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

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.

Riveting Maria de San Diego

As part of its continuing, adventurous “Detour” series, San Diego Opera mounted a deliciously moody, proudly pulsating, wholly evocative presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s “nuevo tango” opera, Maria de Buenos Aires.

La Walkyrie in Toulouse

The Nicolas Joel 1999 production of Die Walküre seen just now in Toulouse well upholds the Airbus city’s fame as Bayreuth-su-Garonne (the river that passes through this quite beautiful, rich city).

Barrie Kosky's Carmen at Covent Garden

Carmen is dead. Long live Carmen. In a sense, both Bizet’s opera and his gypsy diva have been ‘done to death’, but in this new production at the ROH (first seen at Frankfurt in 2016) Barrie Kosky attempts to find ways to breathe new life into the show and resurrect, quite literally, the eponymous temptress.

Candide at Arizona Opera

On Friday February 2, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Although all the music was Bernstein’s, the text was written and re-written by numerous authors including Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, as well as the composer.

Satyagraha at English National Opera

The second of Philip Glass’s so-called 'profile' operas, Satyagraha is magnificent in ENO’s acclaimed staging, with a largely new cast and conductor bringing something very special to this seminal work.

Mahler Symphony no 8—Harding, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

From the Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, a very interesting Mahler Symphony no 8 with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The title "Symphony of a Thousand" was dreamed up by promoters trying to sell tickets, creating the myth that quantity matters more than quality. For many listeners, Mahler 8 is still a hard nut to crack, for many reasons, and the myth is part of the problem. Mahler 8 is so original that it defies easy categories.

Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday—Angelika Kirchschlager

At the Wigmore Hall, Schubert's birthday is always celebrated in style. This year, Angelika Kirchschlager and Julius Drake, much loved Wigmore Hall audience favourites, did the honours, with a recital marking the climax of the two-year-long Complete Schubert Songs Series. The programme began with a birthday song, Namenstaglied, and ended with a farewell, Abschied von der Erde. Along the way, a traverse through some of Schubert's finest moments, highlighting different aspects of his song output : Schubert's life, in miniature.

Ilker Arcayürek at Wigmore Hall

The first thing that struck me in this Wigmore Hall recital was the palpable sincerity of Ilker Arcayürek’s artistry. Sincerity is not everything, of course; what we think of as such may even be carefully constructed artifice, although not, I think, here.

Lisette Oropesa sings at Tucson Desert Song Festival

On January 30, 2018, Arizona Opera and the Tucson Desert Song Festival presented a recital by lyric soprano Lisette Oropesa in the University of Arizona’s Holsclaw Hall. Looking like a high fashion model in her silver trimmed midnight-blue gown, the singer and pianist Michael Borowitz began their program with Pablo Luna’s Zarzuela aria, “De España Vengo.” (“I come from Spain”).

Schubert songs, part-songs and fragments: three young singers at the Wigmore Hall

Youth met experience for this penultimate instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s Schubert: The Complete Songs series, and the results were harmonious and happy. British soprano Harriet Burns, German tenor Ferdinand Keller and American baritone Harrison Hintzsche were supportively partnered by lieder ‘old-hand’, Graham Johnson, and we heard some well-known and less familiar songs in this warmly appreciated early-afternoon recital.

Brent Opera: Nabucco

Brent Opera’s Nabucco was a triumph in that it worked as a piece of music theatre against some odds, and was a good evening out.

LPO: Das Rheingold

It is, of course, quite an achievement in itself for a symphony orchestra to perform Das Rheingold or indeed any of the Ring dramas. It does not happen very often, not nearly so often as it should; for given Wagner’s crucial musico-historical position, this is music that should stand at the very centre of their repertoires – just as Beethoven should at the centre of opera orchestras’.

William Tell in Palermo

This was the infamous production that was booed to extinction at Covent Garden. Palermo’s Teatro Massimo now owns the production.

The Bandits in Rome

AKA I masnadieri, rare early Verdi, though not as rare as Alzira. In 1847 London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre  commissioned the newly famous Verdi to write this opera for the London debut of Swedish soprano Jenny Lind.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Abdellah Lasri as Rodolfo and Aleksandra Kurzak as Mimi [Photo by Mara Eggert]
05 Apr 2017

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.

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

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Abdellah Lasri as Rodolfo and Aleksandra Kurzak as Mimi

Photos by Mara Eggert, except as otherwise indicated

 

Disarming me with its intimacy and genuine vocal chemistry, Hume’s staging caught me off guard. The Australian director’s take on Puccini channelled the vibe of a fresh musical. The result was an exhilarating, fast-paced show that appealed to the young audience, cheering many “bravi” throughout the performance.

Opening the overture, conductor Lahav Shani with dashing aplomb proved to be the musical impetus. In Hume’s concept, we travel back in time as the old man recollects his love for Mimì. The audience sees an elderly man all alone in a chair on stage. By setting the story up as one of Rodolfo’s reminiscences, Hume instantly saturates Puccini’s bohemia with an even thicker layer of nostalgic longing.

With a vibrant Pop Artsy design that triggered memories of Grease and Footloose, Dan Potra’s ultracool aesthetic embellished Hume’s slick production, facilitating the jumps in the story. Yet through her intimate dramaturgy, Hume also charged Puccini’s romantic melodrama with characterful depth. Basking in romance, a crushing “O soave fanciulla” closed the first act. Coy and sweet in her chemistry with the charismatic Lasri, Aleksandra Kurzak’s Mimì falling in love with Rodolfo oozed pure romance…

Old-Rodolfo.pngOld Rodolfo reminisces about his past

Deeply moving from the moment she arrived on stage, Kurzak captured the fragility of her character, presenting the most loveable of Mimìs. Immediately, in “Si, mi chiamano Mimì”, I became enamored by Ms. Kurzak’s virtuous portrayal as a delicate Mimì; by the time she undermines her love for Rodolfo by leaving him in “Donde lieta usci” in the third act, I was smitten.

Arttu Kataja made for an exemplary Marcello in his lustiness for Anna Samuil’s buxom Musetta. At Cafe Momus, they sang with zeal to each other, also joined by Martin Wright’s led choir, which was full of flair. Samuil downright dazzled as Musetta. Her Waltz certainly was a showstopper without being too much of a scene stealing moment from the other characters. She made quite the splash receiving a raucous applause.

Hume effectively contrasted Mimì and Rodolfo’s heartache with the excellently timed biting banter between Musetta and Marcello. The last act burst with gut wrenching drama, culminating in a devastating “Mimì!” from Lasri in utter anguish.

The evening belonged to the Moroccan tenor. The warmth of Lasri’s voice certainly must have warmed Mimì’s hands, as he sang “Che gelida manina”, swooning in romance. Onward, Lasri fueled Puccini’s flames. His voice gushes with personality. He owned Rodolfo. He has superstar wattage that amplifies his robust resonance, all the while serving it up with remarkable authenticity. For me it was the first encounter with this dream tenor, and with great promise, I look forward to Lasri’s future.

Musetta's-showstopper.pngAnna Samuil as Musetta [Photo by Thomas Bartilla]

Through his vocal theatricality, Lasri also evokes the most devoted rises from the other performers. As the loveable musician, Gyula Orendt’s Shaunard provided the necessary lighthearted overtones. Jan Martiník marked Colline’s benevolence, selling his coat for Mimì’s medicine. He turned “Vecchia zimarra” into a captivatingly poignant farewell to the philosopher’s cherished overcoat. Jonathan Winell delivered laughs as the foolish landlord Parpignol.

Israeli conductor Lahav Shani began the evening with the Berliner Staatskapelle quite loudly, but he quickly balanced his orchestra out with the singers, forming a fine whole. The exquisite saxophone and violin solos touched me deeply, reflecting Shani’s ear for the moving details in Puccini’s score. I look forward to hearing his fierce intensity in the Rotterdam Philharmonic. He will succeed Yannick Nézet-Seguin as Principal Conductor in September 2018. Shani’s charging energy and the RPhO’s hot temperament promises furious chemistry.

I confess I don’t get too excited when it comes too Puccini. But this performance was something else. The intimate duets and boisterous singing brought out the most of Puccini’s romance and even elevated my appreciation for the composer. Tonight’s heartbreak put the bohemian life in its true perspective. But finding another such electrifying production of Puccini will be rare: by the end of the evening, the skin on my face had tightened up from all the salt. It felt like I had a facelift.

David Pinedo

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):