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

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

Samantha Hankey wins Glyndebourne Opera Cup

Four singers were awarded prizes at the inaugural Glyndebourne Opera Cup, which reached its closing stage at Glyndebourne on 24th March. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup focuses on a different single composer or strand of the repertoire each time it is held. In 2018 the featured composer was Mozart and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompanied the ten finalists.

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):