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

A Merry Falstaff in San Diego

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.

New Production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Lyric Opera, Chicago

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.

A Salome to Remember

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.

L’Elisir d’Amore Goes On Despite Storm

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.

Boris Godunov in Marseille

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.

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

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.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

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.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

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.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

Billy Budd in Madrid

Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.

A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw

American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera, Nixon in China.

English song: shadows and reflections

Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.

A charming Pirates of Penzance revival at ENO

'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.

Johan Reuter sings Brahms with Wiener Philharmoniker

In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker

I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series programmes opening the New Year.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher in Lyon

There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.

A New Look at Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio

On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.

Giasone in Geneva

Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.

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):