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 Reviews

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

16 Nov 2016

Barber of Seville [Hollywood Style] in Los Angeles

On Saturday evening November 12, 2016, Pacific Opera Project presented Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville in an updated version that placed the action in Hollywood. It was sung in the original Italian but the translation seen as supertitles was specially written to match the characters’ Hollywood identities.

Pacific Opera Project: The Barber of Seville, Hollywood style

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Bartolo checks out the Music Teacher. [Photo courtesy of Pacific Opera Project, copyright Martha Benedict]

 

The Ebell Club in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles has a modest sized hall in which Pacific Opera Project (POP) often presents opera. The atmosphere is casual and the audience is usually seated at tables eating hors d’oeuvres and drinking wine. Music Director Stephen Karr sees to it that the music is taken seriously and Artistic Director Josh Shaw makes sure the action and the English supertitles keep their 2016 audience entertained.

Stage Director Josh Shaw designed the sets, which showed Rosina’s balcony, Bartolo’s living room, and Figaro’s shop. He had some short scenes played in front of a curtain. Above the stage were not only English titles but also videos and notes regaling the characters’ Hollywood exploits.

Figaro, Bernardo Bermudez, was the hairdresser who could always find his clients clean samples of hair or anything else needed to pass a drug test. His Figaro was so amusing that he almost distracted the audience from his robust singing. As his servant, Fiorello, Kevin Blickfeldt was a rollocking misfit.

Rosina, mezzo-soprano Meagan Martin, was a lovely young starlet who was anything but innocent, as she proved by the stripper-pole choreography she danced while singing “Una voce poco fa.” She sang with a small but sweet sound that was even all the way up and down her wide range.

The main character in this production, however, was Lindoro, sung by coloratura tenor Sergio Gonzalez. His well-focused sound made his virile voice sound larger than it actually was. New on the scene, he has an attractive tonal quality and a good sense of comic timing. Thus, he made an amusing drunk and a hilarious, bewigged “lady” music teacher. Don Bartolo, portrayed by bass-baritone E. Scott Levin, was Rosina’s leering manager who wanted her--and the money she could earn--for himself. The fall guy in this opera, Levin is an old friend to POP. We remember his riotous interpretation of Maestro Biscoma Strappaviscere in Donizetti’s Viva la Mamma.

Basilio, sung by bass Phil Meyer, was once the skin-tight leopard-print-pants-wearing lead singer of the famous group, Aluminum Blymp. At this point, however, he is a caustic-tongued music teacher who loves getting high on cocaine. He sang with a dark sound while spewing calumnies with comic touches. Although singing the comprimario role of Berta in this presentation, Melinda Ehrlich is a fine soprano who has sung leading roles with local companies and will be Juliet in the Center stage production of Romeo and Juliet. She added a strong top line to the ensembles. Wearing the shortest possible pants, Keystone cop wannabe Christopher Anderson-West’s Sergeant fainted when confronted with true nobility and he made the end of the opera turn out right.

For the better part of three hours the Ebell Club audience smiled, tittered, and guffawed at the antics of this talented cast. At the beginning of this review I mentioned that the music was always rendered with the utmost serious attention to detail. POP usually has a small orchestra, but this time Music Director Stephen Karr and Assistant Conductor Zach Neufeld played a knuckle-busting piano four hands version of Rossini’s intricate score that captured almost all of the original sonorities. The titles said the arrangement was by Arnold Schoenberg, but Karr and Neufeld hit the right keys and their music sounded just like unadulterated Rossini! This was a fun production that profited from the intimacy and casual ambience of the setting.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Cast and Production Information:

Music Director, Stephen Karr; Director and Designer, Josh Shaw; Costume Designer, Maggie Green; Assistant Conductor, Zach Neufeld; Figaro, Bernardo Bermudez; Count Almaviva, Sergio Gonzalez; Don Basilio, Phil Meyer; Fiorello, Kevin Blickfeldt; Rosina, Meagan Martin; Don Bartolo, E. Scott Levin; Berta, Melinda Ehrlich; Sergeant, Chris Anderson-West; Chorus: William Grundler, John David Wiese, and Matthew Ian Welch.

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):