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

Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 5: Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman

“On the wings of song, I’ll bear you away …” So sings the poet-speaker in Mendelssohn’s 1835 setting of Heine’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’. And, borne aloft we were during this lunchtime Prom by Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman which soared progressively higher as the performers took us on a journey through a spectrum of lieder from the first half of the nineteenth century.

Glowing Verdi at Glimmerglass

From the first haunting, glistening sound of the orchestral strings to the ponderous final strokes in the score that echoed the dying heartbeats of a doomed heroine, Glimmerglass Festival’s superior La Traviata was an indelible achievement.

Médée in Salzburg

Though Luigi Cherubini long outlived the carnage of the French Revolution his 1797 opéra comique [with spoken dialogue] Médée fell well within the “horror opera” genre that responded to the spirit of its time. These days however Médée is but an esoteric and extremely challenging late addition to the international repertory.

Queen: A Royal Jewel at Glimmerglass

Tchaikovsky’s grand opera The Queen of Spades might seem an unlikely fit for the multi-purpose room of the Pavilion on the Glimmerglass campus but that qualm would fail to reckon with the superior creative gifts of the production team at this prestigious festival.

Blue Diversifies Glimmerglass Fare

Glimmerglass Festival has commendably taken on a potent social theme in producing the World Premiere of composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson’s Blue.

Vibrant Versailles Dazzles In Upstate New York

From the shimmering first sounds and alluring opening visual effects of Glimmerglass Festival’s The Ghosts of Versailles, it was apparent that we were in for an evening of aural and theatrical splendors worthy of its namesake palace.

Gilda: “G for glorious”

For months we were threatened with a “feminist take” on Verdi’s boiling 1851 melodrama; the program essay was a classic mashup of contemporary psychobabble perfectly captured in its all-caps headline: DESTRUCTIVE PARENTS, TOXIC MASCULINITY, AND BAD DECISIONS.

Simon Boccanegra in Salzburg

It’s an inescapable reference. Among the myriad "Viva Genova!" tweets the Genovese populace shared celebrating its new doge, the pirate Simon Boccanegra, one stood out — “Make Genoa Great Again!” A hell of a mess ensued for years and years and the drinking water was poisonous as well.

Rigoletto at Macerata Opera Festival

In this era of operatic globalization, I don’t recall ever attending a summer opera festival where no one around me uttered a single word of spoken English all night. Yet I recently had this experience at the Macerata Opera Festival. This festival is not only a pure Italian experience, in the best sense, but one of the undiscovered gems of the European summer season.

BBC Prom 37: A transcendent L’enfance du Christ at the Albert Hall

Notwithstanding the cancellation of Dame Sarah Connolly and Sir Mark Elder, due to ill health, and an inconsiderate audience in moments of heightened emotion, this performance was an unequivocal joy, wonderfully paced and marked by first class accounts from four soloists and orchestral playing from the Hallé that was the last word in refinement.

Tannhäuser at Bayreuth

Stage director Tobias Kratzer sorely tempts destruction in his Bayreuth deconstruction of Wagner’s delicate Tannhäuser, though he was soundly thwarted at the third performance by conductor Christian Thielemann pinch hitting for Valery Gergiev.

Opera in the Quarry: Die Zauberflöte at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt, Austria

Oper im Steinbruch (Opera in the Quarry) presents opera in the 2000 quarry at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt in Austria. Opera has been performed there since the late 1990s, but there was no opera last year and this year is the first under the new artistic director Daniel Serafin, himself a former singer but with a degree in business administration and something of a minor Austrian celebrity as he has been on the country's equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing twice.

BBC Prom 39: Sea Pictures from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Sea Pictures: both the name of Elgar’s five-song cycle for contralto and orchestra, performed at this BBC Prom by Catriona Morison, winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Main Prize in 2017, and a fitting title for this whole concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Elim Chan, which juxtaposed a first half of songs of the sea, fair and fraught, with, post-interval, compositions inspired by paintings.

BBC Prom 32: DiDonato spellbinds in Berlioz and the NYO of the USA magnificently scales Strauss

As much as the Proms strives to stand above the events of its time, that doesn’t mean the musicians, conductors or composers who perform there should necessarily do so.

Get Into Opera with this charming, rural L'elisir

Site-specific operas are commonplace these days, but at The Octagon Barn in Norwich, Genevieve Raghu, founder and Artistic Director of Into Opera, contrived to make a site persuasively opera-specific.

A disappointing Prom from Nathalie Stutzmann and BBCNOW

Nathalie Stutzmann really is an impressive conductor. The sheer elegance she brings to her formidable technique, the effortless drive towards making much of the music she conducts sound so passionate and the ability to shock us into hearing something quite new in music we think we know is really rather refreshing. Why then did this Prom sometimes feel weary, even disappointing at times?

Merola’s Striking If I Were You

Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer have become an indispensable presence in the contemporary opera world, and their latest premiere, If I Were You, found the duo at the very top of their game.

The Thirteenth Child: When She Was Good…

Santa Fe Opera continues its remarkable record for producing World (and American) Premieres with The Thirteenth Child, music by Poul Ruders, libretto by Becky and David Starobin.

The Sopranos at Tanglewood

Among classical music lovers, Wagner inspires equal measures of devotion and disdain. Some travel far and sit for hours to hear his operas live. Others eschew them completely.

Agrippina at the Bavarian State Opera

And still they come. The opera world’s obsession with Handel’s operas shows no sign of abating. The Bavarian State Opera has, since Peter Jonas’s Intendancy, stood at the forefront of Handel staging; this new production of Agrippina was dedicated to him. As ever, I was pleased to see one of these operas for the first time in the theatre – how could I not be pleased to see almost anything in Munich’s wonderful Prinzregententheater – but again, as ever, I was left unable ever quite to put to one side the dramaturgical difficulties/problems/flaws/inadequacies. (Call them what you will.)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Ekaterina Semenchuk (Lady Macbeth) and Placido Domingo (Macbeth) in LA Opera's 2016 production of Verdi's
24 Sep 2016

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Ekaterina Semenchuk (Lady Macbeth) and Placido Domingo (Macbeth)

Photos by Karen Almond / LA Opera

 

They premiered it in 1847, a few years before the play appeared in Italian. A lifelong lover of the English Bard’s plays, in 1865, Verdi revised and expanded the opera with the help of Andrea Maffei for presentation in Paris. All of this was before Verdi wrote Otello, which he staged in 1887 or Falstaff, his last opera, which premiered in 1893.

In his program article on Macbeth, Music Director James Conlon notes, “It has been observed that Verdi’s opera is a tragedy for the royal couple but a comedy for the witches.” Director Tresnjak and costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb have the dancers representing witches wearing stretch fabrics and long tails. From climbing holds placed high on Tresnjak and Colin McGurk’s shallow set, these witches enjoy watching people fall prey to the machinations of the Macbeths. The set took up the full width of the stage and had an upper level that often accommodated the singing members of the chorus. Its lower level had entrances which included mirrors that reflected the comings and goings of cast members. Matthew Richards' lighting design underscored most of the situations appropriately, but it could have been more subtle for the apparitions.

KA1_494.pngPlacido Domingo as Macbeth

Tresnjak told the story in a literal manner that worked well for most scenes. Los Angeles Opera cast the production with glorious voices that filled the auditorium, both literally and figuratively. Plácido Domingo was a baritone Macbeth. Lately, his timbre has become a bit more baritonal and he has resonance on notes below the usual tenor range. Someday members of this audience will tell their grandchildren that they heard Domingo as Macbeth. He sang his part with a robust sound and his portrayal made this fierce king a real person whose lust for power had eaten away much of his soul.

Ekaterina Semenchuk did not have the ugly voice Verdi said he wanted for Lady Macbeth. Hers is a strong instrument with gorgeous overtones that made her duets with Domingo moments to be treasured. She was an ambitious wife who would help her husband attain his goals even if he faltered and she had to act for him. She sang her arias with power and a smooth opulent tone that bloomed in various vocal colors. The Banquet Scene showed her character’s mental progress while the Sleepwalking Scene showed her mind’s disintegration as she emitted clear, colorless tones with little vibrato and a staccato high note at the end.

KA1_434.pngPlacido Domingo (center) as Macbeth and Ekaterina Semenchuk (left) as Lady Macbeth

Arturo Chacón-Cruz was a poignant Macduff who sang with a lyrical sound and exquisite grace. He seemed surprised by the warm reception his aria garnered. Roberto Tagliavini was an understated Banquo who sang with virile dark tones. Two singers from the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artists Program, Summer Hassan and Theo Hoffman, were notable for their excellent tonal quality and understandable diction. I hope to hear a great deal more from each of them.

KAP_193.pngEkaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth

The Los Angeles Opera Chorus, led by Grant Gershon, was an integral part of the opera's action as they sang their intriguing harmonies. Director James Conlon, who gave a fascinating per-performance lecture, brought out the myriad abilities of the soloists by always keeping the orchestral volume low while they were singing. When they were silent, Conlon’s most impressive orchestra let loose and showed their huge talents. At Macbeth’s last battle there is a little fugue at which the members of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra brass section showed that they are all capable soloists. Macbeth is an opera that can be seen from various points of view. This production was from the witches’ perspective and it gave the audience a wonderful evening of entertainment.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Conductor, James Conlon; Director, Darko Tresnjak; Scenic Design, Darko Tresnjak and Colin McGurk; Costume Design, Suttirat Anne Larlarb; Lighting Design, Matthew Richards; Chorus Director, Grant Gershon; Fight Director, Steve Rankin; Climbing Consultant, Daniel Lyons; Macbeth, Plácido Domingo; Lady Macbeth, Ekaterina Semenchuk; Banquo, Roberto Tagliavini; Macduff, Arturo Chacón-Cruz; Malcolm, Josh Wheeker; Lady in Waiting, Summer Hassan; Doctor/First Apparition, Theo Hoffman; Second Apparition, Liv Redpath; Third Apparition, Isaiah Morgan; Valet, Reid Bruton; Assasin, James Martin Schaefer.

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):