Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger commemorated at the Proms

Two French commemorations - ‘anniversaries’ always seems the wrong word - and surely is - here: the centenary of the deaths of Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger.

Pique Dame in Salzburg

It was emeritus night at the Salzburg Festival with 75 year old maestro Mariss Jansons conducting 77 year old stage director Hans Neuenfels production about Pushkin’s 87 year old countess known as the Pique Dame.

Lohengrin at Bayreuth

Three electrifying moments and the world is forever changed.

Salome in Salzburg

A Romeo Castellucci production is always news, it is even bigger news just now in Salzburg where Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian has made her debut as the fifteen year-old Salome.

Vaughan Williams Dona nobis pacem - BBC Prom 41

Prom 41 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with Edward Gardner conducting the BBCSO in Vaughan Williams's Dona nobis pacem, Elgar's Cello Concerto (Jean-Guihen Queyras) and Lili Boulanger . Extremely perceptive performances that revealed deep insight, far more profound than the ostensible "1918" theme

Lisbon under ashes - rediscovered Portuguese Baroque

In 1755, Lisbon was destroyed, first by a massive earthquake, then by a tsunami pouring in from the Atlantic, then by fire and civil unrest. The scale of the disaster is almost unimaginable today. The centre of the Portuguese Empire, with treasures from India, Africa, Brazil and beyond, was never to recover. The royal palaces, with their libraries and priceless collections, were annihilated.

John Wilson brings Broadway to South Kensington: West Side Story at the BBC Proms

There were two, equal ‘stars’ of this performance of the authorised concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story at the Royal Albert Hall: ‘Lenny’ himself, whose vibrant score - by turns glossy and edgy - truly shone, and conductor John Wilson, who made it gleam, and who made us listen afresh and intently to every coloristic detail and toe-tapping, twisting rhythm.

Prom 36: Webern, Mahler, and Wagner

One of the joys of writing regularly – sometimes, just sometimes, I think too regularly – about performance has been the transformation, both conscious and unconscious, of my scholarship.

Prom 33: Thea Musgrave, Phoenix Rising, and Johannes Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem, op.45

I am not sure I could find much of a connection between the two works on offer here. They offered ‘contrast’ of a sort, I suppose, yet not in a meaningful way such as I could discern.

Gianni Schicchi by Oberlin in Italy

It’s an all too rare pleasure to see Puccini’s only comedy as a stand alone opera. And more so when it is a careful production that uncovers the all too often overlooked musical and dramatic subtleties that abound in Puccini’s last opera.

Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton journey through the night at Cadogan Hall

The mood in the city is certainly soporific at the moment, as the blistering summer heat takes its toll and the thermometer shows no signs of falling. Fittingly, mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly and pianist Joseph Middleton presented a recital of English song settings united by the poetic themes of night, sleep, dreams and nightmares, juxtaposing masterpieces of the early-twentieth-century alongside new works by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Australian composer Lisa Illean, and two ‘long-lost’ songs by Britten.

Vanessa: Keith Warner's Glyndebourne production exposes truths and tragedies

“His child! It must not be born!” Keith Warner’s new production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for Glyndebourne Festival Opera makes two births, one intimated, the other aborted, the driving force of the tragedy which consumes two women, Vanessa and her niece Erika, rivals for the same young man, Anatol, son of Vanessa’s former lover.

Rollicking Rossini in Santa Fe

Santa Fe Opera welcomed home a winningly animated production of L’Italiana in Algeri this season that utterly delighted a vociferously responsive audience.

Rock solid Strauss Salomé- Salzburg

Richard Strauss Salomé from the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, a powerful interpretation of an opera which defies easy answers, performed and produced with such distinction thast it suceeds on every level. The words "Te saxa Loquuntur" (The stones are speaking to you) are projected onto the stage. Salzburg regulars will recognize this as a reference to the rock foundations on which part of the city is built, and the traditions of excellence the Festival represents. In this opera, the characters talk at cross-purposes, hearing without understanding. The phrase suggests that what might not be explicitly spoken might have much to reveal.

Prom 26: Dido and Cleopatra – Queens of Fascination

In this, her Proms debut, Anna Prohaska offered something akin to a cantata of two queens, complementary and contrasted: Dido and Cleopatra. Returning in a sense to her ‘early music’ roots – her career has always been far richer, more varied, but that world has always played an important part – she collaborated with the Italian ‘period’ ensemble, Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini.

Parsifal: Munich Opera Festival

And so, this year’s Munich Opera Festival and this year’s Bavarian State Opera season came to a close with everyone’s favourite Bühnenweihfestspiel, Parsifal, in the final outing this time around for Pierre Audi’s new production.

Santa Fe: Atomic Doesn’t Quite Ignite

What more could we want than having Peter Sellars re-imagine his acclaimed staging of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic at the renowned Santa Fe Opera festival?

Santa Fe: Continuing a Proud Strauss Tradition

Santa Fe Opera has an enduring reputation for its Strauss, and this season’s enjoyable Ariadne auf Naxos surely made John Crosby smile proudly.

From the House of the Dead: Munich Opera Festival

Frank Castorf might have been born to direct From the House of the Dead. In this, his third opera project - or better, his third opera project in the opera house, for his Volksbühne Meistersinger must surely be reckoned with, even by those of us who did not see it - many of his hallmarks and those of his team are present, yet without the slightest hint of staleness, of anything other than being reborn for and in the work.

Haydn's Orlando Paladino in Munich

Should you not like eighteenth-century opera very much, if at all, and should you have no or little interest in Haydn either, this may have been the production for you. The fundamental premise of Axel Ranisch’s staging of Orlando Paladino seems to have been that this was a work of little fundamental merit, or at least a work in a genre of little such merit, and that it needed the help of a modern medium - perhaps, it might even be claimed, an equivalent medium - to speak to a contemporary audience.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Capriccio</em at Sante Fe
12 Aug 2016

Santa Fe: Straussian Sweet Nothings

With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.

Capriccio

A review by James Sohre

Above: Joshua Hopkins (Olivier), Amanda Majeski (The Countess), David Govertsen (La Roche), and Ben Bliss (Flamand) in Capriccio

Photo credit: Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2016

 

I am not sure there is any opera that has less action or has less at stake than this infrequently staged opus. Two suitors argue (and that is really too strong a word) their case to a Countess, positing which is more important in opera, the music or the words. And there is the plot. Yes, all of it. The Countess must choose, and in so doing, favor one man over the other.

In a wonderfully varied Santa Fe Opera 60th Anniversary season that had young lovers committing suicide, bandits almost being hanged, a jilted young woman resigning to numbing isolation, and an immoral wastrel being dragged to hell, by contrast this Strauss is hardly riveting stuff. Luckily, Santa Fe selected an incomparable cast and lavished Capriccio with a dazzling production, lovingly led by a commanding new (to me) conductor.

23. Amanda Majeski (The Countess) in 'Capriccio' (c) Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2016 (2).png Amanda Majeski (The Countess). Photo Credit: Ken Howard.

Amanda Majeski seems pre-destined to play the Countess. Her cool, secure, limpid soprano is just what Strauss had in mind when he endowed the role with lovely conversational passages, airy flights above the staff, and haunting musings on the philosophies of art and music. Ms. Majeski’s pure tone and knowing, fluid delivery harkens back to great Strauss interpreters of the last century, a direct connection to (or at least recollection of) a revered roster of interpreters.

Her traversal of the Countess’s last great monologue was a thing of great beauty, infinite variety, and sublime vocalization. Moreover, Amanda has a regal and poised presence, her carriage leaving no doubt that she is “royalty.” Her achievement is such that she may just be unequalled in this part at the moment (pace, Renée-sayers).

The charming, natty Ben Bliss was a most convincing Flamand. Lanky and handsome, sweet of voice and behavior, his assured tenor was just the right fit for the demands of the role. His warm, effortless singing and his charismatic presence proved a wholly winning combination. As Olivier, dapper Joshua Hopkins was a scrappy bulldog of a rival, barking counter arguments in a petulant, resonant baritone. Mr. Hopkins has shown before that he is not only a consistently secure vocalist, but also an imaginative actor.

9. Craig Verm (The Count) in 'Capriccio' (c) Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2016.pngCraig Verm (The Count). Photo Credit: Ken Howard.

Rising baritone Craig Verm keeps going from strength to strength. Having turned in a fine performance as Sonora in Fanciulla, Mr, Verm impressed even more as the rather changeable, effete Count. His easily produced, suave delivery served the role with distinction. David Govertsen found sardonic delight in the role of La Roche, and his direct approach and easy cynicism were served by well-controlled vocalism.

It was deluxe casting to have superstar Susan Graham in the lesser role of Clairon, and she embraced the assignment with relish. Ms. Graham sang with her usual aplomb, and her world-class mezzo discovered every rich gradation of this starry featured role. Adrian Smith brought a resigned gravity in the Major-Domo, Allan Glassman was a rambunctious Monsieur Taupe, and Galeano Salas and Shelly Jackson made notable contributions as the Italian Singers.

15. Susan Graham (Clairon) in 'Capriccio' (c) Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2016.png Susan Graham (Clairon). Photo Credit: Ken Howard.

Tobias Hoheisel has designed both scenery and costumes for Capriccio, and I cannot imagine a more resplendent realization. Such is his achievement that the real existential question of the night might be: Which are more beautiful? The costumes? Or the sets? The Countess’s beautiful mid-20th Century home is all elegant windows open to the Sangre de Cristo mountains, with the furniture and other appointments an apt study in refinement and affluence. The side compartments antechambers and playing spaces off the living room are evocative of many a European villa I have seen.

Mr. Hoheisel’s period (1940’s?) costumes are breathtaking in their luxurious specificity. Any actor that gets such consummate costume assistance in communicating a character is fortunate, indeed. Malcolm Rippeth’s lighting design has bathed all this noblesse in a beautifully tinged wash of warmth that slowly morphs from daytime into a moodier look as the arguments sharpen and introspections deepen.

21. Shelley Jackson and Galeano Salas (Italian Singers) in 'Capriccio' (c) Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2016.pngShelley Jackson and Galeano Salas (Italian Singers). Photo Credit: Ken Howard.

Tim Albery has directed with unfussy precision, allowing the confrontations to unfold gently and tellingly. His genius has been in allowing his consummately gifted cast to naturally make a case for this gentle opus. Mr. Albery never ‘got nervous’ and tried to gild the lily by inventing extraneous distractions. Everything he did was honestly in service to the score and the text. That said, I thought the extended on-stage prelude might have benefitted from a little more movement, sooner furthering a subtext of relationships. But all in all, this was a beautifully restrained, stylistically informed interpretation.

Conductor Leo Hussain was a revelation in the pit, helming a delicate, fluid, mesmerizing, echt account of a graceful score that is more succulent caviar than substantial Hauptspeise. From the churning string ensemble of the prelude to the confrontational dialogue at the score’s core, to the rhapsodic meditation of the closing quarter of the opera, Maestro Hussain led a propulsive, informed, precise reading that fell gratefully on the ear.

Santa Fe has a long and happy relationship with the operas of Richard Strauss. On this occasion of the 60th anniversary season, it is a pleasure to report that partnership is not only alive and well, but is still resulting in definitive interpretations.

James Sohre

Strauss: Capriccio

Flamand: Ben Bliss; Olivier: Joshua Hopkins; La Roche: David Govertsen; Countess: Amanda Majeski; Count: Craig Verm; Clairon: Susan Graham; Major-Domo: Adrian Smith; Italian Singers: Galeano Salas, Shelly Jackson; Monsieur Taupe: Allan Glassman; Young Dancer: Beth Miller; Conductor: Leo Hussain; Director: Tim Albery; Set and Costume Design: Tobias Hoheisel; Lighting Design: Malcolm Rippeth; Choreography: Jodi Melnic.

5th August 2016.

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):