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

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

'In my end is my beginning': Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida perform Winterreise at Wigmore Hall

All good things come to an end, so they say. Let’s hope that only the ‘good thing’ part of the adage is ever applied to Wigmore Hall, and that there is never any sign of ‘an end’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny bring 'sweet music' to Wigmore Hall

Countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny kicked off the final week of live lunchtime recitals broadcast online and on radio from Wigmore Hall.

From Our House to Your House: live from the Royal Opera House

I’m not ashamed to confess that I watched this live performance, streamed from the stage of the Royal Opera House, with a tear in my eye.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Troy Cook as the Younger Galileo [Photo courtesy of DMMO]
16 Jul 2016

Des Moines: Jewels in Perfect Settings

Two years ago, the well-established Des Moines Metro Opera experimented with a 2nd Stages program, with performances programmed outside of their home stage at Simpson College.

Des Moines: Jewels in Perfect Settings

A review by James Sohre

Above: Troy Cook as the Younger Galileo

All photos courtesy of DMMO

 

Now in its third year, DMMO has endeavored to make these smaller gems more immersive experiences by matching subject matter of the operas to an appropriate venue. To that end Philip Glass’s Galileo Galilei was housed in the Des Moines Science Center. Last year’s Rappaccini’s Daughter about a misguided gardener was set in the Botanical Gardens.

This is an idea that was obviously sewn on fertile ground, for performances I attended each year were packed out. The quality of the experience and the opportunity to hear unique repertoire are proving to be a potent lure.

The production of Galileo Galilei could hardly have been bettered, starting with a mesmerizing musical realization of the Glass ‘formulaic’ score. You pretty much know what you are going to get from this composer: repetitive arpeggiated phrases, accented rhythms challenged by other percussive stings, staccato commentary, sustained chords serving as a different kind of cantus firmus.

Under the steady baton of Michael Sakir, every calculated effect was carefully allowed its proper place. There is a different Glass sound to this score, the small orchestra comprised disproportionately of lower voices. There is an occasional, welcome brightness from higher winds, but the overall effect was a preponderance of a restless weightiness, in both music and Mary Zimmerman’s text.

That the music-making never became ponderous was a great credit to the poised, polished playing. Maestro Sakir’s concentration never wavered and he led his amassed forces through the complex writing with insight and skill. He was in full command of the most minute shifts of the sound palette, and he found a wonderful build to the final expansive choral statement. I only wished that he had not paused quite so long between scenes. The composer did not put musical “buttons” on many (any?) scenes, and the forward motion of the piece was sometimes interrupted by applause, to fill an uncomfortably odd silence.

3X3A0496.pngChris Carr as the Older Galileo

Every single element of the design was top tier. The production was presented in arena style, and set designer Adam Crinson created a playing space that was simple but highly practical. Mr. Crinson used Galileo’s drawing for decorative inspiration of a circular “stage,” consisting of a circular platform/ramp within another circular platform/ramp tilted in opposition to each other. These “rims” enclosed a central “pit” with a mosaic-like painting on its floor. The ramps were of a perfect height for actors to sit on them, and provided a circular walking space around the perimeter of the action.

With the orchestra placed at 12 o’clock, a horseshoe of tiered seating surrounded the stage. The designer encircled the entire space in an ethereal hanging of floor-to-ceiling scrim panels, upon which was projected a non-stop cornucopia of images relating to Galileo’s life and work. Barry Steele’s masterful lighting and projections were a model of excellence.

To add to this embarrassment of riches, Aryana Petrashenko has designed sumptuous costumes that are not only strikingly attractive but which also immediately define the characters. The beautifully judged set pieces were the icing on a very rich cake. This was quite simply one of the most perfectly realized opera designs I have seen in many a moon, in total service to the composition.

Given this true feast for the eyes, we might not be blamed were we to come out “humming the scenery.” But director Octavio Cardenas and his talented cast have accomplished a considerable success in performing this rarity with dedicated passion and precision.

Mr. Cardenas found no end of diverse uses for this space, and its limitations seemed to be liberating as he cleverly place the singers in any number of varied groupings and poses. Every possible entrance was utilized, the height of the ramp versus the depth of the pit was exploited, and a myriad of highly theatrical presentations impressed. The haunting look of the four empty birdcages on sticks, the administering of the ‘irons’ that suspend and punish Galileo, the evocation of three people in a Venetian gondola suggested by two chairs and a paddle, all were magical.

While sightlines were otherwise carefully managed to accommodate the surrounding audience, only the final static choral position blocked the view of “the Galileo’s” in the pit. Perhaps a bit of motion could have remedied that but all told, this was a breathtakingly inventive staging.

IMG_0871.pngPre-show image of audience surround of Galileo

The singing was of a very high standard. As Old Galileo, Chris Carr’s compact, stirring tenor had a smooth and easy delivery with commendable legato, suggesting the resignation of a mature man. Troy Cook has a fluid baritone of substantial tonal beauty. Mr. Cook informed Younger Galileo with a firmly voiced passion for scientific truth and justice. The two singers complemented each other beautifully as different aspects of the fascinating title character. Rounding out the trio of Galileos (Galilei?), Camron Bennington brought a fine, focused presence to the Child Galileo.

Tony Dillon gave his usual solid performance as Pope Urban and Cardinal Barberini, his rich bass-baritone capable of considerable heft and meltingly beautiful sotto voce effects as required. Bryan Pollock (Cardinal 1/Oracle 1) has an easily produced countertenor which he was able to vary in tone from reedy warmth to edgy body. Other than that, the show was a feast of excellent baritone showcases. Reuben Lillie (Salviati) enlivened the Venetian trio with a memorable turn that was marked by bravado and characterful phrasing. His virile sound was well-served by a reliable technique.

Conor McDonald (Servant/Oracle) impressed with a steady, forward-placed baritone, especially as he intoned a relentless solo passage circling around the action on auto-pilot. Baritone Spencer Reichman (Servant/Oracle 2) has a pleasant, burnished delivery that not only produced some highly charged solo passages, but greatly enriched ensemble work. Rounding out the men was a noteworthy contribution from baritone Reuben Walker with his assured, musical singing as Cardinal 2.

On the distaff side, there was also much to admire. Ashly Neumann pretty much nailed her first extended solo as Maria Celeste, vanquishing the demands of the high tessitura with a ferocity and laser-focused soprano. At times, it was perhaps a little too focused as a hint of steeliness crept in. Ms. Neumannn’s later, more introspective singing was marked by a more pleasing and rounded sound. Emily Tweedy’s Duchess Christina is also required to come on like gangbusters, which may have infused her resonant soprano with a somewhat generous amount of vibrato. As she (and the music) relaxed into her assignment, Ms. Tweedy contributed passages of genuine beauty and control.

Melisa Bonetti is possessed of a warm, supple mezzo that struck all the right impressions, first as a self-assured Scribe, and later as a rather imperious Maria Maddalena. Cree Carrico’s turn as Sagredo was infectious and appealing, her bright, well-schooled soprano sporting zing and polish. I wish Ms. Carrico had put just a bit less weighty effort into being “important” as Eos as her lower voiced singing tended to harden under pressure. Andrea Baker made the most of her stage time with a cleanly voiced Marie de’Medicis.

James Sohre


Cast and production details:

Older Galileo: Chris Carr; Younger Galileo: Troy Cook; Pope Urban/Cardinal Barberini: Tony Dillon; Simplicio: Matthew Scollin; Cardinal 1/Oracle 1: Bryan Pollock; Cardinal 2: Reuben Walker; Cardinal 3/Priest: Conor McDonald; Servant/Oracle 2: Spencer Reichman; Maria Celeste: Ashly Neumann; Duchess Christina: Emily Tweedy; Scribe/Maria Maddalena; Melisa Bonetti; Salviati: Reuben Lillie; Sagredo/Eos: Cree Carrico; Marie de’Medicis: Andrea Baker; Child Galileo: Cameron Bennington; Conductor: Michael Sakir; Director: Octavio Cardenas; Set Design: Adam Crinson; Costume Design: Aryana Petrashenko; Lighting and Projection Design: Barry Steele; Make-up and Hair Design: Brittany Crinson for Elsen and Associates

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):