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

Garsington Opera transfers Falstaff from Elizabeth pomp to Edwardian pompousness

Bruno Ravella’s new production of Verdi's Falstaff for Garsington Opera eschews Elizabethan pomp in favour of Edwardian pompousness, and in so doing places incipient, insurgent feminism and the eternal class consciousness of fin de siècle English polite society centre stage.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

A culinary coupling from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

What a treat the London Music Conservatoires serve up for opera-goers each season. After the Royal Academy’s Bizet double-bill of Le docteur Miracle and La tragédie de Carmen, and in advance of the Royal College’s forthcoming pairing of Huw Watkins’ new opera, In the Locked Room, based on a short story by Thomas Hardy, and The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have delivered a culinary coupling of Paul Hindemith’s The Long Christmas Dinner and Sir Lennox Berkeley’s The Dinner Engagement which the Conservatoire last presented for our delectation in November 2006.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

The poignancy of triviality: Garsington Opera's Capriccio

“Wort oder Ton?” asks Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The Countess answers with a question of her own, at the close of this self-consciously self-reflective Konversationstück für Musik: “Gibt es einen, der nicht trivail ist?” (“Is there any ending that isn’t trivial?”)

Netia Jones' new Die Zauberflöte opens Garsington Opera's 2018 season

“These portals, these columns prove/that wisdom, industry and art reside here.” So says Tamino, as he gazes up at the three imposing doors in the centre of Netia Jones’ replica of the 18th-century Wormsley Park House - in the grounds of which Garsington Opera’s ‘floating’ Pavilion makes its home each summer.

Feverish love at Opera Holland Park: a fine La traviata opens the 2018 season

If there were any doubts that it was soon to be curtains for Verdi’s titular, tubercular heroine then the tortured gasps of laboured, languishing breath which preceded Rodula Gaitanou’s new production of La traviata for Opera Holland Park would have swiftly served to dispel them.

Iestyn Davies and Fretwork bring about a meeting of the baroque and the modern

‘Music for a while/Shall all your cares beguile’. Standing in shadow, encircled by the five players of the viol consort Fretwork, as the summer storm raged outside Milton Court Concert Hall countertenor Iestyn Davies offered mesmeric reassurance to the capacity audience during this intriguing meeting of the baroque and the modern.

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):