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

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Gergiev, Mariinsky

Sergei Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op 74, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus. One Day That Shook the World to borrow the subtitle from Sergei Eisenstein's epic film October : Ten Days that Shook the World.

A Prom of Transformation and Transcendence: Renée Fleming and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

This Prom was all about places: geographical, physical, pictorial, poetic, psychological. And, as we journeyed through these landscapes of the mind, there was plenty of reminiscence and nostalgia too, not least in Samuel Barber’s depiction of early twentieth-century Tennessee - Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

The Queen's Lace Handkerchief: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

Billed as the ‘First British Performance’ - though it had had a prior, quasi-private outing at the Roxburgh Theatre, Stowe in July - Opera della Luna’s production of Johann Strauss Jnr’s The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief (Das Spitzentuch der Königin) at Wilton’s Music Hall began to sound pretty familiar half-way through the overture (which was played with spark and elegance by conductor Toby Purser’s twelve-piece orchestra).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lynne McMurtry (Mistress Quickly), Todd Thomas (Falstaff), and Lauren Segal (Meg Page). [Photo: R. Tinker]
01 Dec 2016

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

A review by Holly Harris

Above: Lynne McMurtry (Mistress Quickly), Todd Thomas (Falstaff), and Lauren Segal (Meg Page).

Photos by R. Tinker

 

The Italian master’s sole comic opera depicting vainglorious knight Sir John Falstaff’s attempts to woo the very married Alice Ford and Meg Page conflates Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, with Verdi’s through-composed opera based on Arrigo Boito’s Italian libretto (with surtitles) considered by many as his greatest stage work. The three-performance production ran November 19/22/25 at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall.

However, the noble — and notoriously fickle — art of comedy can be as elusive as catching a shadow. Often simply boiling down to individual taste, its many stylistic flavours range from subtle irony to full out slapstick. In this case, acclaimed Winnipeg-born director Michael Cavanagh opted for broad(er) strokes, with the production’s crackerjack cast called upon to deliver copious sight gags and cheeky butt jokes a la adult animated sitcom South Park.

Having said all this, the impressive cast of principals is among the finest assembled on this stage, beginning with American baritone Todd Thomas in the title role. Renowned internationally as a true Verdi baritone, this booming powerhouse who also enthralled local audiences as the hunch-backed jester in MO’s Rigoletto in 2012, and Count di Luna during its 2008 production of Il Trovatore performed his third company role with utter conviction. He fulfilled his lumbering protagonist’s emotional trajectory, from his opening declamatory Act I aria “L’Onore! Ladri!” to Act III’s poignant “Ehi taverniere! Mondo ladro,” with the latter solo suddenly revealing the achingly vulnerable, faded hero beneath his fleshy carapace. Thomas’ compassionate portrayal matched by a resonant voice that is its own force of nature crafted a multi-dimensional, all-too-human knight whose shining armor has grown tarnished.

_RWT9877.pngSasha Djihanian (Nannetta), Monica Huisman (Alice), Lauren Segal (Meg Page), and Lynne McMurtry (Mistress Quickly)

Winnipeg-born baritone Gregory Dahl more than held his own with Thomas as Alice’s jealous, hotheaded husband Ford. Last appearing as “George” in the MO’s 2016 production Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men, Dahl stormed the stage, barely containing his fury during Act II’s explosive “E sogno? o realta.”

Winnipeg soprano Monica Huisman in her role (and Verdi) debut as Alice Ford infused her character with plenty of sassy backbone, conspiring with mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal’s equally compelling Meg Page during “Alice. Meg. Nannetta” where they mock the “king of all bellies.” Her powerful vocals and own comic chops further testify to this gifted performer’s chameleonic versatility. Mistress Quickly sung by contralto Lynne McMurtry helped machinate the plot like a master puppeteer, sparring and baiting Falstaff with clandestine love notes.

Two MO newcomers were standouts: Soprano Sasha Djihanian as the Fords’ high spirited daughter Nannette radiated with clarion goodness during her Act III aria “Sul fil d'un soffio etesio” while disguised as the Fairy Princess. Her lovesick heartthrob Fenton performed by Kevin Myers brimmed with the impulsivity of youth, his pure lyrical tenor voice seducing the opening night crowed as much as it did Nannette.

Falstaff’s animated sidekicks, Pistola (bass Tyler Putnam, MO debut) and Bardolfo (tenor James McLennan) played for laughs while tenor Christopher Mayell’s Dr. Caius at times strained to be heard.

The final, triumphant 12-part buffa fugue, in which all come together at the end capped the 150-minute (including intermission) production with its iconic line, “He who laughs last, laughs best.”

Tyrone Paterson ably led the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra throughout Verdi’s ebullient, three-act score. The Manitoba Opera Chorus prepared by Tadeusz Biernacki morphed into townspeople, forest nymphs and elves, while also pinch hitting as stage hands during several awkward set changes.

Sumptuous period costumes and a modular set designed by Olivier Landreville for the New York City Opera (now owned by Opéra de Montréal) proved effective. Bill Williams’ lighting included fantastical gobo effects and moon glow that illuminated the finally resolved, laughing lovers.

Holly Harris

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):