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

Eugene Onegin at Seattle

Passion! Pain! Poetry! (but hold the irony . . .)

Pow! Zap! Zowie! Wowie! -or- Arthur, King of Long Beach

If you might have thought a late 17thcentury semi-opera about a somewhat precious fairy tale monarch might not be your cup of twee, Long Beach Opera cogently challenges you to think again.

Philippe Jaroussky and Jérôme Ducros perform Schubert at Wigmore Hall

How do you like your Schubert? Let me count the ways …

Crebassa and Say: Impressionism and Power at Wigmore Hall

On paper this seemed a fascinating recital, but as I was traveling to the Wigmore Hall it occurred to me this might be a clash of two great artists. Both Marianne Crebassa and Fazil Say can be mercurial performers and both can bring such unique creativity to what they do one thought they might simply diverge. In the event, what happened was quite remarkable.

'Songs of Longing and Exile': Stile Antico at LSO St Luke's

Baroque at the Edge describes itself as the ‘no rules’ Baroque festival. It invites ‘leading musicians from all backgrounds to take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads them’.

Richard Jones' La bohème returns to Covent Garden

Richard Jones' production of Puccini's La bohème is back at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden after its debut in 2017/18. The opening night, 10th January 2020, featured the first of two casts though soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who was due to sing Mimì, had to drop out owing to illness, and was replaced at short notice by Simona Mihai who had sung the role in the original run and is due to sing Musetta later in this run.

Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Mozart’s Don Giovanni returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Robert Falls updating of the opera to the 1930s. The universality of Mozart’s score proves its adaptability to manifold settings, and this production featured several outstanding, individual performances.

Britten and Dowland: lutes, losses and laments at Wigmore Hall

'Of chord and cassiawood is the lute compounded;/ Within it lie ancient melodies'.

Tara Erraught sings Loewe, Mahler and Hamilton Harty at Wigmore Hall

During those ‘in-between’ days following Christmas and before New Year, the capital’s cultural institutions continue to offer fare both festive and more formal.

Prayer of the Heart: Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet

Robust carol-singing, reindeer-related muzak tinkling through department stores, and light-hearted festive-fare offered by the nation’s choral societies may dominate the musical agenda during the month of December, but at Kings Place on Friday evening Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet eschewed babes-in-mangers and ding-donging carillons for an altogether more sedate and spiritual ninety minutes of reflection and ‘musical prayer’.

The New Season at the New National Theatre, Tokyo

Professional opera in Japan is roughly a century old. When the Italian director and choreographer Giovanni Vittorio Rosi (1867-1940) mounted a production of Cavalleria Rusticana in Italian in Tokyo in 1917, with Japanese singers, he brought a period of timid experimentation and occasional student performances to an end.

Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall

For those of us who live in a metropolitan bubble, where performances of Handel's Messiah by small professional ensembles are common, it is easy to forget that for many people, Handel's masterpiece remains a large-scale choral work. My own experiences of Messiah include singing the work in a choir of 150 at the Royal Albert Hall, and the venue's tradition of performing the work annually dates back to the 19th century.

What to Make of Tosca at La Scala

La Scala’s season opened last week with Tosca. This was perhaps the preeminent event in Italian cultural and social life: paparazzi swarmed politicians, industrialists, celebrities and personalities, while almost three million Italians watched a live broadcast on RAI 1. Milan was still buzzing nine days later, when I attended the third performance of the run.

La traviata at Covent Garden: Bassenz’s triumphant Violetta in Eyre’s timeless production

There is a very good reason why Covent Garden has stuck with Richard Eyre’s 25-year old production of La traviata. Like Zeffirelli’s Tosca, it comes across as timeless whilst being precisely of its time; a quarter of a century has hardly faded its allure, nor dented its narrative clarity. All it really needs is a Violetta to sweep us off our feet, and that we got with Hrachuhi Bassenz.

'Aspects of Love': Jakub Józef Orliński at Wigmore Hall

Boretti, Predieri, Conti, Matteis, Orlandini, Mattheson: masters of the Baroque? Yes, if this recital by Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is anything by which to judge.

Otello at Covent Garden: superb singing defies Warner’s uneven production

I have seen productions of Verdi’s Otello which have been revolutionary, even subversive. I have now seen one which is the complete antithesis of that.

Solomon’s Knot: Charpentier - A Christmas Oratorio

When Marc-Antoine Charpentier returned from Rome to Paris in 1669 or 1670, he found a musical culture in his native city that was beginning to reject the Italian style, which he had spent several years studying with the Jesuit composer Giacomo Carissimi, in favour of a new national style of music.

A Baroque Odyssey: 40 Years of Les Arts Florissants

In 1979, the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor, William Christie, founded an early music ensemble, naming it Les Arts Florissants, after a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Miracle on Ninth Avenue

Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first recorded opera I ever heard. Each Christmas Eve, while decorating the tree, our family sang along with the (still unmatched) original cast version. We knew the recording by heart, right down to the nicks in the LP. Ever since, no matter what the setting or the quality of a performance, I cannot get through it without tearing up.

Detlev Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (UK premiere)

It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamburg-born composer Detlev Glanert should count Hans Werner Henze as one of the formative influences on his work - he did, after all, study with him between 1984 to 1988.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Photo by Martha Benedict
22 Sep 2016

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

A review by Maria Nockin

All photos by Martha Benedict

 

The composer and his duo-librettists based their story on William Hogarth’s eighteenth century paintings and engravings. Stravinsky was living in West Hollywood when he wrote the music. Librettists Auden and Kallman were also in the US at that time.

Because The Rake’s Progress requires a chorus and a larger orchestra than POP usually offers, these performances were held at Occidental College, a charming school located in the hills north of Los Angeles. Director Desiree La Vertu guided about a dozen choristers from the college glee club through Stravinsky’s unusual harmonies while POP co-founder and conductor Stephen Karr led twenty-five of the school’s excellent instrumentalists as they accompanied the singers.

rake-Press 16.png

POP co-founder, stage director, and designer Josh Shaw updated his show to the 1970s but kept it in England. His simple settings effectively placed the action in the opera's various locales: the Cyprian Queen Pub, Mother Goose's seedy London strip club, Tom’s house, a wildly active auction yard, a cemetery and finally, the day room of the Elysian Fields Asylum. Marie Mawji’s ambient lighting design and Maggie Green’s seventies era costumes helped secure the time and place of each scene.

In Act I, Tom Rakewell works in Father Trulove’s pub along with Anne, but when Nick Shadow tells him he has an inheritance waiting for him in London, he goes off to pursue whatever pleasures the money can buy. In a thoughtless moment, Tom agrees to pay Nick for his services at the end of "a year and a day." Brian Cheney was a sympathetic, clear voiced Tom who—at the beginning—merely wanted a good life for himself and Anne, the girl on whose love he knows he can depend.

rake-Press 10.png

Rachele Schmiege was a strong Anne who held her ground both vocally and histrionically. Her aria “No word from Tom” probably brought back memories to a great many audience members who have waited for silent phones to ring. Patrick Blackwell sang Father Trulove with luxurious bass tones that made me want to hear a great deal more of him. Hope POP has him back in a larger part very soon. Adrian Rosas was a wily Nick whose solid voice and unctuous character seemed related to Gounod’s and Boito’s devils. One of the reasons for POP’s popularity is Shaw’s insistence on hiring the best voices available.

Adelaide Sinclair was a loquacious Baba the Turk with a strong voice and a constantly flapping black beard. When Tom dropped a box over her head, the audience had a good laugh and he finally got a chance to complete a sentence. Danielle Marcelle Bond was an alluring bawdyhouse manager, Joel David Balzun a memorable madhouse keeper and Robert Norman a fascinating auctioneer whose minions wheeled him around together with his outsized desk.

rake-Press 12.png

In the final scenes, especially the epilogue in which various characters warn listeners, often humorously but sometimes seriously, of the evil that can befall those who look for easy money. The audience could easily draw parallels between the final scene of this opera and that of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

The artists and craftspeople who make up POP managed to make their work look easy while service people made sure audience members never lacked for creature comforts or glasses of something cool and tasty. A Pacific Opera Project performance is a fine place for a visitor to Los Angeles to relax on a fall afternoon or evening.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Music Director, Stephen Karr; Stage Director and Designer, Josh Shaw; Costumes, Maggie Green; Director of Occidental College Glee Club, Desiree La Vertu; Lighting Designer, Marie Mawji; Tom Rakewell, Brian Cheney; Nick Shadow, Adrian Rosas; Anne Trulove, Rachele Smiege; Father Trulove, Patrick Blackwell; Baba the Turk, Adelaide Sinclair; Sellem, Robert Norman; Mother Goose, Danielle Marcelle Bond; Keeper of the Madhouse, Joel David Balzun.


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):