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 Reviews

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.

My Fair Lady at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its spring musical production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady Lyric Opera of Chicago has put together an ensemble which does ample justice to the wit and lyrical beauty of the well-known score.

Henze: Elegie für junge Liebende

Hans Werner Henze’s compositions include ten fine symphonies, various large choral and religious works, fourteen ballets (among them one, Undine, that ranks the greatest of modern times), numerous prominent film scores, and hundreds of additional works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo instruments or voice. Yet he considered himself, above all, a composer of opera.

Werther at Manitoba Opera

If opera ultimately is about bel canto, then one need not look any further than Manitoba Opera’s company premiere of Massenet’s Werther, its lushly scored portrait of an artist as a young man that also showcased a particularly strong cast of principal artists. Notably, all were also marking their own role debuts, as well as this production being the first Massenet opera staged by organization in its 44-year history.

Seattle: A seamlessly symphonic L’enfant

Seattle Symphony’s “semi-staged” presentation of L’enfant et les sortilèges was my third encounter with Ravel’s 1925 one-act “opera.” It was incomparably the most theatrical, though the least elaborate by far.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Der Rosenkavalier: Welsh National Opera in Cardiff

Olivia Fuchs' new production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier is a co-production between Welsh National Opera and Theater Magdeburg. The production debuted in Magdeburg last year and now Welsh National Opera is presenting the production as part of its Summer season, the company's first Der Rosenkavalier since 1990 (when the cast included Rita Cullis as the Marschallin and Amanda Roocroft making her role debut as Sophie).

Don Giovanni takes to the waves at Investec Opera Holland Park

There’s no reason why Oliver Platt’s imaginative ‘concept’ for this new production of Don Giovanni at Investec Opera Holland Park shouldn’t work very well. Designer Neil Irish has reconstructed a deck of RMS Queen Mary - the Cunard-White Star Line’s flag-ship cruiser during the 1930s, that golden age of trans-Atlantic cruising. Spanning the entire width of the OHP stage, the deck is lined with port-holed cabin doors - perfect hideaways for one of the Don’s hasty romantic dalliances.

"Recreated" Figaro at Garsington delights

After the preceding evening’s presentation of Annilese Miskimmon’s sparkling production of Handel’s Semele - an account of marital infidelity in immortal realms - the second opera of Garsington Opera’s 2017 season brought us down to earth for more mundane disloyalties and deceptions amongst the moneyed aristocracy of the eighteenth-century, as presented by John Cox in his 2005 production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

07 Jun 2017

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.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Pene Pati as the Duke of Mantua [All photos by Cory Weaver, courtesy of San Francisco Opera]

 

The two Rigoletto’s were clearly evident, that of its protagonists in the persuasive lyricism of the jester and his daughter and the Duke of Mantua, and that of its clumsy dramatic rhetoric — the curse of Monterone. British stage director Rob Kearney, working in the 20 year-old sets designed by Michael Yeargan (SFO’s current Ring among countless others), exploited Yeargan’s minimalist abstractions of neoclassic architecture and blocks of primary color to frame Verdi’s actors in abstracted, often long sustained dramatic poses when not responding to the commotion of the courtiers in detailed lazzi (commedia dell'arte staging tricks) by four dancers.

Rigoletto17_SFO2.png

Respecting a (i.e. my) perceived Luisotti dictum director Kearney moved the action into and out of the downstage areas easily controlled by the maestro’s baton. In this splendid evening however it was evident that three powerful artists had the maestro in their thrall. This synergy created what may have been conductor Nicola Luisotti’s finest hour at San Francisco Opera as he led an impeccably measured exposition of Verdi’s early middle period opera as pure bel canto.

Beautiful singing is basic to Rigoletto as its basic emotions are beautiful and very human — the love of a father for his daughter and the freshness of youthful desire. Baritone Quinn Kelsey, once a Merola participant and then a house singer at San Francisco Opera, has matured into a formidable bel canto artist, able to discover larger and longer contours in Verdi’s musical lines and to manipulate the inherent emotion of text without breaking line. Now in his vocal prime, Kelsey possesses a strong instrument of golden tone he has placed in service to high style.

Rigoletto17_SFO3.pngQuinn Kelsey as Rigoletto, Nino Machaidze as Gilda

Soprano Nino Machaidze has a warm maturity of voice and a command of style that goes far beyond the innocence of Victor Hugo’s young victim. It was her intelligence that thrust this performance to a musical plateau where anything is possible, in this case a virtual musical embodiment of an adolescent girl gilded in magnificent sound. It was this ideal of bel canto that gave unique definition to the drama of this Rigoletto.

Ingénu tenor Pene Pati is purely and simply the vocal embodiment of the Duke of Mantua, possessing the vocal swagger, the freshness of voice, and the creative energy that makes the Duke, indeed all youth, lovable. The artistic achievement of this debut in a major role on a major stage was formidable, this young artist fusing surprisingly graceful stage movement with nearly impeccable vocal delivery. And there was solid tenorial attitude. Aplenty.

These three artists inhabited their musical worlds to the fullest. It was the collision of their worlds that created high operatic drama on the War Memorial stage, and proved, as does happen every so often, that opera is the most rarefied and distilled of all theatrical worlds.

If conductor Luisotti’s pit was devoid of all exaggeration, so was director Kearney’s stage, the melodrama of Monterone’s curse was defused by placing it always front and center and always thundering it in the voice of bass Reginald Smith, Jr. Nothing more. The fulfillment of the curse was relegated to the shadows. Andrea Silvestrelli in his signature role as Sparafucile, emerged from the darkness from time to time to realize the Monterone’s vengeance. Maddalena, sung by Adler Fellow Zanda Švēde appeared only in the dim environs of his inn and then only to satisfy the Duke’s desire. Nothing more.

San Francisco Opera resident lighting designer Gary Marder created a mottled darkness that permeated the evening, offset from time to time by saturated blocks of primary color. Mr. Marder’s lighting discovered entirely new atmospheres for this old production, atmospheres that were instrumental in upholding the intense musical level of this remarkable evening. Even the Yeargan set was swept up in the musicality, when required its elements changed position, motion seemingly initiated not by mechanics but by the sheer power of the music. Gesamtkunstwerk indeed.

Luisotti’s orchestra played with requisite finesse, the lower strings elegantly grinding gutsy drama into Rigoletto’s realization that he had been tricked, solo wind instruments suavely adding subtle feeling to arias à la Rossini. Kelsey Quinn’s “Cortegiani” acquired an unusual sophistication in tones that moved us, and moved the resplendent San Francisco Opera’s courtiers to back off, thus creating a quite powerful emotional vista — amply rewarded with prolonged applause.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Rigoletto: Quinn Kelsey; Gilda: Nino Machaidze; The Duke of Mantua: Pene Pati; Maddalena: Zanda Švēde; Sparafucile: Andrea Silvestrelli; Count Monterone: Reginald Smith, Jr.; Marullo: Andrew G. Manea; Borsa: Amitai Pati; Count Ceprano: Anthony Reed; Countess Ceprano: Amina Edris. San Francisco Opera Chorus and Orchestra. Conductor: Nicola Luisotti; Stage Director: Rob Kearley; Set Designer: Michael Yeargan; Costume Designer: Constance Hoffman; Lighting Designer: Gary Marder. War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, June 6, 2017.

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):