Recently in Performances
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.
04 Feb 2017
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.
When first produced in 1782 in Vienna, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s singspiel, The Abduction from the Seraglio, was as popular as New York City’s current hit show, Hamilton. On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of the Mozart singspiel that 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. There were English titles for the musical numbers but not for the dialogue. Allen Moyer’s set consisted of two cars and the vestibule that connected them. At the back of the set was the row of windows normally found on a train and beyond them the scenery flew by as the train sped from one city to another.
Anna R. Oliver’s costumes transformed Librettists Christoph Friedrich Bretzner and Johann Gottlieb Stephanie’s European characters into chic flappers and jauntily dressed beaux. Turkish overseer, Osmin, sung by bass Morris Robinson wore a false belly and a coat over enormously full pants but his boss, Pasha Selim, wore a western business suit.
Brenton Ryan as Pedrillo, Joel Prieto as Belmonte and Morris Robinson as Osmin
Like The Magic Flute, Abduction demands extraordinarily talented singers. The leading soprano, Konstanze, has to encompass an enormous range that includes trills, triplets, and dramatic declamation such as one hears from Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte. British soprano Sally Matthews had all the vocal goods and displayed them in magnificent style on Saturday evening.
Puerto Rican tenor Joel Prieto sang the role of her lover, Belmonte, with oboe-like tones that always seemed to come from the exact center of the note. The part of Osmin, the riotously funny Turkish overseer, requires a bass who can sing the lowest possible notes. Morris Robinson, a veteran Sarastro, sang some of the lowest notes ever heard on the opera stage with style and grace.
Morris Robinson as Osmin fails to tame So Young Park as Blonde
So Young Park was a brunette “Blondie.” Perhaps the art of bleaching had not yet reached Istanbul. Park’s comic timing was right on cue and her well focused sweet tones carried well in the auditorium. Brenton Ryan as her lover, Pedrillo, showed signs of having been beaten into submission by Osmin and his thugs, but he sang his tuneful aria with abandon.
The crucial role of the Pasha who eventually releases the two couples is reserved for an actor. Tall and athletic looking Hamish Linklatter spoke these lines: “Nothing is as ugly as vengeance, whereas the quality of great souls is to be humanely kind and forgive without selfishness.” With this speech, he sent Belmonte back to his father, the man who had robbed the Pasha of his property in Spain.
Music Director James Conlon not only conducted the performance but also gave the pre-curtain lecture for this seldom-performed Mozart gem. A show of hands in the lecture hall told me that a large majority of the audience had never seen Abduction before, so this well-cast, interesting production did a great deal for the future of the opera. Conlon led the performance with propulsive tempi that never lagged and presented Robinson’s comedy at a brisk pace. The Abduction from the Seraglio is a fascinating show and opera lovers in the Los Angeles area should not miss it.
Cast and production information:
Conductor, James Conlon; Director, James Robinson; Set Design, Allen Moyer; Costume Design, Anna R. Oliver; Lighting Design, Paul Palazzo; Chorus Director, Grant Gershon; Konstanze, Sally Matthews; Pasha Selim, Hamish Linklatter; Belmonte Joel Prieto; Osmin, Morris Robinson; Pedrillo, Brenton Ryan; Blonde, So Young Park; Solo Quartet: Christina Borgioli, Elizabeth Anderson, Omar Cook, James Martin Schaefer; English Titles, Houston Grand Opera.