Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Probing Bernstein and MacMillan double bill in Amsterdam

The Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in Amsterdam is about new things: new compositions, rediscovered works and new faces. This year’s program included a double bill produced by Dutch National Opera’s talent development wing. Leonard Bernstein’s portrait of a miserable marriage in affluent suburbia, Trouble in Tahiti, was the contrasting companion piece to James McMillan’s Clemency, a study of the sinister side of religious belief.

Macbeth in Lyon

A revival of the Opéra de Lyon’s 2012 Occupy Wall St. production of Verdi’s 1865 Macbeth, transforming naive commentary into strange irony, some high art included.

Barber of Seville Is Fun in Tucson

On March 4, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Tucson. Allen Moyer designed the bright and happy scenery for performances at Minnesota Opera,

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

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.



02 Oct 2016

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

A review by Holly Harris


Founded in 2008 by Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan-born conductor Brendan McKeen, the youthful company’s mandate is to provide opportunities for performers to sing with an orchestra. In addition to this year’s pair of offerings, prior productions have included: Mozart’sLa Clemenza di Tito and Così fan tutte, Massenet’s Cendrillon, the Fable of Cinderella, and Handel’s Alcina, as well as smaller-scale concerts and recital programs.

This year, the company treated audiences to a “re-imagined” version of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, performed amidst the ruins of Winnipeg’s historic St. Boniface Cathedral, ravaged by fire in 1968 and located at the heart of its Francophone community. Its updated The Magic Flute…Retold (sung in German) essentially stripped away all the opera’s notoriously racist references for 21st century audiences, with the 125-minute production also including witty English dialogue penned by the company’s co-artistic director, Brenna Corner.

Mozart’s masterpiece is ultimately a tale about fortitude, character and steely resolve in transcending adversity. The company experienced its own travails opening night, forced to grapple with mid-show rain showers, ubiquitous mosquitoes and even a pounding rock concert heard from across the Assiniboine River that competed with the Wunderkind’s sublime score. The cast, orchestra and audience ultimately journeyed, well, underground to the church basement for half of Act I, shepherded again outdoors again by the unflappable McKeen for Act II.

Lyric soprano Andrea Lett (with alternating casts) crafted a particularly strong Pamina, her acting skills notably having grown since she performed the lead role in last year’s production of Cendrillon, the Fable of Cinderella. Tenor Jonathan Stitt likewise convinced as her heroic Prince Tamino, his mellifluous vocals soaring in “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön,” or seamlessly blending with the three ladies (Emily Diehl-Reader, Rebecca McIntosh, and Meghan Symon).

Audiences always wait on tenterhooks for the Queen of the Night’s “big” aria. Soprano Ashley Boychuk did not disappoint, fearlessly nailing her topmost notes while confidently skipping through florid colouratura runs during “Der Hölle Rache” that earned the evening’s only cries of bravo.

Baritone Elliot Lazar portrayed royal bird catcher Papageno as a quasi-counter-culture, peace-sign flashing hippie, presented not with magic bells but a flamingo-festooned music box. His characterization could still have gone further (a few love beads would have helped) although his giddy Act II scene in which he falls head over feathers with soprano Emily Ready’s Papagena proved a highlight. Bass John Anderson crafted a suitably menacing Sarastro, flanked by tenor Chris Donlevy’s Monastatos whose performance needed to - and did – grow more intense throughout the show.

The 17-member chorus prepared by Lisa Rumpel sang with gusto, while McKeen led the 23-piece orchestra throughout Act I, morphing into Renate Rossol’s sole keyboard accompaniment for Act II due to the inclement weather.

The company also returned to the Manitoba Legislative Building for its second production, Offenbach’s comic melodrama Orpheus in the Underworld. MUC first performed in the provincial government building with Cosi fan Tutti in 2014.

This year, stage director Jacqueline Loewen further exploited the building’s interior by cleverly moving actors and audience throughout its three physical levels to depict Thebes, Olympus and the Underworld, thus making the evening experiential. Its Tyndall stone interior that creates powerful reverberation proved challenging, especially during the spoken English dialogue sections that blurred, although conversely also underscored the gods’ solos and choruses – and especially bass Nicholas Urquhart’s Jupiter – with otherworldly omnipresence.

Soprano Susan Watkins injected enough sparkling personality into her lead character Eurydice to light up a celestial night sky, decrying fiddle-playing “Bore-pheus” husband Orpheus sung by tenor Wes Rambo with her razor sharp comedic skills as potent as her clear colouratura voice. She fleshed out her long-suffering housewife with subtle nuance and pouty sighs, even daringly rubbing thighs with Jupiter during the Act III Underworld party that also included a raucous “Infernal Galop.” Mezzo-soprano Suzanne Reimer’s Public Opinion provided steady ballast throughout the 90-minute show, as she told her tale of “high ideals, heroism and morality.”

The quartet of vodka swilling goddesses added further hilarity, although once again sound issues detracted from their choruses, including Act II’s tongue-twisting rondo “Pour séduire Alcmène.”

McKeen held a firm baton over his compact orchestra, its six musicians packing up their bows and stands to move with the audience and singers as we made our own odyssey in the company of gods from heaven to hell.

Holly Harris

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):