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

Saint Louis Butterfly Soars

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis knew to trust the surefire potential of Madame Butterfly, and pretty much stayed out of its way.

Saint Louis: Gordon’s Revised Grapes

If opera is to remain a viable, accessible 21st century art form, it will be largely owing to the commitment of visionary companies like Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Titus Lightens Up in Saint Louis

Mozart’s opera seria, La Clemenza di Tito, performed in English at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis did something I did not think possible.

Il turco in Italia: Garsington Opera

Martin Duncan's production of Rossini's Il turco in Italia debuted in 2011, only the second production to be performed in Garsington Opera's then new home at Wormsley. Revived for the first time on 25 June 2017, David Parry was again conducting with Quirijn de Lang as Selim, Geoffrey Dolton as Don Geronio and Mark Stone as Prosdocimo returning to their roles, plus Sarah Tynan as Fiorilla, Katie Bray as Zaide, Luciano Botelho as Narciso and Jack Swanson as Albazar. Designs were by Francis O'Connor, with lighting by Mark Jonathan and movement by Nick Winston.

Glyndebourne's wartime Ariadne auf Naxos

It’s country-house opera season, and Glyndebourne have decided it’s time for a return of Katharina Thoma’s country-house-set Ariadne auf Naxos, first seen in 2013. Thoma locates Strauss’s opera-about-opera in a 1940s manor house which has been sequestered as a military hospital, neatly alluding to Glyndebourne’s own history when it transformed itself into a centre for evacuees from east London and the Christie children’s nursery became a sick bay.

On Trial in Saint Louis

That Opera Theatre of Saint Louis fearlessly embraces the cutting edge is once again evidenced by their compelling American premiere of The Trial.

A Traditional Rigoletto in Las Vegas

On June 9, 2017, Opera Las Vegas presented a traditional production of Verdi’s Rigoletto conducted by Music Director Gregory Buchalter with a cast headed by veteran baritone Michael Chioldi. A most convincing Rigoletto, Chioldi was a man in psychological pain from the begining of the opera. His fear and his vulnerability to the whims of the nobility were evident in every meaty, well-colored phrase he sang.

Thumbprint, An Amazing Woman Leaves an Indelible Mark

Thumbprint is the story of the young, innocent and illiterate Mukhtar Mai who was assaulted by a group of powerful men. Following the attack, Mukhtar, having supposedly been disgraced, was expected to commit suicide. Instead, she amazed everyone who knew her by going to the police and calling for the arrest of her attackers.

Kaufmann's first Otello: Royal Opera House, London

Out of the blackness, Keith Warner’s new production of Verdi’s Otello explodes into being with a violent gesture of fury. Not the tempest raging in the pit - though Antonio Pappano conjures a terrifying maelstrom from the ROH Orchestra and the enlarged ROH Chorus hurls a blood-curdling battering-ram of sound into the auditorium. Rather, Warner offers a spot-lit emblem of frustrated malice and wrath, as a lone soldier fiercely hurls a Venetian mask to the ground.

Don Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Melody Moore (Katya) [Photo by Jacob Lucas]
19 Mar 2017

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

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 good way.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

A review by Roger Downey

Above: Melody Moore (Katya) [Photo by Jacob Lucas]

All other photos by Philip Newton

 

The immediately preceding production of Seattle Opera’s 2016-17 season had been the much-traveled Traviata from the atelier of Peter Konwitschny, and the show’s rather coarse updating and arbitrary dramaturgy had not gone down at all well with the company’s conservative but sophisticated audience. Was this to be another evening of mannered, second-hand Regietheater? The immense bare black box confronting the house as we entered was not promising: even the supertitle screen looked more like a stage-wide guillotine than a refuge for the eyes of the Czech-impaired among us.

 

170221_Katya.2_pn_-187.pngNicky Spence (Tichon) and Maya Lahyani (Varvara)

Well, Regietheater it was, but of the engaged, engaging audience-friendly kind. As the music began, the marvelous American dramatic soprano Melody Moore stood center-stage, impaled in a column of searing white light. Then around her, images familiar to most of the audience began to fill the box: the rosy brown basalt cliffs of an Eastern Washingotn river valley; a white picket fence complete with red-flagged mailbox by the gate; townsfolk strolling in high-1940’s Sunday-go-to-meeting gear; finally, a broadspread American flag descending to complete the thoroughly Normal Rockwell picture.

The visuals of Mark Howett and Genevieve Blanchett’s deft production did not remain so Grant-Woody American Gothic (though the tschochke-choked home the heroine shares with her cringing husband and horrible mother-in-law could easily host that master’s Daughters of the American Revolution). Projections of roiling waters, clouds of crows began to invade the scene as the dream of childish bliss Kàt’a recounts to her bobby-soxer sister-in-law fade away. Stark lighting contrasts both isolate and link the performers.

1702021_Katya_pn_1974.pngVictoria Livengood (Kabanicha)

Kàt’a’s dreams are the key to look and dramaturgy of Patrick Nolan’s production. The danger for an updated, Americanized Kàt’a is implausibility: how can the love even of a timid small-town girl and a feckless rich boy be thwarted so thoroughly the era when Rosalind Russell, Ginger Rogers, and Betty Grable are setting the tone for young American girls’ behavior every weekend at the movie palace?

But this Kàt’a isn’t just a dreamer: she’s all dreamer. When life hands her lemons like mom-in-law Kabanicha (Victoria Livengood, a church lady who doesn’t mind a smoke, drink, or cuddle behind closed doors) and husband Tichon (Nicky Spence, a boozy bullpup without a bite) she incorporates them as dream enemies, and finds a dream prince handy in the form of Boris, (Joseph Dennis), lollygagging and at loose ends in the provinces

Ms. Moore is a mature woman and Dennis is a young man, but the mismatch in ages only accents the absurd of their relationship, while their voices, more sumptuous and powerful than those of the second cast’s Corinne Winters and Scott Quinn give them ever greater emotional clout as the drama deepens.

1702021_Katya_pn_2281.pngJoseph Dennis (Boris) and Melody Moore (Katya)

The power of the production is mightily enhanced from the pit. When a show is this well sung and acted throughout, it’s easy to forget the challenge for non-Czech singers in this repertory. I have no idea if a Czech speaker would find their delivery “authentic,” but they convinced me completely, and their attack and confidence can only be the result of the conducting of Oliver von Dohnànyi.

His is one of the proudest names of the last century in Central Europe. I do not know if Von Dohnànyi is related to the great musicians and statesmen whose name he shares, but his artistry is worthy of his name. Seattle Opera and Seattle audiences are lucky to have him.

They are also fortunate in the rest of the cast. The thoughtless young lovers Varvara and Kudrjas are taken in both casts by Maya Lahyani and Joshua Kohl in rather genre-generic musical-comedy second-couple fashion, but both sing very well; Nicky Spence and Stefan Skafarowsky make the most of their tiny roles. look forward to seeing them all in future productions.

Above all, let’s have Janacek Bring back: It’s been more than 25 year since we saw Cunning Little Vixen. Thanks to this fine show and above all to maestro von Dohnanyi, we’re prapared for The Macropolos Affair and From the House of the Dead!

Roger Downey


Cast and production information:

Conductor: Oliver von Dohnanyi. Kàt’a: Melody Moore/Corinne Winters; Boris: Joseph Dennis/Scott Quinn; Kabanicha: Victoria Livengood; Kudrjas: Joshua Kohl; Varvara: Maya Lahyani; Tichon: Nicky Spence; Dikoi: Stefan Skafarowsky; Glasha: Jennifer Cross; Feklusha: Susan Salas; Kuligin: Joseph Lattanzi. Seattle Opera chorus and Orchestra. Director: Patrick Nolan; Production design: Genevieve Blanchett; Lighting and digital effects: Mark Howett.

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):