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

Cilea's L'arlesiana at Opera Holland Park

In a rank order of suicidal depressives, Federico - the Provençal peasant besotted with ‘the woman from Arles’, L’arlesiana, who yearns to break free from his mother’s claustrophobic grasp, who seeks solace from betrayal and disillusionment in the arms of a patient childhood sweetheart, but who is ultimately broken by deluded dreams and unrequited passion - would surely give many a Thomas Hardy protagonist a run for their money.

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Scene at Millennium Park [Photo courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
02 Oct 2016

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Scene at Millennium Park [Photo courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]

 

On this evening they performed roles that are staples in their respective repertoires. Further, members of the Lyric Opera Chorus as well as the Ryan Opera Center participated in individual arias and ensembles. The concert was led by Lyric Opera’s music director Sir Andrew Davis, and the Lyric Opera Chorus was prepared by chorus director Michael Black.

The evening opened with two selections from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, which will be staged this season at Lyric Opera in December and January. The overture was led with a fine sensitivity for transitions in tempo. Flute and oboe parts were clearly forward in this performance as a means to suggesting their later significance in the score of the opera proper. The second part of the overture showed especially a sense of disciplined drive leading to a spirited conclusion. The first vocal selection featured Jonathan Johnson singing Tamino’s Act I aria, “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön” [“This portrait is enchantingly beautiful”]. Repeated top notes on “mein Herz” [“my heart”] became increasingly effective, just as the self-questioning hero issued his statements in a flood of hopeful legato. Mr. Johnson’s Tamino gave a sustained, summary emphasis to his final line of a determined quest for Pamina, “Und ewig wäre sie dann mein” [“and she would then be eternally mine”]. The second Mozart selection introduced a new voice to Lyric Opera audiences. Tobias Kehrer sang Osmin’s “O, wie will ich triumphieren” [“O, how I shall triumph”] from Die Entführung aus dem Serail. The rapid passage work already from the start of the aria was tossed off effortlessly by Mr. Kehrer, as he sang the repeat of “schnüren zu” [“tighten your nooses”] with accelerating gusto. Kehrer’s lowest bass notes are easily sustained and especially resonant, as evidenced by his delivery of the downward scale in the line “Denn nun hab’ ich vor Euch Ruh [“Having rid myself of you”]. The expectant joy felt by his character was emphasized by a spontaneous cartwheel at the conclusion of the piece. The final Mozart selection, a quartet of soloists performing together with the Lyric Opera Chorus, was the brief “Godiam la pace” [“Rejoice in peace”] from Idomeneo. Featured singers were Diana Newman, Lindsay Metzger (Women of Crete), Alec Carlson, and Patrick Guetti (Men of Troy). The balance between soloists and chorus was carefully maintained with the male voices prominent on “libertà.” Yet another piece for soloist and chorus followed, the opening of Act II, Scene 2 from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Mr. Johnson sang here the part of Arturo, officially betrothed to the title character, a part he will also perform during Lyric’s staging of Lucia during October and November. Arturo’s optimism at the bridal festivities is captured by Johnson’s ringing notes of “stella” and “amico,” by which he anticipates a happy future once he joins the clan. This self-deluding hope (“piu bella”) and Arturo’s position of guarantor (“defensor”) are sung by Johnson with notable ironic energy.

As a transition from solo and choral performing, the audience was encouraged to sing along with the Lyric Opera Chorus in “Va pensiero” [“Go, my thoughts”] from Verdi’s Nabucco, the Italian passage of which was visible on a projected screen. Indeed, the balance of the program’s first half was devoted to works by Verdi. Tanja Ariane Baumgartner sang Princess Eboli’s “O don fatale” from Don Carlo. The lower vocal register so vital for this role was especially evident in Baumgartner’s description of her “terrible gift” as her beauty, “O mia beltà.” Her recitation, as though addressing the Queen, “O mia Regina,” was appropriately lingering and laden with emotion. The realization that she could expiate her guilt only in a cloister began with furious top notes and descended to the depth of pain in the line, “dovrò celar il mio dolor!” This wide range was applied effectively by Baumartner in her concluding declaration to act in Carlo’s favor and save him. “Un di mi resta” [“I have one day left”] expressed the immediacy of danger at court, while Eboli’s loyalty to the Prince was traced with a rising line to match the orchestral swell at “Ah! Lo salverò!” [“I shall save him!”]. After this selection, Eric Owens performed Procida’s aria, “O tu, Palermo” from I vespri siciliani, followed by the baritone showpiece, “Per me giunto … O Carlo ascolta” [“For me has come … O Carlo, listen”] from Don Carlo, sung here by Quinn Kelsey. The Marchese di Posa’s dilemma and sacrifice were projected by Mr. Kelsey with consummate skill. Piano moments at the start of this scene were capped with an excellent trill on “i suoi fedel” [“His faithful ones”]. The question to Carlo, “Perchè?” was phrased by Kelsey with palpable emotion, just as he encouraged Carlo’s commitment to the Flemish cause. The latter part of this scene, “Io morrò… alla Spagna un salvatore!” [“I shall die … but preserve for Spain a savior”] was sung with a true sensitivity for legato in Verdi’s writing.

In the second half of the concert Kelsey gave a similarly moving performance of Prince Yeletsky’s aria “Ya vas lyublyu” from Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. Again, top notes and line were secure guarantors of poignant delivery. Kelsey will perform this season in Lyric’s staging of Lucia di Lammermoor. The concert also previewed Carmen, to be given in February and March, with here the prelude to Act I and the “Habanera” sung by Ms. Baumgartner. A final highlight of the evening was the introduction of Wilhelm Schwinghammer and Samuel Youn, both presenting excerpts from Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. Mr. Schwinghammer sang Daland’s “Mögst du, mein Kind” in which the sailor tries to facilitate a relationship between his daughter and the Dutchman, just arrived. Schwinghammer paced the father’s characterization cleverly with a modest suggestion at the beginning. His progressively urgent appeal to Senta and the description of her virtues to the Dutchman culminated in a richly decorated delivery of the line, “Gesteht, sie zieret ihr Geschlecht!” [“You must admit, she’s a credit to her sex”]. The dramatic conclusion to the aria was emphasized with comfortable forte pitches on “Glaub mir … so ist sie treu” [“Trust me … she is faithful too”]. Mr. Youn’s performance of the Dutchman’s soliloquy, “Die Frist ist um” [“The time is up”] was a remarkably effective evocation of captive frustration. Youn’s description of the waves bearing him endlessly forward and the fruitless search for peace on land [“auf dem Land ich suche”] is a heartrending depiction of suffering. Shifts to piano declamation fit this sensitive consideration of Wagner’s text. His dramatic pitches toward the closed called out convincingly for a day of judgement when his own anguish might cease.

Both Schwinghammer and Youn will make their Lyric Opera debuts in Das Rheingold in the coming week, with Mr. Owens singing the part of Wotan and Ms. Baumgartner as Fricka. The season should have an exciting start.

Salvatore Calomino

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):