a human body. In front was a scrim on which the audience could watch Bill Morrison’s fascinating surgical videos and Laurie Olinder’s monochrome but imaginative projections. Costume designer Alixandra Gage Englund dressed her characters in the neutral-colored everyday clothes of the time and supplied authentic dresses for the serving women who brought the refreshments into the galleria.

As Crouch, Marc Kudisch projected his lines with the resounding tones of a carnival showman. Robert Osbourne, who portrayed Baron Peel, has a gorgeous bass-baritone voice that he seemed to rein in to fit the show’s musical theater format. Portraying Ambroise Strang, the tenor, Timur, sang with well-focused high tones as he “extracted” the organs from Sarah’s body. Ably led by conductor Christopher Rountree, the ensemble Wild Up played Lang’s music with gusto. Scored for trumpet, flute, piccolo, percussion, piano, accordion, violin, viola, cello, and bass, the composition was reminiscent of Kurt Weill accented by prominent percussion and a mixture of twenty-first century sonorities.

When the last of four major organs, Sarah’s heart, was cut out, Strang sang that it, like the others, was in good order. Only then did the victim began to sing of her plight and the love she bore for the children she had killed. Although I wonder why she thought no one else would raise her children, I realize that Sarah’s hopelessness was not unique to her time. Sarah’s “evil” was simply desperation in the face of a prejudiced, uncaring town.

California audiences will get a chance to hear Peabody Southwell again when she sings the title role in the Tragedy of Carmen at San Diego Opera next season.

Maria Nockin

Cast and production details:

Composer and Co-Librettist, David Lang; Set Designer and Co-Librettist, Mark Dion; Director, Bob McGrath; Sarah Osbourne, Peabody, Southwell; Joshua Crouch, Marc Kudisch; Baron Peel, Robert Osbourne; Ambrose Strang, Timur; Conductor, Christopher Rountree; Wild Up Ensemble: Trumpet, Aaron Smith; Flute and Piccolo, Sarah Wass; Percussion, Derek Tywoniuk; Piano, Aron Kallay; Accordion, Isaak Schankler; Violin, Andrew Tholl; Viola, Andrew McIntosh; Cello Derek Stein; Bass, Maggie Hassbacher; Video Designer, Bill Morrison; Lighting Designer, Christopher Kuhl; Projection Designer, Laurie Olinder; Costume Designer, Alixandra Gage Englund; Sound Design, Garth MacAleavey; Sound Engineer, Nick Tipp.

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):