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

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.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

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.

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.

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”).

Schubert songs, part-songs and fragments: three young singers at the Wigmore Hall

Youth met experience for this penultimate instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s Schubert: The Complete Songs series, and the results were harmonious and happy. British soprano Harriet Burns, German tenor Ferdinand Keller and American baritone Harrison Hintzsche were supportively partnered by lieder ‘old-hand’, Graham Johnson, and we heard some well-known and less familiar songs in this warmly appreciated early-afternoon recital.

Brent Opera: Nabucco

Brent Opera’s Nabucco was a triumph in that it worked as a piece of music theatre against some odds, and was a good evening out.

LPO: Das Rheingold

It is, of course, quite an achievement in itself for a symphony orchestra to perform Das Rheingold or indeed any of the Ring dramas. It does not happen very often, not nearly so often as it should; for given Wagner’s crucial musico-historical position, this is music that should stand at the very centre of their repertoires – just as Beethoven should at the centre of opera orchestras’.

William Tell in Palermo

This was the infamous production that was booed to extinction at Covent Garden. Palermo’s Teatro Massimo now owns the production.

The Bandits in Rome

AKA I masnadieri, rare early Verdi, though not as rare as Alzira. In 1847 London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre  commissioned the newly famous Verdi to write this opera for the London debut of Swedish soprano Jenny Lind.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

<em>Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock</em> [Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg]
24 Dec 2016

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

A review by Holly Harris

Photos by Darryl Neustaedter Barg

 

The four-show production held December 1 – 3 at the Canadian Mennonite University’s Laudamus Auditorium featured Weisensel, who also penned Vancouver Opera’s acclaimed “Stickboy” in 2014 leading the five-piece string orchestra, including two celli.

Set during the height of the Great War, the one-act, through-composed opera directed by Donna Fletcher is based on the beloved Canadian writer’s short story, where an author — Leacock — struggles to pen a Christmas tale while inundated with horrific daily headlines. An all-knowing spirit, Time, and a shell-shocked Father Christmas help him realize that his writing will only help bring joy to a wounded world. 

Christmas Stephen Leacock-8.png

Winnipeg-born, now Toronto-based James McLennan as Leacock, who also recently performed as Bardolfo in Manitoba Opera’s Falstaff first declaims, “The spirit, the beauty, the joy is gone,” with his tenor voice clear and even. He brought requisite angst to his title role, moving through initial despondency to ultimate hope and renewal.

The cast also included two local artists: Rachel Landrecht (and Weisensel’s real-life wife), who sensitively crafted a benevolent Time. Her expressive soprano matched equally by her warm stage presence were immediately apparently during her opening aria, “I am the spirit of Time.” 

Winnipeg baritone Matthew Pauls created a shaggy, heart-breaking Father Christmas, who staggers into Leacock’s den with his sack of torn, soaked books and asks for schnapps to blunt his pain. His begging of Time to “Give me back my children” rang with sorrow.

The opera proved at its best during the fuller trios, including its emotional climax. When the ensemble sings, “Children are the future,” greater dramatic impact is created by virtue of close-knit harmonies and vocal counterpoint. Also strong were the more textural sections, including the strings’ pizzicato accompaniment that afforded more opportunity to hear the individual singers in Weisensel’s compact, often densely written orchestrations. 

Fletcher’s skillful direction successfully navigated the logistics of the postage-stamp sized stage, with Sean McMullen’s homey set wisely lent greater visual depth by Aiden Ritchie’s archival video projections of harrowing trench warfare and images of embattled children.

Balance issues proved, at times, challenging, with the two male singers at risk for becoming obfuscated whenever the higher strings came into play. The narrative’s central plot device, a relatively tiny wooden toy horse that gets mended with beeswax, thus becoming a metaphor for hope and healing, did not read as effectively as with a larger prop.

Still, kudos to TLOC for choosing this opera as one of its two seasonal offerings. And its proud, ongoing support of homegrown talent continues to be its own gift to the city’s lively arts community, not just during Yuletide but indeed, all year long.

Holly Harris

The Little Opera Company, Canadian Mennonite University, Laudamus Auditorium, Winnipeg, Manitoba CANADA

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):