Recently in Performances
Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live
music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible
stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at
opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it
premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.
I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.
At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.
On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.
The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.
The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.
Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.
Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.
Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.
Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner
Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a
stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he
embodied a perfect Rodolfo.
Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of
watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It
scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you
can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its
A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.
On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.
Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.
Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered
as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.
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
03 Jan 2017
Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
No strange German regietheater here, but a decent and traditional take on
Puccini’s classic. Eun Sun Kim brought out all the colours and exotic
spices in Puccini’s score. The Berliner Staatskapelle was in top shape.
Clearly, Puccini is part of its DNA.
Act I opens with the hustle and bustle of Japanese locale, where a giant
American flag, lacking a few stars, hung imperialistically over the town. Peter
Sykora’s traditional geisha costumes enriched the Japanese setting.
Martin Wright’s choir of geishas sounded exceptional, but sinisterly
At the end of Act II, “Un bel dì vedremo” by Alexei
Voulgaridou’s vulnerable Cio-Cio-San did not have the maximal impact of
this aria’s potential. However in her duet with Katherina
Kammerloher’s Suzuki, “Or vienmi ad adorner”, they churned
out one of the evening’s touching highlights; quite moving and greated
with the loudest bravi.
Scene from Madama Butterly
Act III overflowed with melodrama. Pinkerton returns with his wife, about to
take his son away from his mother. Here the pace sagged a bit, and the audience
became audibly restless. But Dmytro Popov as Pinkerton impressed conveying an
American naivete, convinced of his own good intentions in his sweetly sung
“Addio, fiorito asil”. He produced great vocal chemistry with
Voulgaridou, especially in “Bimba, Bimba, non piangere”, the famous
love duet that closes Act I. Though she did not have the emotional intensity in
her acting, instead her vocal skills prevailed with feeling.
I was also impressed by the strong supporting cast. Kammerloher charged
Suzuki with highly neurotic presentiments. Her fearful vibrato added a
foreshadowing spell, her voice rich and commanding, alarmed by wisdom and
Alfredo Daza as Sharpless stole the spotlight with the glowing humanity in
his comforting voice. Through his skilled acting chops, he exude the sad
realisation of the bigger picture and eventual tragic ending. He gave much
heart to his scenes. Daza’s vocal humanity worked equally effective in
his comedic timing. Comical moments also came from cultural caricature
Yamadori. Sung intentionally off-putting and sycophantic by Vincenzo Neri. His
foolishness coaxed some downplayed snickering from the audience.
Eun Sun Kim, for whom I have had sympathy ever since I saw her try so hard,
but to no avail, conduct in the impossible lateral orchestral set-up next to
the stage in the production of Cologne’s recent Nazi-oriented Lucia
di Lammermoor. Tonight, she did not have to deal with any odd displacement
of the orchestra. She kept the brilliance and momentum in Puccini’s score
thrilling, while she made the soloists create several great emotional nuances.
She cultivated the mood of American patriotism effectively, but also reflected
the romantic anguish and despair at Cio-Cio-San’s death.
Swooning in its romance under a the staged starry night, the opera’s
romantic mood continued as you left the Schiller Theater. The many young
couples that I observed leaving, seemed particularly inspired by the
performance, as their giddy displays of affection had no bounds. This
production returns in March, and I highly recommend it to any opera newbie or
just plain old traditionalists.