Recently in Performances
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
Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.
The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.
On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.
A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
25 Jan 2017
Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part I: Stölzl’s Psychedelic Parsifal
Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) consistently serves up superlatively sung Wagner
productions. This Fall, its productions of Philipp Stölzl's Parsifal and
Kasper Holten's Lohengrin offered intoxicating musical affairs. Annette Dasch, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Peter Seiffert reached for the stars. Even when it
comes down to last minute replacements, the casting is topnotch.
Donald Runnicles led Parsifal, and Alex Kober took care of
Lohengrin. The stagings were not by the same director nor in any way
connected. Still, it felt pleasantly familiar to return to DOB with the rich
sound of the orchestra and the superior singers musically connecting the
connections of Wagner’s father and son mythology. I preferred Holten’s Lohengrin straightforward staging rather than Stölzl’s convoluted, though intellectually stimulating, madness in Parsifal. The shortcomings or excesses on stage barely mattered
against the superlative musical experience.
Premiering in 2012, Stölzl’s psychedelic Parsifal trip
visualizes in three tableaux vivants the gruesome sides to religion. Far from
the healing timelessness usually experienced during Wagner’s last opera,
Stölzl’s merging of different narratives with Wagner’s already
convoluted mythology made for some tricky confusion.
Was Stölzl trying to approach
Wagner’s Parsifal with a tongue-in-cheek angle? Klaus
Florian Vogt, dressed like John Travolta in Quentin
Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, seemed to be on a hallucinatory
experience through space and time. Kathi Maurer’s anachronistic, yet
stylish, black suit made this Parsifal totally out of place in
Stölzl’s historical settings.
In Act I, Parsifal ends up at Jesus’s Crucifixion. At first I thought
Kundry might have doubled for Mary Magdalene, but then her laughter confused
me. And were the Knights of the Grail here Crusaders?
The dying Amfortas was accompanied by a dimly lit stage. Stumbling on Mount
Golgotha as if he jumped out of a time warp, Vogt’s lithe tenor voice
brightened up the stage that, together with Ulrich Niepel’s mood altering
lighting, effectively purified the gruesome biblical scene. The profoundly
impressive Choirs of the DOB closed Act I, and made up for Stölzl’s
taxing affairs on stage.
In the Second Act, we move on to Aztec times, where Klingsor appears to be
Chief of the tribe. We get another human sacrifice. Here the electrifying
Flower Maidens turn out to be cannibals after Parsifal. Kundry with her scream
saves Parsifal. He kills Klingsor with the spear. By now I had given up on
disentangling Stölzl’s historical superimpositions on Wagner’s
cosmos. I let myself just be swept away in Runnicles’s blissful momentum
of Wagnerian opium.
In Act III, I think we are in the present. A minescape forms the setting of
the baptizing of Kundry; the death of Amfortas by Parsifal; and finally, the
worshipping of the new King. For practitioners of intellectual masturbation, a
second viewing might be necessary to dissect all the overlapping layers. But
the singers were impeccable and nonetheless convinced dramatically in
Stölzl’s mindbending adaption.
Vogt appears late in Act I, which really belonged to Thomas Johannes
Meyer’s regally sung Amfortas and Daniela Sindram’s Kundry. But
when Vogt appeared he sang with his famous lyricism. His voice melted
beautifully into Runnicles’s rich texture. He moved me to tears, basking
in the glow of the DOB Orchestra, in his finale song about the spear.
Daniele Sindram dosed Kundry with the perfect amount of frenzy without any
overacting. In Act II in her interactions with Parsifal, she moved impressively
from the motherly care to the seductive attempts as lover. A commanding
presence, Sindram generated captivating chemistry with Vogt.
Andrew Harris’s old Titurel walked with shaky fragility, but he sang
with with noble strength. Derek Walton's flamboyant Klingsor brought enough
creepy ambiguity for his sexless character. The rest of the supporting cast
sang pretty much flawlessly adding to the glorious vocal experience.
The specific religious scenery of Stölzl’s production does
undercut Wagner’s already complex mythology. But with first class
singers, Stölzl’s changes (to some perhaps heretical) are quickly
forgiven. Most of all, the Orchestra of the DOB reflected Principal Conductor
Runnicles’s mastery of Wagner’s work.
Seen October 30, 2016, Deutsche Oper Berlin