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

Philip Glass's Orphée at English National Opera

Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orphée - and Philip Glass’s chamber opera based on the film - are so closely intertwined it should not be a surprise that this new production for English National Opera often seems unable to distinguish the two. There is never a shred of ambiguity that cinema and theatre are like mirrors, a recurring feature of this production; and nor is there much doubt that this is as opera noir it gets.

Rapt audience at Dutch National Opera’s riveting Walküre

“Don’t miss this final chance – ever! – to see Die Walküre”, urges the Dutch National Opera website.

Sarah Wegener sings Strauss and Jurowski’s shattering Mahler

A little under a month ago, I reflected on Vladimir Jurowski’s tempi in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. That willingness to range between extremes, often within the same work, was a very striking feature of this second concert, which also fielded a Mahler symphony - this time the Fifth. But we also had a Wagner prelude and Strauss songs to leave some of us scratching our heads.

Manon Lescaut in San Francisco

Of the San Francisco Opera Manon Lescauts (in past seasons Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila among others, all in their full maturity) the latest is Armenian born Parisian finished soprano Lianna Haroutounian in her role debut. And Mme. Haroutounian is surely the finest of them all.

A lukewarm performance of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette from the LSO and Tilson Thomas

A double celebration was the occasion for a packed house at the Barbican: the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s birth, alongside Michael Tilson Thomas’s fifty-year association with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Mahler’s Third Symphony launches Prague Symphony Orchestra's UK tour

The Anvil in Basingstoke was the first location for a strenuous seven-concert UK tour by the Prague Symphony Orchestra - a venue-hopping trip, criss-crossing the country from Hampshire to Wales, with four northern cities and a pit-stop in London spliced between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

Predatory power and privilege in WNO's Rigoletto at the Birmingham Hippodrome

At a party hosted by a corrupt and dissolute political leader, wealthy patriarchal predators bask in excess, prowling the room on the hunt for female prey who seem all too eager to trade their sexual favours for the promise of power and patronage. ‘Questa o quella?’ the narcissistic host sings, (this one or that one?), indifferent to which woman he will bed that evening, assured of impunity.

Virginie Verrez captivates in WNO's Carmen at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen for Welsh National Opera presents not the exotic Orientalism of nineteenth-century France, nor a tale of the racial ‘Other’, feared and fantasised in equal measure by those whose native land she has infiltrated.

Die Zauberflöte brings mixed delights at the Royal Opera House

When did anyone leave a performance of Mozart’s Singspiel without some serious head scratching?

Haydn's La fedeltà premiata impresses at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

‘Exit, pursued by an octopus.’ The London Underground insignia in the centre of the curtain-drop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Silk Street Theatre, advised patrons arriving for the performance of Joseph Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded, 1780) that their Tube journey had terminated in ‘Arcadia’ - though this was not the pastoral idyll of Polixenes’ Bohemia but a parody of paradise more notable for its amatory anarchy than any utopian harmony.

Van Zweden conducts an unforgettable Walküre at the Concertgebouw

When native son Jaap van Zweden conducts in Amsterdam the house sells out in advance and expectations are high. Last Saturday, he returned to conduct another Wagner opera in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series. The Concertgebouw audience was already cheering the maestro loudly before anyone had played a single note. By the end of this concert version of Die Walküre, the promise implicit in the enthusiastic greeting had been fulfilled. This second installment of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung was truly memorable, and not just because of Van Zweden’s imprint.

Purcell for our time: Gabrieli Consort & Players at St John's Smith Square

Passing the competing Union and EU flags on College Green beside the Palace of Westminster on my way to St John’s Smith Square, where Paul McCreesh’s Gabrieli Consort & Players were to perform Henry Purcell’s 1691 'dramatic opera' King Arthur, the parallels between England now and England then were all too evident.

The Dallas Opera Cockerel: It’s All Golden

I greatly enjoyed the premiere of The Dallas Opera’s co-production with Santa Fe Opera of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel when it debuted at the latter in the summer festival of 2018.

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is featuring Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Philip Glass: Music with Changing Parts - European premiere of revised version

Philip Glass has described Music with Changing Parts as a transitional work, its composition falling between earlier pieces like Music in Fifths and Music in Contrary Motion (both written in 1969), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-4) and the opera Einstein on the Beach (1975). Transition might really mean aberrant or from no-man’s land, because performances of it have become rare since the very early 1980s (though it was heard in London in 2005).

Wexford Festival Opera 2019

The 68th Wexford Festival Opera, which runs until Sunday 3rd November, is bringing past, present and future together in ways which suggest that the Festival is in good health, and will both blossom creatively and stay true to its roots in the years ahead.

Cenerentola, jazzed to the max

Seattle Opera’s current staging of Cenerentola is mostly fun to watch. It is also a great example of how trying too hard to inflate a smallish work to fill a huge auditorium can make fun seem more like work.

Bottesini’s Alì Babà Keeps Them Laughing

On Friday evening October 25, 2019, Opera Southwest opened its 47th season with composer Giovanni Bottesini and librettist Emilio Taddei’s Alì Babà in a version reconstructed from the original manuscript score by Conductor Anthony Barrese.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Maria (Elise Quagliata) with El Payador (Ricardo Rivera) [Photo by Duane Tinkey]
11 Jul 2017

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Maria Visits Des Moines

A review by James Sohre

Above: Maria (Elise Quagliata) with El Payador (Ricardo Rivera)

All photos by Duane Tinkey

 

While its three main stage productions continue to be performed in Blank Performing Arts Center on the Simpson College campus, 30 minutes away in Indianola, DMMO systematically develops audiences by mounting innovative smaller productions of non-standard repertoire in the heart of Iowa’s capital city. The success of this outreach is attested to by consistent sold out runs of these innovative projects.

Maria was presented in the historic Temple for the Performing Arts, which proved to be a most congenial fit. Set designer Adam Crinson has created an effective environment to enfold the action, with large, framed rectangular collages of distressed wooden window shutters spaced throughout the sides of the auditorium. Selected front row seating was at tables and chairs, with some also spilling up onto stage left, suggesting a tango nightclub venue. Mr. Crinson carried the distressed wood look into the backdrop, which was constructed of vertical slats topped by a wide, textured fabric wall hanging. A matching proscenium treatment, and rolling bar unit stage right completed the simple, limited, but eminently practical playing space.

Nate Wheatley has contributed an inventive lighting design that beautifully serves the dramatic, brooding text and music. The afore-mentioned ubiquitous panels each had individual lights installed at the top, which could alter the color wash to suit the mood. Above the stage hung variations on white globe ceiling lights, which could also change hue. Mr. Wheatley managed to alter the general area lighting with good success, although he was likely restrained from adding more specials by the limited number of instruments I counted. One effect that paid off handsomely was the tight center aisle spot that allowed Maria to wander into the audience during her penultimate number.

DSC_5742.pngAstor Piazzolla’s “Tango Opera”

Heather Lesieur and Atlanta Opera are credited with the spot-on, character-specific costumes, a stunning array of jewel tones and reds. The selective use of masks and primitive props added to the gritty ritualistic tone of the storytelling, which was staged with inventive mischief by director Octavio Cardenas.

Mr. Cardenas embraced the composition, and acknowledged that it is decidedly not a linear tale. He created a 90-minute series of constantly morphing impressions, characterized by fluidity of motion and variety of theatrical effects. He seized on the rampant symbolism and distilled it into comprehensible dramatic points. Octavio used the entire space as his canvas, with actors entering and exiting from every nook and cranny, meticulously coordinated, but nevertheless suggesting a spontaneous, immersive theatrical experience.

The distinctive score was conducted with aplomb and incisive rhythmic propulsion by Stefano Sarzani, who numbered several Piazzolla “specialists” in his small orchestra: Daniel Binelli (Bandoneon) Polly Ferman (Piano) and Scott Mateo Davies (Guitar). All of the instrumentalists performed with real distinction for Maestro Sarzani, whether as part of a tightly knit ensemble or as featured soloist, often playing with raw energy. That said, I sometimes wished the subtle, tasteful solo violinist had summoned a little more zesty sass in the jazzy licks.

DSC_5799.pngTango Dancers Jairelbhi Furlon and Guillermo Merlo

The band was stage right of the proscenium, and was sometimes part of the action. The interplay between bandoneonist Binelli and the narrator was especially witty. The sound palette of this unique musical world was consistently on point, and the band partnered exceptionally well with the singers and dancers. I only wish that the actors hadn’t been miked. The volume was half again as much as was needed, if it was indeed really needed at all. No matter where a performer was sanding on stage, the voice seemed to be coming from the top center of the proscenium. Perhaps this could be adjusted for remaining shows.

Even with that caveat, from her first appearance the stunningly attractive Elise Quagliata owned the title role. The part mostly lies in the low register, where Ms. Quagliata’s searing chest voice made a powerful effect. It may have been the amplification, or the mix, but in the first scene she sounded just a bit pressed, the tone tending to harden as she took a belting approach to the writing. However as the evening went on, Elise quickly relaxed the delivery, finding increasingly more legato that showed off her poised tone to perfection in a wide range of demanding emotional states. Dramatically and musically, she does not so much perform the part as inhabit it. A remarkable star turn.

Rodolfo Nieto’s El Duende (The Goblin, as narrator) is marked by a sensitive, impassioned delivery that too, is hindered a bit in his effect by the volume knob. That Mr. Nieto nonetheless makes an imposing, invaluable narrator is owing to his charisma and dramatic stature. As El Payador (Cantor or Minstrel) baritone Ricardo Rivera made the most of the diverse vocal demands, offering suave vocalism of the first rank whether investing introspective phrases with a haunting grainy quality; slamming out declamations above the staff with ferocious power and accuracy; or spinning out creamy melodies with a melting arch of gorgeous sound.

This piece is billed as a tango opera, and there are plenty of such moments to savor as a lithe pair of dancers, Jairelbhi Furlong and Guillermo Merlo, found a diverse array of effects with which to engage and delight us. Performing their own inventive choreography, the duo skillfully incorporated select props into their routines including a red scarf, an A-frame ladder, and best, a man’s suit jacket which they kept passing back and forth by inserting arms in empty sleeves. Yahaddabethere! Their every duet was rapturously received.

With this memorably stylish, cheered-to-the-rafters production of a seldom performed jewel, DMMO reminds us yet again why they are one of the most invaluable regional companies in the nation.

James Sohre


Cast and production information:

Maria: Elise Quagliata; El Duende: Rodolfo Nieto; El Payador: Ricardo Rivera; Young Maria: Lauren Verm; Dancers: Jairelbhi Furlong, Guillermo Merlo; Conductor: Stefano Sarzani; Bandoneon: Daniel Binelli; Piano: Polly Ferman; Guitar: Scott Mateo Davies; Director: Octavio Cardenas; Set Design: Adam Crinson; Lighting Design: Nate Wheatley; Make-up and Hair Design: Brittany Crinson for Elsen and Associates; Costumes: Heather Lesieur, Atlanta Opera

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):