Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 5: Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman

“On the wings of song, I’ll bear you away …” So sings the poet-speaker in Mendelssohn’s 1835 setting of Heine’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’. And, borne aloft we were during this lunchtime Prom by Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman which soared progressively higher as the performers took us on a journey through a spectrum of lieder from the first half of the nineteenth century.

Glowing Verdi at Glimmerglass

From the first haunting, glistening sound of the orchestral strings to the ponderous final strokes in the score that echoed the dying heartbeats of a doomed heroine, Glimmerglass Festival’s superior La Traviata was an indelible achievement.

Médée in Salzburg

Though Luigi Cherubini long outlived the carnage of the French Revolution his 1797 opéra comique [with spoken dialogue] Médée fell well within the “horror opera” genre that responded to the spirit of its time. These days however Médée is but an esoteric and extremely challenging late addition to the international repertory.

Queen: A Royal Jewel at Glimmerglass

Tchaikovsky’s grand opera The Queen of Spades might seem an unlikely fit for the multi-purpose room of the Pavilion on the Glimmerglass campus but that qualm would fail to reckon with the superior creative gifts of the production team at this prestigious festival.

Blue Diversifies Glimmerglass Fare

Glimmerglass Festival has commendably taken on a potent social theme in producing the World Premiere of composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson’s Blue.

Vibrant Versailles Dazzles In Upstate New York

From the shimmering first sounds and alluring opening visual effects of Glimmerglass Festival’s The Ghosts of Versailles, it was apparent that we were in for an evening of aural and theatrical splendors worthy of its namesake palace.

Gilda: “G for glorious”

For months we were threatened with a “feminist take” on Verdi’s boiling 1851 melodrama; the program essay was a classic mashup of contemporary psychobabble perfectly captured in its all-caps headline: DESTRUCTIVE PARENTS, TOXIC MASCULINITY, AND BAD DECISIONS.

Simon Boccanegra in Salzburg

It’s an inescapable reference. Among the myriad "Viva Genova!" tweets the Genovese populace shared celebrating its new doge, the pirate Simon Boccanegra, one stood out — “Make Genoa Great Again!” A hell of a mess ensued for years and years and the drinking water was poisonous as well.

Rigoletto at Macerata Opera Festival

In this era of operatic globalization, I don’t recall ever attending a summer opera festival where no one around me uttered a single word of spoken English all night. Yet I recently had this experience at the Macerata Opera Festival. This festival is not only a pure Italian experience, in the best sense, but one of the undiscovered gems of the European summer season.

BBC Prom 37: A transcendent L’enfance du Christ at the Albert Hall

Notwithstanding the cancellation of Dame Sarah Connolly and Sir Mark Elder, due to ill health, and an inconsiderate audience in moments of heightened emotion, this performance was an unequivocal joy, wonderfully paced and marked by first class accounts from four soloists and orchestral playing from the Hallé that was the last word in refinement.

Tannhäuser at Bayreuth

Stage director Tobias Kratzer sorely tempts destruction in his Bayreuth deconstruction of Wagner’s delicate Tannhäuser, though he was soundly thwarted at the third performance by conductor Christian Thielemann pinch hitting for Valery Gergiev.

Opera in the Quarry: Die Zauberflöte at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt, Austria

Oper im Steinbruch (Opera in the Quarry) presents opera in the 2000 quarry at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt in Austria. Opera has been performed there since the late 1990s, but there was no opera last year and this year is the first under the new artistic director Daniel Serafin, himself a former singer but with a degree in business administration and something of a minor Austrian celebrity as he has been on the country's equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing twice.

BBC Prom 39: Sea Pictures from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Sea Pictures: both the name of Elgar’s five-song cycle for contralto and orchestra, performed at this BBC Prom by Catriona Morison, winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Main Prize in 2017, and a fitting title for this whole concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Elim Chan, which juxtaposed a first half of songs of the sea, fair and fraught, with, post-interval, compositions inspired by paintings.

BBC Prom 32: DiDonato spellbinds in Berlioz and the NYO of the USA magnificently scales Strauss

As much as the Proms strives to stand above the events of its time, that doesn’t mean the musicians, conductors or composers who perform there should necessarily do so.

Get Into Opera with this charming, rural L'elisir

Site-specific operas are commonplace these days, but at The Octagon Barn in Norwich, Genevieve Raghu, founder and Artistic Director of Into Opera, contrived to make a site persuasively opera-specific.

A disappointing Prom from Nathalie Stutzmann and BBCNOW

Nathalie Stutzmann really is an impressive conductor. The sheer elegance she brings to her formidable technique, the effortless drive towards making much of the music she conducts sound so passionate and the ability to shock us into hearing something quite new in music we think we know is really rather refreshing. Why then did this Prom sometimes feel weary, even disappointing at times?

Sandrine Piau: Si j’ai aimé

Sandrine Piau and Le Concert de la Loge (Julien Chauvin), Si j’ai aimé, an eclectic collection of mélodies demonstrating the riches of French orchestral song. Berlioz, Duparc and Massenet are included, but also Saint-Saëns, Charles Bordes, Gabriel Pierné, Théodore Dubois, Louis Vierne and Benjamin Godard.

Merola’s Striking If I Were You

Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer have become an indispensable presence in the contemporary opera world, and their latest premiere, If I Were You, found the duo at the very top of their game.

The Thirteenth Child: When She Was Good…

Santa Fe Opera continues its remarkable record for producing World (and American) Premieres with The Thirteenth Child, music by Poul Ruders, libretto by Becky and David Starobin.

The Sopranos at Tanglewood

Among classical music lovers, Wagner inspires equal measures of devotion and disdain. Some travel far and sit for hours to hear his operas live. Others eschew them completely.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

11 Jun 2017

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.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

A review by Michael Milenski

Above:Ana Maria Martinez as Donna Elvira (Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Don Giovanni in video image) [All photos by Cory Weaver, courtesy of San Francisco Opera]]

 

Originally staged in 2011 by Italian actor and theater director Gabriele Lavia, a sometime Nicola Luisotti collaborator for opera productions in Italy and Japan, this SF production hung twenty two huge, framed mirrors that flew in and out of an empty black space. Lavia did sometimes move the action among them, but usually he simply paraded the protagonists back and forth across the front-of-stage where maestro Luisotti could keep them under his baton.

The mirror metaphor can indeed be visually effective, and it does infer all sorts of conceptual profundity. But mostly it simply reflects what is and then simply asks what it all means. Responding to this lack of content San Francisco Opera brought in an alternate director, Italian theater director Jacopo Spirei who brought with him Tommi Brem, a theatrical video designer. No longer reflections, the mirrors framed video portraits of characters of interest to whomever might be singing an aria. This was only sometimes. Usually the frames were blank.

Giovanni2017_SFO2.pngErin Wall as Donna Anna plus Donna Anna in video image

It all ended with the face and hands of the consumed Don Giovanni plastered on a number of frames, evidently trying to get back in. Or something.

Though Luisotti was no longer in the pit, the protagonists still crossed and re-crossed the front-of-stage pathway to sing the arias we know so well. The new conductor was Marc Minkowski, once famed as an early music conductor now general director of Opéra National de Bordeaux. Minkowski is not insensitive to what happens on stage — as example his conducting of the 2013 inebriated production of Don Giovanni at the Aix Festival was absolutely wacko. In keeping with this production however he gave us the score exactly as written, his quick, very quick tempos avoiding any exploration of the score whatsoever. And that is what was on the stage.

The splendid San Francisco Opera orchestra did indeed keep the pace, but the smooth sounds of a modern symphony orchestra do not give the bite and scratch needed to articulate the phrasing and structure of a Mozart score at such speed. Arms flailing in the overture Minkowski did indeed let us know he is a divo. His pit erected an orchestral entity that remained haughtily separate from the world of the stage — even though evidently he fully knew what was there. The finales of both acts I and II were a mess. He could not have cared.

Even so it was, after all, Don Giovanni, and there was a cast well qualified to perform the roles. Thus some of the magic of the masterpiece did shine through from time to time. All excellent singers, they were seven artists in search of a production.

Da Ponte’s characters came straight off the pages of the score, no deeper exploration at all, i.e. the production asked no questions (though no doubt these artists had many). Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, the Don Giovanni, was seductive, defeated and unrepentant. Leporello, sung by Erwin Schrott was quick, articulate and knew the score (no puns intended). Donna Anna, sung by Erin Wall, was indeed aggressed by the Don and indeed suffered, Don Ottavio, sung by Stanislas de Barbeyrac, fully understood her need of a year to recover. Donna Elvira, sung by Ana Maria Martinez, was sillily obsessed by the Don. Zerlina and Masetto, sung by Sarah Shafer and Michael Sumuel, gamely did their thing.

Giovanni2017_SFO3.pngAll principals in Epilogue and final video image of Don Giovanni

No doubt the simulcast of the opera house performance onto the score board of AT&T stadium on June 30 is the place to get the best of this Don Giovanni. On-screen opera focuses on the faces of the performers rather than on the production.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Don Giovanni: Ildebrando D’Arcangelo; Donna Anna: Erin Wall; Donna Elvira: Ana María Martínez; Leporello: Erwin Schrott; Don Ottavio: Stanislas de Barbeyrac; Zerlina: Sarah Shafer; Masetto: Michael Sumuel; Commendatore: Andrea Silvestrelli. Chorus and Orchestra of the San Francisco Opera. Conductor: Marc Minkowski; Stage Director: Jacopo Spirei; Projections and Scenic Adaptations: Tommi Brem; Costume Designer: Andrea Viotti; Lighting Designer: Gary Marder; Original Set Designer: Alessandro Camera. War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, June 8, 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):