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 sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

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.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

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.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

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.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Levi Hernandez as Sharpless, and Sandra Lopez at Cio-Cio-San, with the child supernumerary [Photo by Tim Trumble]
08 Feb 2017

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.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Levi Hernandez as Sharpless, and Sandra Lopez at Cio-Cio-San, with the child supernumerary

Photos by Tim Trumble

 

Beginning as a lovesick teenager, Lopez grew in the role as she began to realize that she was on her own with a child, having lost her protective husband as well as the closeness of friends and family. Lopez sang with strong well-supported tones from the entrance with her family to her finale with her father’s dagger. If only the Japanese girl had listened to her mother, the family priest, or the Consul, she would never have been caught up in the final disaster, but she was a normal teenager and we relate to her all-encompassing love.

Supporting Lopez in the title role were a number of fine singing actors. Daniel Montenegro was a lyrical Pinkerton who sang a most memorable Love Duet with her. Levi Hernandez was a dramatic Sharpless with a burnished bronze sound. I think we will hear a great deal more from him. Usually, Suzuki, the maid, is a role to which we pay little attention. Not this time! Mezzo Deborah Nansteel, who caught the eye of both audience and opera management last summer at the premiere of Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain in Santa Fe, was a charismatic Suzuki whose low notes helped establish her place on the opera stage for coming seasons.

M-Butterfly-1.pngSandra Lopez as Cio-Cio-San, with Jason Ferrante as Goro and the Arizona Opera Chorus

Completing the cast were several more excellent artists. Jason Ferrante was a skittish Marriage Broker who tried to get Butterfly to consider wedding the rich but fickle Prince Yamadori. Joseph Lattanzi seemed to be having fun as the overdressed prince and he sang his lines with polished tones. Zachary Owen was a bit disappointing as the Bonze. He should be frightening and even violent, but Owen scared no one. Alyssa Martin, on the other hand, created interest in Pinkerton’s American wife with her chain smoking. Would she be healthy enough to raise Butterfly’s child? What would happen to the little boy in the United States?

Matthew Ozawa’s direction gave us a story we could relate to despite its taking place in a foreign environment. John Gunter’s house of sliding doors, which seemed fragile when seen at Los Angeles Opera, loomed much larger on Phoenix Symphony Hall’s shallow stage where its charming details were more apparent. Arizona Opera’s own Kathleen Trott designed a gorgeous orange and white kimono for Butterfly’s wedding. Hanging on a chair, it was a decorative reminder of her marriage. Later, it became the gown for her final, heart rending hara kiri.

M-Butterfly-10.pngDaniel Montenegro as B.F. Pinkerton and Sandra Lopez as Cio-Cio-San

AZ Opera played the composer’s fifth version of the score, now the standard three-act version of the work. Puccini’s first version had only two acts and attained nowhere near the success of his previous works: Manon Lescaut, La bohème, and Tosca at its 1904 La Scala premiere. Immediately afterward, the composer began to rewrite Madama Butterfly and it received a much better reception later that year in Brescia. Two years later, a company in Washington DC performed it in English. Puccini made more changes for the Metropolitan Opera in 1906 and for the Paris performances of 1907. The version we saw in Phoenix last weekend was the one he completed in 1907.

Henri Venanzi’s chorus added charm and ebullience to the wedding and pulled at our heartstrings with their Humming Chorus. Maestro Craig Kier is new to Phoenix, but his leadership of the Arizona Opera Orchestra resulted in an intense and forward-thrusting performance of the well-loved score.

Maria Nockin



Cast and Production Information:

Composer, Giacomo Puccini; Librettists, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa; Based on John Luther Long's short story "Madame Butterfly;" Conductor, Craig Kier; Director, Matthew Ozawa; Scenic Designer, John Gunter; Costume Designer, Kathleen Trott; Lighting Designer, Gregory Hirsch; Chorus Master, Henri Venanzi; Cio-Cio San, Sandra Lopez; Pinkerton, Daniel Montenegro; Suzuki, Deborah Nansteel; Sharpless, Levi Hernandez; Goro, Jason Ferrante; Prince Yamadori, Joseph Lattanzi.

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):