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 Performances

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lauren Segal (Charlotte) and John Tessier (Werther) [Photo by R. Tinker]
05 Jun 2017

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.

Werther at Manitoba Opera

A review by Holly Harris

Above: Lauren Segal (Charlotte) and John Tessier (Werther)

Photos by R. Tinker

 

Based on Goethe’s German-Romantic tale “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” and sung in French with English surtitles, the nearly three-hour production’s skeletal plot of boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy dies is opera at its compact best. Preferring not to gild the lily with convoluted (albeit operatic) twists and turns, it delves more deeply into the hearts and minds of its ill-fated characters, underscored by Massenet’s stunningly gorgeous music brought to life by Tyrone Paterson leading the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Last appearing onstage as Tonio in MO’s 2012 production of Donizetti’s “The Daughter of the Regiment,” Edmonton-born tenor John Tessier in the title role may quite rightfully may be considered a Canadian treasure. He spun every lyrical phrase like fine gold, first heard during his opening aria “O Nature, pleine de grâce," performed with ease and capped by ringing high notes. His showstopper: Lorsque l’enfant revient d’un voyage,” and later, a goose-bump inducing “Pourquoi me reveiller” elicited well-deserved, spontaneous applause with cries of bravo.

_TNK2491.pngLauren Segal (Charlotte) and Keith Phares (Albert

South African/Canadian mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal as Charlotte also created a flesh-and-blood “angel of duty,” with her prismatic acting skills revealing her character’s inner turmoil until her final climactic “Ah!” after Werther dies in her arms. Segal’s rich vocals also resonated during Act III’s “Va! Laisser couler mes larmes,” that grew in dramatic intensity as she realizes the poet’s path towards self-destruction.

Winnipeg-based soprano Lara Secord-Haid’s sparkling portrayal of Charlotte’s younger sister Sophie captured the impetuous optimism of youth, as she skipped and flitted about the stage with her effervescent colouratura on full display during “Du gai soleil, plein de flame.” But she also imbued her youthful character with subtle nuance, creating a fascinating sub-text for her own tragic tale of love and loss after Werther’s departure leaves her sobbing uncontrollably during Act II.

_TNK1658.pngScene from Werther

Albert performed by American baritone Keith Phares proved solid and true, besotted with his wife Charlotte, with his resonant voice clearly projecting while providing steady ballast to Werther’s eloquent arias.

The cast also includes Le Bailli performed with gravitas by baritone David Watson, and his whiskey-swilling village sidekicks, Johann (baritone Howard Rempel) and Schmidt (tenor Terence Mierau). An ensemble of six children (prepared by Carolyn Boyes) delivered a sweetly jubilant “Noel! Noel,” that heightens the dramatic tension during the final Christmas Eve scene with its twin messages of birth and death.

Having said all this, the production itself proved uneven. Hodges opted for an overall slow-burn approach to the lead characters’ respective emotional trajectories, allowing Werther’s love for Charlotte to first smolder like ashes during Act I and II, before finally erupting into flames in Act III. When the poet arrived to escort Charlotte to the dance in Act I, their first encounter came across as more polite than passionate. His understated reaction to hearing of Charlotte’s impending nuptials also did not clearly read, despite his later, angst-ridden “Un autre est son époux!"

It’s also difficult establishing a physical/emotional connection when Charlotte herself is forbidden fruit, so duty-bound she refuses to even kiss Werther until he is mortally wounded by his own hand. This created a strangely distancing effect that a few embraces – no matter how furtive – might have helped mitigate.

Still, other artistic choices were effective, including an added prologue showing the death of Charlotte’s mother. This established the opera’s overall themes, while also providing Charlotte’s motivation for remaining stonily resistant to Werther’s ardent declarations of love.

The 1920s-styled set on loan from Opéra de Montréal, with the production itself originally created by Opera Australia appeared striking in its simplicity, while also engendering fresh appeal. Nevertheless, sightlines at times became challenging, and the “big box” style of set visually dwarfed the opera’s sweeping themes of transcendent love, despite its waving grasses just beyond the formal exits that beckoned of wild nature and freedom like a siren song.

Effective lighting design by Bill Williams included a luminous moon under which Charlotte and Werther fall in love during Act I, and relatively abrupt fades during Werther’s key arias, which nevertheless focused attention on the doomed poet as he hurtled toward his own death spiral for love.

Holly Harris

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):