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

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.

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.

Glyndebourne Opera Cup 2018: semi-finalists announced

The semi-finalists for the first Glyndebourne Opera Cup have been announced. Following a worldwide search that attracted nearly 200 entries, and preliminary rounds in Berlin, London and Philadelphia, 23 singers aged 21-28 have been chosen to compete in the semi-final at Glyndebourne on 22 March.

ENO announces Studio Live casts and three new Harewood Artists

English National Opera (ENO) has announced the casts for Acis and Galatea and Paul Bunyan, 2018’s two ENO Studio Live productions. ENO Studio Live forms part of ENO Outside which takes ENO’s work to arts-engaged audiences that may not have considered opera before, presenting the immense power of opera in more intimate studio and theatre environments.

Handel in London: 2018 London Handel Festival

The 2018 London Handel Festival explores Handel’s relationship with the city. Running from 17 March to 16 April 2018, the Festival offers four weeks of concerts, talks, walks & film screenings explore masterpieces by Handel, from semi-staged operas to grand oratorio and lunchtime recitals.

Dartington International Summer School & Festival: 70th anniversary programme

Internationally-renowned Dartington Summer School & Festival has released the course programme for its 70th Anniversary Summer School and Festival, curated by the pianist Joanna MacGregor, that will run from 28th July to 25th of August 2018.

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.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

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”).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Nikki M. James as Eileen Sherwood [Photo: Craig T. Mathew / LA Opera]
12 Dec 2016

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Nikki M. James as Eileen Sherwood

Photos by Craig T. Mathew / LA Opera

 

With Faith Prince as wisecracking Ruth and Nikki M. James as sexy Eileen, Wonderful Town was a fabulous concert that told a story of the “good old days” in Greenwich Village with singing, dancing, and updated jokes.

In the nineteen thirties, Ruth McKenney wrote of the adventures she and her sister Eileen had in New York City. Although they lived in a damp, mold infested Greenwich Village basement for a mere six months, Ruth’s stories of that time have fascinated readers and listeners for three quarters of a century. She first published her tales in the New Yorker, but in 1938 they appeared in book form as My Sister Eileen and the book became a play and movie. In 1953, when Leonard Bernstein added music to Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s lyrics, Ruth McKenney’s tales of life in New York became Wonderful Town. That was the version of the story that Los Angeles Opera audiences saw on December 2, 2016.

Wonderful-Town_16207-0040.pngJulia Aks (Helen) and Ben Crawford (Wreck)

Director David Lee enabled his artists to tell their story in a realistic manner even though their space was severely limited. The projected scenery, consisting of varied watercolor paintings of a remembered Greenwich Village, could be seen over the heads of the cast, chorus, and orchestra. There was always some movement within these Hana S. Kim projections. Although there were no trees to be seen, shadows of their leaves continually moved on buildings at the behest of soft breezes. From my time in the Village I don’t remember any green fire escapes, but they were charming to see onstage. Projected names such as “Christopher Street” were in the iconic font seen on the cover of the magazine, The New Yorker.

Wonderful Town is the first of three Los Angeles Opera presentations of Bernstein musicals, the last of which will be in 2018, the one-hundredth anniversary of the composer’s birth. The story was still set in the nineteen-thirties and Faith Prince was the street-smart Ruth, a role originally played by Rosalind Russell. In the role of Eileen, originally played by Edie Adams, Nikki M. James was as cute as a kitten. Some things never change and Eileen got the attention of every man, onstage and off, even though it was Ruth who wrote the stories for posterity. Both Prince and James created memorable characters and sang with admirable diction.

Wonderful-Town_16207-0684.pngFaith Prince as Ruth Sherwood, with the dancers of Wonderful Town

Nineteen fifties musicals were known for their dance scenes and Wonderful Town was no exception. I was amazed at how much dancing Peggy Hickey’s troupe could fit into a minimum of space afforded them with orchestra, chorus and soloists on stage. The Navy Yard Conga was the whipped cream on a fabulous dessert and James’s cartwheels were the topmost cherry.

One of the stars of this show was the orchestra under the leadership of Grant Gershon who conducted with crisp, forward pressing tempi and took a minute to dance on the podium. Quite a few of its twenty-seven instrumentalists played more than one instrument, too, so the audience heard the sound of a full compliment of musicians. The rhythms were captivating. Bernstein said, “Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” It can also keep on communicating for decades after the demise of its composer.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Book, Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov; Original Stories, Ruth McKenney; Music, Leonard Bernstein; Lyrics, Betty Comden and Adolph Green; Adaptation for Concert Performance, David Lee; Ruth, Faith Prince; Eileen, Nikki M. James; Tour Guide, Speedy Valenti, Rexford and other characters, Roger Bart; Mr. Appopolous, Tony Abbatemarco; Officer Lonigan, Brian Michael Moore; Wreck, Ben Crawford; Helen, Julia Aks; Violet, Elizabeth Zharoff; Robert Baker, Marc Kudich; Daniel and Associate Editor, Theo Hoffman; Frank Lippincott, Jared Gertner; Sean, Carlos Enrique Santelli; Pat, Josh Wheeker; Conductor, Grant Gershon; Director, David Lee; Choreographer, Peggy Hickey; Projection Design, Hana S. Kim; Lighting Design, Azra King-Abadi; Musical Preparation, Jeremy Frank and Miah Im.

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):