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

La traviata at the Palais Garnier

The clatter of information was overwhelmed by soaring bel canto, Verdi’s domestic tragedy destroyed by director Simon Stone, resurrected by conductor Michele Mariotti, a tour de force for South African soprano Pretty Yende.

San Jose Pops the Cork With Fledermaus

Opera San Jose vivaciously kicked off its 2019–2020 season with a heady version of Strauss’ immortal Die Fledermaus that had all the effervescence of vintage champagne.

Tempestuous Francesca da Rimini opens Concertgebouw Saturday matinee series

Two Russian love letters to the tragic thirteenth century noblewoman Francesca da Rimini inaugurated the Saturday matinee series at the Concertgebouw.

Immortal Beloved: Beethoven Festival at Wigmore Hall

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park 2019

Lyric Opera of Chicago presented this year’s annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park. The evening’s program featured a range of selections from works to be presented in the 2019–2020 season along with arias and scenes from other notable and representative operas.

Prom 74: Uplifting Beethoven from Andrew Manze and the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover

Ceremony, drama and passion: this Beethoven Night by the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover under their Chief Conductor Andrew Manze had all three and served them up with vigour and a compelling freshness, giving Prommers at this eve-of-Last-Night concert an exciting and uplifting evening.

Prom 69: Elena Stikhina’s auspicious UK debut in a dazzling Czech Philharmonic concert

Rarely can any singer have made such an unforgettable UK debut in just twelve minutes of music. That was unquestionably the case with the Russian soprano, Elena Stikhina, who in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, sang with such compelling stage magnetism and with a voice that has everything you could possibly want.

Prom 68: Wagner Abend - Christine Goerke overwhelms as Brünnhilde

Wagner Nights at the Proms were once enormously popular, especially on the programmes of Sir Henry Wood. They have become less so, perhaps because they are simply unfashionable today, but this one given by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Marc Albrecht steered clear of the ‘bleeding chunk’ format which was usually the norm. It was still chunky, but in an almost linear, logical way and benefited hugely from being operatic (when we got to the Wagner) rather than predominantly orchestral.

Prom 65: Danae Kontora excels in Mozart and Strauss

On the page this looked rather a ‘pick-and-mix’ sort of Prom from the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis, who was making his Proms debut. In the event, it was not so much a Chinese take-away as a Michelin-starred feast for musical gourmands.

British Youth Opera: Rossini's La Cenerentola

Stendhal (as recorded in his Life of Rossini) was not a fan of Rossini’s La Cenerentola, complaining that after the first few bars of the Introduzione he was already suffering from a ‘faint feeling of nausea’, a condition which ‘never entirely dissipated, [recurring] periodically throughout the opera, and with increasing violence’.

La traviata at the Arena di Verona

There is esoteric opera — 16,500 spectators at this year’s Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, and there is pop opera — upwards of 500,000 spectators for the opera festival at the Arena di Verona, one quarter of them for an over-the-top new production of La traviata, designed and directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner brings Benvenuto Cellini to the Proms

Berlioz' Benvenuto Cellini is quite rarity on UK stages. Covent Garden last performed it in 1976 and English National Opera performed it for the first time in 2014 (in Terry Gilliam's riotous production), and yet the opera never quite goes away either.

Prom 58: varied narratives from the BBCSSO and Ilan Volkov

There are many ways and means to tell a story: through prose, poetry, sounds, pictures, colours, movement.

Prom 53: Elgar’s emotionally charged Music Makers

British music with an English and strong European accent marked this Prom featuring three well-wrought works, stylistically worlds apart but each characterised by a highly individual musical personality.

Scoring a Century: British Youth Opera at the Peacock Theatre

‘It is well known that Eisler was a master of the art of self-contradiction, using non-sequitur, change of tack and playing devil’s advocate in a brilliantly ironic way in an attempt to look at a problem from every angle, to expose it fully to the gaze of his interlocutor. For an ordinary person to take part in this, let alone keep up with the pace and fully appreciate the wide range of references, which his enormous reading threw out, was wonderfully stimulating, and exhausting.’

Prom 55: Handel's Jephtha

‘For many it is the masterpiece among his oratorios.’

Opera della Luna's HMS Pinafore sails the seas at Wilton's Music Hall

The original production of HMS Pinafore opened at the Opera Comique in London on 25th May 1878 and ran for an astonishing 571 performances. Opera della Luna’s HMS Pinafore, which has been cresting the operatic oceans for over twenty years now, has notched up almost as many performances.

Spectra Ensemble present Treemonisha at Grimeborn

‘We see him now as one of the most important creators of his generation, certainly comparable to Schoenberg.’ T.J. Anderson, who reconstructed the score of Scott Joplin’s only surviving opera, Treemonisha, for its first staged production in 1972, was probably rather over-enthusiastic in his assessment.

Fortieth Anniversary Gala of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro

Earlier this month I reported from the Macerata Opera Festival – a largely Italian affair frequented by few foreigners. One week later I attended the 40th anniversary gala of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, about 100 km north in the same region of Le Marche and a prominent stop on the international circuit. One one hears much English, French, German and Japanese, and the printed program features a long list of non-Italian financial sponsors.

Bel Canto Beauty at St George's Hanover Square: Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda

A merciless and neurotic ruler, whose right to govern is ambiguous and disputed. A dignified Queen whose star is setting, as her husband’s heart burns with new love and her lady-in-waiting betrays her. A courtier whose devotion to the Queen, his first love, is undimmed and destined to push both towards a tragic end. No, not Donizetti’s Anna Bolena but Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, written three years later, in 1833, for Venice’s La Fenice.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Carl Tanner as Canio and Elisabeth Caballero as Nedda  [Photo by Tim Trumble]
13 Mar 2017

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

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.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Carl Tanner as Canio and Elisabeth Caballero as Nedda [Photo by Tim Trumble]

 

Although the original story may have been French, the libretto as acted out in Scottsdale was as hot as the Calabrian sun.

Felix Mendelssohn visited Italy on a tour of the continent that lasted from 1829 to 1831 At that time he wrote, “This is Italy! ... and I am loving it.” Later, he wrote his sister Fanny saying, “The Italian symphony is making great progress. It will be the jolliest piece I have ever done, especially the last movement.”

Scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings, Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4, the Italian, has four movements. The opening A Major Allegro Vivace is light, airy and joyful, but it leads into a Bach-like D Minor second movement that reminded me that it was Mendelssohn who had done so much to revive interest in the music of Johan Sebastian Bach. Listening to Robert Moody and the Arizona Musicfest Orchestra play that second movement could bring tears to the coldest eyes. The following Con Moto Moderato is again in A Major but the final movement, marked Presto, is in A Minor and it gives the conductor license to drive his orchestra as fast as possible. With an excellent orchestra containing the first chairs of many other orchestras, Maestro Moody played it Prestissimo and it brought down the house.

Since the Musicfest Orchestra took up most of the stage area, there was only a narrow platform at the back for Stage Director Michael Scarola and his Pagliacci cast to use in staging the opera's action. Composer and librettist Ruggiero Leoncavallo said his story of raw sexuality was based on a case that his father, a judge, handled when the composer was a child. Although that is possible, French author Catulle Mendès thought it resembled his 1887 play La Femme de Tabarin. The French author sued Leoncavallo, only to drop the charges when he, himself, was sued for copying a Spanish play.

The dramatic strength that 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. Although the original story may have been French, the libretto as acted out in Scottsdale was as hot as the Calabrian sun. Although no costumer was credited, the cast wore clothing from the second half of the twentieth century.

Arizona Musicfest’s choristers were raucous townspeople with children who loved being part of the show. Conductor Robert Moody maintained tight control of his players and never let them drown out a singer while he moved the dramatic aspect of the work forward without a nanosecond’s pause. This performance was a thriller.

Gordon Hawkins was a voluminous voiced Tonio who sang the prologue from the middle of the audience. It worked well in that rotund church and he sang “Incominciate” on his way to the stage. Tonio is often played as a hunchback but here he was good-looking bully.

Canio, played by tenor Carl Tanner, was a suave circus owner whose hair trigger temper quickly turned to violence. He considered Nedda his property and he did not intend to share her with anyone. Singing with a huge enveloping voice, he told us the story of the unhappy clown with resonant dramatic tones that flowed like waves over the audience. Jonathan Blalock sang Beppe, Canio’s drinking partner, with easy lyric tenor tones.

Nedda knows she is tied to Canio for life even though she is unhappy as his wife. At the beginning of the opera she reclines on a trunk looking up at the sky and envying the freedom of the birds. Elisabeth Caballero allowed us to be part of Nedda’s dream world as the birds she loved flew into the ether. Her golden middle tones and opulent high notes bloomed above the audience as she sang her lyrical aria. She made listeners sympathize with Nedda but she did not let her her situation control her.

Smooth voiced baritone Alexy Lavrov played Nedda's lover, Silvio, a stable young man with a job in the town. The fact that he was not a member of the touring circus attracted Canio' wife, but she knew she and Silvio could never settle down safely in a town where Canio could find them. Her marriage vows would be not only her death sentence, but his as well. This was one of the most thrilling renditions of Pagliacci I have ever seen.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Robert Moody, Conductor; Carl Tanner, Canio; Elizabeth Caballero, Nedda; Gordon Hawkins, Tonio; Alexey Lavrov, Silvio; Jonathan Blalock, Beppe; Arizona Musicfest Chorus; Michael Lewis, Chorus Master; Members of Phoenix Children's Chorus; Michael Scarola, Stage Director.

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):