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

A sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

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.

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):