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.
15 Feb 2017
A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw
American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no
less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series
feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera,
Nixon in China.
When it premiered in Houston in 1987 the American
critics were divided about its merits, but the reception at its European
premiere in Amsterdam the following year was unanimously enthusiastic.
Adams’s account of Richard Nixon’s 1972 historic visit to the
People’s Republic of China, told through the polychrome poetry of
librettist Alice Goodman, has since claimed a place in the repertoire. Last
Saturday’s performance at the Concertgebouw, led by conductor Kevin John
Edusei, did full justice to all its key musical aspects: the tidal tug of its
repeated motifs, its rhythmic adroitness and its reflective lyricism.
From the very first bars, Edusei showed a complete trust in the score. He
let the iterations of the introduction work their hypnotic effect, without
interfering with their dynamics, then turned the volume up suddenly for the
deafening landing of the presidential plane in Peking. Adams belongs to the
American minimalist movement, but he does not let minimalism cramp his style.
Besides minimalist traits such as persistent figures and a pulsating bass,
Nixon in China includes references to Richard Strauss and Richard
Wagner, sassy big band sounds and a big peppering of percussive jolts inspired
by Stravinsky. The orchestration gives saxophones and trombones a prominent
role, and includes two pianos and a keyboard sampler. The urgency and eruptions
in the orchestra reveal the momentousness of the events being televised live
across the world, while the singers repeatedly detach themselves from their
public personae to express their inner thoughts. With the sparest of gestures
Edusei made the score swish, swirl and bounce, and not just when the Mr. and
Mrs. Mao dance the foxtrot.
The National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands, consisting of Conservatory
students, gave a professional-quality performance, with a smooth and agile
string section at its core. The slightly raw edge in the trumpets and trombones
suited the brashness required from the brass. (At one point they imitate
grunting pigs.) Percussionist Frank Nelissen was a one-man, beat-perfect combo,
playing everything from slapsticks to drums. The chorus, Cappella Amsterdam,
delivered their usual youthful, homogeneous sound and they were undaunted by
the challenges of the irregular rhythms. The soloists, amplified as prescribed
by the score, gave highly involved portrayals. Robin Adams oozed confidence as
the statesman Nixon, his baritone secure and his consonants sharp as flint. He
also displayed lyrical suppleness and a touch of vulnerability as Nixon the
man, ambling down memory lane in conversation with his wife. His diction was
crystal-clear, as was Janis Kelly’s in the role of Pat Nixon. Kelly sang
with irreproachable operatic technique and the subtleties of a musical actress,
every accent and colour sounding natural. Her Pat was a likeable mixture of
practicality and feminine warmth.
As Prime Minister Chou En-lai, veteran David Wilson-Johnson compensated for
his powdery baritone, at times close to cracking, by twanging out his top notes
and infusing every phrase with meaning. Olle Persson sang robustly and with a
slight sibilant accent as Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State and stage-manager
of the Sino-American rapprochement. Persson’s barky baritone also fit the
bill when Kissinger doubles as the baddie in Madame Mao’s revolutionary
ballet, The Red Detachment of Women, put on for the benefit of the
American guests. Dramatic tenor Michael Weinius made a heroic Mao Tse-tung,
totally at ease with the wide intervals and high tessitura. Evanna Lai, Iris
van Wijnen and Helena Rasker were excellent as his dusky-voiced Secretaries,
beautifully blended and sounding slightly sinister. Mao’s wife, Chian
Ch’ing, was sung by soprano Yun-Jeong Lee, who thrillingly hit
all the high notes in her soapbox aria "I am the Wife of Mao Tse-tung”.
In the final act she glided through her soliloquy “I can keep
still” with gorgeous elegance.
The ruminative nature of Act III, with its contrast to the eventfulness of
the first two acts, can seem anti-climactic. The participants in this
extraordinary political episode retire to their bedrooms and reflect on their
lives, reminiscing on their past. Adams sends his characters to sleep with a
Straussian violin solo as Chou En-lai wonders whether his political decisions
were the right ones. In a concert version, it can be hard to keep track of the
divergent monologues without the help of visual cues from the stage. It hardly
mattered — this top-tier performance stayed musically riveting to the
Cast and production information:
Richard Nixon: Robin Adams, baritone; Pat Nixon: Janis Kelly, soprano; Chou
En-lai: David Wilson-Johnson, baritone; Mao Tse-tung: Michael Weinius, tenor;
Henry Kissinger: Olle Persson, baritone; Chian Ch’ing: Yun-Jeong Lee,
soprano; Nancy T’ang, First Secretary to Mao: Evanna Lai, mezzo-soprano;
Second Secretary to Mao: Iris van Wijnen, mezzo-soprano; Third Secretary to
Mao: Helena Rasker, alto. Cappella Amsterdam, National Youth Orchestra of the
Netherlands. Conductor: Kevin John Edusei. Heard at the Concertgebouw,
Amsterdam, Saturday, 11th February 2017.