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

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.

Riveting Maria de San Diego

As part of its continuing, adventurous “Detour” series, San Diego Opera mounted a deliciously moody, proudly pulsating, wholly evocative presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s “nuevo tango” opera, Maria de Buenos Aires.

La Walkyrie in Toulouse

The Nicolas Joel 1999 production of Die Walküre seen just now in Toulouse well upholds the Airbus city’s fame as Bayreuth-su-Garonne (the river that passes through this quite beautiful, rich city).

Barrie Kosky's Carmen at Covent Garden

Carmen is dead. Long live Carmen. In a sense, both Bizet’s opera and his gypsy diva have been ‘done to death’, but in this new production at the ROH (first seen at Frankfurt in 2016) Barrie Kosky attempts to find ways to breathe new life into the show and resurrect, quite literally, the eponymous temptress.

Candide at Arizona Opera

On Friday February 2, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Although all the music was Bernstein’s, the text was written and re-written by numerous authors including Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, as well as the composer.

Satyagraha at English National Opera

The second of Philip Glass’s so-called 'profile' operas, Satyagraha is magnificent in ENO’s acclaimed staging, with a largely new cast and conductor bringing something very special to this seminal work.

Mahler Symphony no 8—Harding, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

From the Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, a very interesting Mahler Symphony no 8 with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The title "Symphony of a Thousand" was dreamed up by promoters trying to sell tickets, creating the myth that quantity matters more than quality. For many listeners, Mahler 8 is still a hard nut to crack, for many reasons, and the myth is part of the problem. Mahler 8 is so original that it defies easy categories.

Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday—Angelika Kirchschlager

At the Wigmore Hall, Schubert's birthday is always celebrated in style. This year, Angelika Kirchschlager and Julius Drake, much loved Wigmore Hall audience favourites, did the honours, with a recital marking the climax of the two-year-long Complete Schubert Songs Series. The programme began with a birthday song, Namenstaglied, and ended with a farewell, Abschied von der Erde. Along the way, a traverse through some of Schubert's finest moments, highlighting different aspects of his song output : Schubert's life, in miniature.

Ilker Arcayürek at Wigmore Hall

The first thing that struck me in this Wigmore Hall recital was the palpable sincerity of Ilker Arcayürek’s artistry. Sincerity is not everything, of course; what we think of as such may even be carefully constructed artifice, although not, I think, here.

Lisette Oropesa sings at Tucson Desert Song Festival

On January 30, 2018, Arizona Opera and the Tucson Desert Song Festival presented a recital by lyric soprano Lisette Oropesa in the University of Arizona’s Holsclaw Hall. Looking like a high fashion model in her silver trimmed midnight-blue gown, the singer and pianist Michael Borowitz began their program with Pablo Luna’s Zarzuela aria, “De España Vengo.” (“I come from Spain”).

Schubert songs, part-songs and fragments: three young singers at the Wigmore Hall

Youth met experience for this penultimate instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s Schubert: The Complete Songs series, and the results were harmonious and happy. British soprano Harriet Burns, German tenor Ferdinand Keller and American baritone Harrison Hintzsche were supportively partnered by lieder ‘old-hand’, Graham Johnson, and we heard some well-known and less familiar songs in this warmly appreciated early-afternoon recital.

Brent Opera: Nabucco

Brent Opera’s Nabucco was a triumph in that it worked as a piece of music theatre against some odds, and was a good evening out.

LPO: Das Rheingold

It is, of course, quite an achievement in itself for a symphony orchestra to perform Das Rheingold or indeed any of the Ring dramas. It does not happen very often, not nearly so often as it should; for given Wagner’s crucial musico-historical position, this is music that should stand at the very centre of their repertoires – just as Beethoven should at the centre of opera orchestras’.

William Tell in Palermo

This was the infamous production that was booed to extinction at Covent Garden. Palermo’s Teatro Massimo now owns the production.

The Bandits in Rome

AKA I masnadieri, rare early Verdi, though not as rare as Alzira. In 1847 London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre  commissioned the newly famous Verdi to write this opera for the London debut of Swedish soprano Jenny Lind.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Kirsten Scott and Colin Whiteman [Photo by Gustavo Mirabile]
08 Nov 2016

Bare Opera Proves Opera is as Relevant as Ever in a Fresh-Faced La Cambiale di Matrimonio

“Opera is so old-fashioned!” Thus was the mantra adopted by the Bare Opera cast following a funny, awkward pre-show announcement by Executive Producer Kirsten Scott.

Bare Opera Proves Opera is as Relevant as Ever in a Fresh-Faced La Cambiale di Matrimonio

A review by Alexis Rodda

Above: Kirsten Scott and Colin Whiteman [Photos by Gustavo Mirabile]

 

After requesting permission from Maestro Sesto Quatrini to adopt a more modern plotline, the cast frantically flipped through newspapers scattered on the stage floor, seeking a plot less antiquated than that of Rossini’s La Cambiale di Matrimonio.

Opera suffers from a lot of “old-fashioned” traditions. Many of the more traditional classical or Romantic storylines center on some pretty disturbing themes, even when the outcome is comedic. Somehow as opera audience members, we give a cursory glance to these premises in order to enjoy the music; we favor the comedy in a situation that’s otherwise disturbing, even if it’s a story about a girl being sold into marriage with a man twice her age or a farce about a servant being relentlessly sexually harassed by her older employer.  In La Cambiale, the plot centers around Tobias Mill, father to Fanny, who wants to sell his daughter in marriage to a rich Canadian, Slook.

BareOpera1.pngSuchan Kim

Should we ignore these premises, though? Bare Opera takes a moment of reflection to question our complacency, reading real headlines from New York Times articles from the past two weeks. The cast managed to read three headlines, all of which highlighted different instances in which women and girls were trafficked or killed for resisting forcible marriage.

A brief search into the New York Times coverage of girls in forced marriages leads to dozens of hits. One article from July of this year told the story of Zahra, a young girl who liked performing in her school drama and got chosen to do a juggling act as part of an educational circus that came to her school. When her father decided to remarry, Zahra became part of the dowry, and as a sixth grader, was married off, and then about two years later, died when her husband’s family set her on fire. She was four months pregnant when she died, and the soles of her feet were the only part of her body that was unburned.

So how funny is it to watch an opera about a young girl being sold (or mortgaged, a word that comes up a lot in the libretto) into marriage to a man she has never met?

The cast gave up on their quest for a more modern storyline, since it was clear a story about a girl being sold was not an old-fashioned story at all, and got on with the music. After the moment of sobriety during the pre-show announcement, the music swept away any moral misgivings, especially since Bare Opera kept the production thoughtful and reflective, while still serving the comedic outlandishness inherent in Rossini’s work.

bareopera3.pngJohn Allen Nelson

 Sesto Quatrini is an energetic and communicative conductor, eliciting a gorgeous palette of sounds from a truly exceptional group of musicians. The ensemble was incredibly tight and harmonious, especially for a group that is unlikely to play together regularly.

The cast also shines in a very creative and exciting staging of Rossini’s first opera, composed in a few days when he was only 18 years old. La Cambiale has all the hallmarks of a Rossini opera, and a lot of the characters tend to be a little one-dimensional. However, this fine cast manages to eke out different shades of characterization from their roles, helped along by the direction by Cecilia Ligorio, which provides many moments of authentic delight for the audience. There was no set to speak of, and the production plays between a traditional stage space and a more intimate in-the-round style of staging. However, no one seemed to notice the paucity of the production elements. Indeed, it has been a long time since I’ve sat among such a rapt audience, especially for a very traditional work. The energy of the crowd was palpable, and several moments elicited genuine gasps and giggles.

Kirsten Scott slips easily into her role of Clarina after donning her Executive Producer cap. She brings Clarina to life in a very sexy but down-to-earth portrayal with a well-sung and sparkling aria in the latter half of the opera. John Allen Nelson portrays the buffoonish Slook with a more casual, less caricatured air, with a demeanor which is much more sinister than the usual blustering buffoonery adopted by many singers in this role. He plays Slook as a man surprised to hear that he’s being refused, and surprised that a woman would even have an opinion at all. Nelson has a full, easy sound, and is a pleasure to hear and watch.

bareopera4.pngLiana Guberman and Sungwook Kim

Liana Guberman  (Fanny) has the perfect bel canto voice, supple and lush with all the brilliance needed for Rossini. She plays Fanny not as a silly young girl, but as a woman genuinely wounded by her father’s betrayal. There’s nothing frenetic about Guberman’s portrayal; in fact, it even tends towards heartbreaking, particularly in some moments during her duet with Slook. Her huge aria at the end of the opera is a high point of the production, especially in conjunction with an incredible performance by dancer Daisy Ranson Phillips, who uses Rossini’s music to punctuate her bodily movements.

Suchan Kim (Tobias Mill) magnetizes the audience to him throughout the evening, with a sumptuous baritone voice and precisely communicative Italian. He is wonderfully funny without ever becoming cartoonish, and sustains a level of energy in both voice and deportment that left me exhausted just watching him.

The entire cast (including Sungwook Kim as Edward Milfort and Colin Whiteman as Norton) perform with such joy that it’s impossible not to go along with them. They don’t give into character stereotypes or devolve into farce, even where it would have been easy to do so. There’s something naturalistic and terribly believable about their performances, yet each singer retains the exuberance necessary to keep the audience engaged.

Opera is trying so very hard to be cool again, giving into hackneyed techniques like liquoring up its audience or offering up scantily clad soprani. Bare Opera doesn’t need to try to be cool, because they already know they are cool. The sheer joy they take in performing Rossini’s work is infectious. This cast, crew, and production leave the audience breathless and exhilarated. Opera may be old fashioned—maybe—but Bare Opera knows it’s as relevant today as it was 200 years ago.

Alexis Rodda

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):