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Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.
Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.
Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.
The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of
Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a
Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.
The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.
On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.
A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.
In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.
Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.
On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.
There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.
With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia
Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory
mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola,
whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the
Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.
Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.
Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.
26 Nov 2016
Rusalka, AZ Opera
On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.
With water-reflected light bathing the stage, Water Nymph Rusalka and her sisters “swam” sitting on the backs of chairs and waving their arms much as Russian ballerinas do in The Dying Swan.
Their world was separated from the world of humanity by a forbidding white door. Water nymphs and wood sprites wore ethereal gowns that moved gracefully with them and allowed the audience to perceive them as denizens of a different realm. Melinda Whittington was a poignant, tragic Rusalka who enchanted the audience and brought them into her world with her moon song “Mesiku na nebi hlubokem” (“O moon high up in the sky”).
Sara Gartland and David Danholdt as Rusalka and The Prince
When Rusalka fell in love with the human Prince, her father, Vodnik, sung magnificently by Richard Paul Fink, warned her that no good could come of the match because humans are sinful. I wonder if Dvořák got his idea for Vodnik and the Three Wood Sprites from Wagner's Das Rheingold. Vocally, the combination of stentorian baritone and three high lyric voices was fascinating. Daveda Karanas was a human looking Ježibaba. With no pointed ears or other marks of an alien being, she wore a dress with a cut-out bustle that would have been quite fashionable in 1890s. She sang with dramatic vocal colors, but her characterization was rather bland.
Kevin Ray was a dramatic-voiced Prince whose character was bewildered by two women, Rusalka and the Foreign Princess, vying for his hand. Alexandra Loutsion was every inch the evil Foreign Princess and she sang with easily produced warm and resonant dramatic notes that made me wonder if she is a future Wagnerite. In this fairy tale, the Foreign Princess got the Prince’s ring and eventually shoved the social climbing water nymph back into her pond. That was a sad lesson, indeed, but one that must sometimes be learned.
Daveda Karanas and Sara Gartland as Ježibaba and Rusalka
Kevin Newell was a dutiful hunter, but The Gamekeeper in a scruffy wig and the cowardly but limber Kitchen Boy supplied the comic relief that kept Rusalka from being totally tragic opera. Henri Venanzi’s chorus never appeared in front of the curtain and I wondered why. He has a good group but they might have seemed too earthbound for nymphs or sprites.
Dvořák’s music is exquisite and Conductor Steven White presented it in all its liquid, translucent beauty. Although memorable, the moon song is not the only great piece in this opera. There are many other scenes of similar evocative lyricism. The duet between Rusalka and the Prince has been described as one of the most enchantingly nuanced in all opera. Rusalka is a work we need to hear again so that we can get to know and understand its melancholy charm. I hope it won’t be too long before a company in Arizona or Southern California again presents Rusalka. It’s well worth hearing more than once.
Cast and production information:
Conductor, Steven White; Stage Director, Joshua Borths; Set Design, Mark Halpin; Costume Design, Adriana Diaz; Lighting Design, Jeremy Dominik; Choreographer, Molly Lajoie; Rusalka, Melinda Whittington; The Prince, Kevin Ray; Vodnik, Richard Paul Fink; Ježibaba, Daveda Karanas; The Foreign Princess, Alexandra Loutsion; Wood Sprites: Katrina Galka, Lacy Sauter, and Mariya Kaganskaya; Gamekeeper, Joseph Lattanzi; Kitchen Boy, Alyssa Martin; The Hunter, Kevin Newell; Chorus Director, Henri Venanzi.