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

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Extravagant Line-up 2017-18 at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany

The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus

The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.

Mahler Symphony no 8 : Jurowski, LPO, Royal Festival Hall, London

Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.

Rameau's Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques: a charming French-UK collaboration at the RCM

Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.

St Matthew Passion: Armonico Consort and Ian Bostridge

Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he embodied a perfect Rodolfo.

New opera Caliban banal and wearisome

Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its less-than-tragic plight.

Two rarities from the Early Opera Company at the Wigmore Hall

A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

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.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

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.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Peabody Southwell as Carmen [Photo by Karli Cadel]
14 Mar 2017

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

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).

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Peabody Southwell as Carmen

Photos by Karli Cadel

 

In 1983 Stage Director Peter Brook, in collaboration with writer Jean-Claude Carrière and composer Marius Constant, pared down the French grand opera to its bare essentials and presented La Tragédie de Carmen, a ninety-minute version of the story.

Rather then enumerate all the characters and musical numbers omitted, I will simply list the main characters and mention much of the music we heard at the Balboa Theatre on Friday evening. The characters were Carmen, Don José, Zuniga, Micaela, Escamillo, Garcia, and Lillas Pastia. If you are wondering who Garcia is, he is Carmen’s husband. He is mentioned in the Proper Merimée’s original book but not in the opera. Brook’s Carmen was no longer a glamorous gypsy and she had lost her factory job. However, she still managed to divert José’s attention from Micaela even though the latter sang with lustrous tones. The country girl put up a fight, however, and in this version of the story she had more spunk than in the grand opera.

KarliCadel-SDOpera-TragedyCarmen-3876.pngAdrian Kramer as Don Jose

With no chorus of soldiers in the background and no children imitating them, the focus was on the rivalry and its results. Carmen fascinated José with the "Habanera" but the orchestra had been pared down to a fifteen-member chamber ensemble. Thus, she did not need to have the big operatic voice we normally hear singing over a full orchestra. Peabody Southwell sang Carmen with a sultry sound and played up her intense sexuality. Her "Seguidilla' was delightful, her "Gypsy Song" enchanting, and there were no extra soldiers to harass her.

The memento she gave José, sung by tenor Adrian Kramer, was a red knitted stocking, not a flower. Nevertheless, he held it as he sang a beautifully lyrical "Flower Song." When the story moved to the inn, we met Max Cadillac as Lillas Pastia, an amusing female impersonator and hostess extraordinaire. At one point, Carmen was involved in a threesome with José and Lillas. Then we understood that the soldier’s thoughts had long since left his elderly mother and the village girl who expected to marry him.

Of course with a chamber orchestra and many fewer characters, there were no ensembles in the La Tragédie. Gone were the smugglers and their wonderful quintet. Instead we saw raw emotion, love and hate. Carmen had become theater. A fine actor as well as a singer, Adrian Kramer painted pictures with the colors in his voice. José, his possessive, psychotic character, was as essential to the story as Carmen herself. His tragedy grew out of his own actions, however. If only José had not left his village, he and Micaela might have had a chance at happiness, but after his trip to the big city, he, like many others, would never go back.

KarliCadel-SDOpera-TragedyCarmen-3908.pngAdrian Karmer (Don Jose) and Andriana Chuchman (Micaela)

Bass baritone Ryan Kuster gave a thoroughly pleasing performance of Escamillo with a full orchestra at Arizona Opera not too long ago. In San Diego his vocal range seemed to be a bit restricted, but it may be that some of the Toreador's notes are written lower in La Tragédie. He was a spectacular matador, however, and for a while it seemed as though Carmen belonged on his arm. Unfortunately, the bull killed him early on and his bloody corpse left the ring in an open cart.

Brook’s Carmen is a young girl eager to make money any way she can in the early scenes but she believes in fate and, for that reason, she understands that sooner or later she will meet her destiny. She is younger and much less of a glamor girl than Bizet’s Carmen, but she will intrigue patrons who are more interested in character and conflict than in the spectacle offered by grand opera.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Conductor, Christopher Rountree; Director, Alexander Gedeon; Scenic and Video Designer, Yuki Izumihara; Costume and Video Designer, Adam Alonso; Lighting Designer, John A. Garofolo; Fight Director, Brian Byrnes; Don José, Adrian Kramer; Carmen, Peabody Southwell; Micaela, Andriana Chuchman; Zuniga/Garcia, Anthony Nikolchev; Lilla Pastia, Max Cadillac; Escamillo, Ryan Kuster.

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):