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 Performances

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Nico Muhly's Marnie at ENO

Winston Graham’s 1961 novel Marnie was bold for its time. Its themes of sexual repression, psychological suspense and criminality set within the dark social fabric of contemporary Britain are but outlier themes of the anti-heroine’s own narrative of deceit, guilt, multiple identities and blackmail.

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

Tremendous revival of Katie Mitchell's Lucia at the ROH

The morning sickness, miscarriage and maundering wraiths are still present, but Katie Mitchell’s Lucia di Lammermoor, receiving its first revival at the ROH, seems less ‘hysterical’ this time round - and all the more harrowing for it.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

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):