Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Peter Sellars' kinaesthetic vision of Lasso's Lagrime di San Pietro

On 24th May 1594 just a few weeks before his death on 14 June, the elderly Orlando di Lasso signed the dedication of his Lagrime di San Pietro - an expansive cycle of seven-voice penitential madrigale spirituali, setting vernacular poetry on the theme of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ - to Pope Clement VIII.

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Donnerstag aus Licht

Stockhausen was one of the most visionary of composers, and no more so than in his Licht operas, but what you see can often get in the way of what you hear. I’ve often found fully staged productions of his operas a distraction to the major revelation in them - notably the sonorities he explores, of the blossoming, almost magical acoustical chrysalis, between voices and instruments.

David McVicar's Andrea Chénier returns to Covent Garden

Is Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chenier a verismo opera? Certainly, he is often grouped with Mascagni, Cilea, Leoncavallo and Puccini as a representative of this ‘school’. And, the composer described his 1876 opera as a dramma de ambiente storico.

Glyndebourne presents Richard Jones's new staging of La damnation de Faust

Oratorio? Opera? Cantata? A debate about the genre to which Berlioz’s ‘dramatic legend’, La damnation de Faust, should be assigned could never be ‘resolved’.

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Tomas Tomasson as John the Baptist and Patricia Racette as Salome [Photo by Ken Howard/LA Opera]
25 Feb 2017

A Salome to Remember

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.

A Salome to Remember

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Tomas Tomasson as John the Baptist and Patricia Racette as Salome [Photo by Ken Howard/LA Opera]

 

On February 18, 2017, Los Angele Opera presented Richard Strauss’s Salome backed by a set originally designed by John Bury for Peter Hall’s 1986 production at the Music Center. Its newly refurbished version directed by David Paul featured a dark platform that held the necessary cistern. The sky was filled with clouds surrounding a pale moon that crept almost imperceptibly across the sky during the course of the opera. Sara Jean Tosetti’s costumes encased Salome in layers of jewel-toned chiffon, wrapped Herod and Herodias in bright brocades and clothed the soldiers in stiff, braid-trimmed jackets and skirts.

salome021022.png Allan Glassman (center front) as Herod, with Gabriele Schnaut (second from left) as Herodias [Photo by Larry Ho / LA Opera]

Issachah Savage, a promising young dramatic tenor, sang Narraboth’s lines with shining bronze tones. Reports of his Otello in Mexico make him a tenor to watch. As the Page, Katarzyna Sadej sang with a sweet sound that could barely be heard over the eighty-four-piece orchestra. Tómas Tómasson was a rough and rugged Jokanaan, physically and vocally. Unfortunately, he seemed to lack any semblance of romanticism that might have made him attractive to the teenage princess. Other cast members who added measurably to the value of this performance were: Nicholas Brownlee as the First Soldier and Kihun Yoon as the First Nazarene. Rodell Rosel, Josh Wheeker, Brian Michael Moore, Carlos Enrique Santelli, and Gabriel Vamvulecu were most energetic as the Five Jews.

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. Having grown from lyric to dramatic status by way of Puccini and Verdi rather then Wagner, Racette’s voice has a different sound for Strauss than the ones we heard from Nilsson, Rysanek, or Mattila. Great Salomes can also come from the Italian dramatic tradition and Racette isn’t just a sex kitten. She has the dramatic vocal ability to surmount Strauss’s huge orchestra and project her silver-toned soprano throughout a huge hall.

sal_la_5728ret.pngPatricia Racette as Salome [Photo by Ken Howard / LA Opera]

Her character managed to tantalize Herod who was sure she could be satisfied with a large jewel or, at most, a small province to rule. Racette danced Peggy Hickey’s intricate, rhythmic choreography with four bare chested male dancers who lifted her on to their shoulders as she released veils. When they put her down, she snatched a cover from the prompter’s box and wrapped it around her body after the few seconds of its complete revelation.

As Herod, veteran tenor Allan Glassman was a most credible politician who wanted to be on the winning side of the religious debacle. Gabriele Schnaut was an officious, self-serving Herodias who did not intend to lose her position to anyone. When Herodias took the ring from Herod’s hand and relayed it to the executioner, the tetrarch momentarily lost his power. Salome had won for the few minutes she used to cavort with the head and sing her monumental Final Scene. Racette sang all the highs with lustrous tones and connected artistically with the score’s most difficult lows.

The most important aspect of the opera Salome is its huge orchestra and Richard Strauss’s opulent orchestration. One of the main reasons for attending Salome at Los Angeles Opera is James Conlon’s conducting. He brought out the composer’s leitmotifs and his symbolic use of musical color while engulfing listeners in the score’s unusual modulations, chromaticism, extended tonality, and tonal ambiguity. Best of all, Conlon did it without ever covering any of the principal singers. Salome will be at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion through March 19. If you are in the Los Angeles area you don’t want to miss it.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Conductor, James Conlon; Production, Peter Hall; Director, David Paul; Set Design, John Bury; Costume Design, Sara Jean Tosetti; Lighting Design, Duane Schuler; Choreographer, Peggy Hickey; Salome, Patricia Racette; John the Baptist, Tómas Tómasson; Herod, Allan Glassman; Herodias, Gabriele Schnaut; Narraboth, Issachah Savage; Page, Katarzyna Sądej; First Soldier, Nicholas Brownlee; Second Soldier, Patrick Blackwell; First Nazarene, Kihun Yoon; Second Nazarene, Theo Hoffman; First Jew, Rodell Rosel; Second Jew, Josh Wheeker; Third Jew, Brian Michael Moore; Slave / Fourth Jew, Carlos Enrique Santelli; Cappadocian / Fifth Jew, Gabriel Vamvulescu.

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):