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

Eugene Onegin at Seattle

Passion! Pain! Poetry! (but hold the irony . . .)

Pow! Zap! Zowie! Wowie! -or- Arthur, King of Long Beach

If you might have thought a late 17thcentury semi-opera about a somewhat precious fairy tale monarch might not be your cup of twee, Long Beach Opera cogently challenges you to think again.

Philippe Jaroussky and Jérôme Ducros perform Schubert at Wigmore Hall

How do you like your Schubert? Let me count the ways …

Crebassa and Say: Impressionism and Power at Wigmore Hall

On paper this seemed a fascinating recital, but as I was traveling to the Wigmore Hall it occurred to me this might be a clash of two great artists. Both Marianne Crebassa and Fazil Say can be mercurial performers and both can bring such unique creativity to what they do one thought they might simply diverge. In the event, what happened was quite remarkable.

'Songs of Longing and Exile': Stile Antico at LSO St Luke's

Baroque at the Edge describes itself as the ‘no rules’ Baroque festival. It invites ‘leading musicians from all backgrounds to take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads them’.

Richard Jones' La bohème returns to Covent Garden

Richard Jones' production of Puccini's La bohème is back at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden after its debut in 2017/18. The opening night, 10th January 2020, featured the first of two casts though soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who was due to sing Mimì, had to drop out owing to illness, and was replaced at short notice by Simona Mihai who had sung the role in the original run and is due to sing Musetta later in this run.

Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Mozart’s Don Giovanni returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Robert Falls updating of the opera to the 1930s. The universality of Mozart’s score proves its adaptability to manifold settings, and this production featured several outstanding, individual performances.

Britten and Dowland: lutes, losses and laments at Wigmore Hall

'Of chord and cassiawood is the lute compounded;/ Within it lie ancient melodies'.

Tara Erraught sings Loewe, Mahler and Hamilton Harty at Wigmore Hall

During those ‘in-between’ days following Christmas and before New Year, the capital’s cultural institutions continue to offer fare both festive and more formal.

Prayer of the Heart: Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet

Robust carol-singing, reindeer-related muzak tinkling through department stores, and light-hearted festive-fare offered by the nation’s choral societies may dominate the musical agenda during the month of December, but at Kings Place on Friday evening Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet eschewed babes-in-mangers and ding-donging carillons for an altogether more sedate and spiritual ninety minutes of reflection and ‘musical prayer’.

The New Season at the New National Theatre, Tokyo

Professional opera in Japan is roughly a century old. When the Italian director and choreographer Giovanni Vittorio Rosi (1867-1940) mounted a production of Cavalleria Rusticana in Italian in Tokyo in 1917, with Japanese singers, he brought a period of timid experimentation and occasional student performances to an end.

Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall

For those of us who live in a metropolitan bubble, where performances of Handel's Messiah by small professional ensembles are common, it is easy to forget that for many people, Handel's masterpiece remains a large-scale choral work. My own experiences of Messiah include singing the work in a choir of 150 at the Royal Albert Hall, and the venue's tradition of performing the work annually dates back to the 19th century.

What to Make of Tosca at La Scala

La Scala’s season opened last week with Tosca. This was perhaps the preeminent event in Italian cultural and social life: paparazzi swarmed politicians, industrialists, celebrities and personalities, while almost three million Italians watched a live broadcast on RAI 1. Milan was still buzzing nine days later, when I attended the third performance of the run.

La traviata at Covent Garden: Bassenz’s triumphant Violetta in Eyre’s timeless production

There is a very good reason why Covent Garden has stuck with Richard Eyre’s 25-year old production of La traviata. Like Zeffirelli’s Tosca, it comes across as timeless whilst being precisely of its time; a quarter of a century has hardly faded its allure, nor dented its narrative clarity. All it really needs is a Violetta to sweep us off our feet, and that we got with Hrachuhi Bassenz.

'Aspects of Love': Jakub Józef Orliński at Wigmore Hall

Boretti, Predieri, Conti, Matteis, Orlandini, Mattheson: masters of the Baroque? Yes, if this recital by Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is anything by which to judge.

Otello at Covent Garden: superb singing defies Warner’s uneven production

I have seen productions of Verdi’s Otello which have been revolutionary, even subversive. I have now seen one which is the complete antithesis of that.

Solomon’s Knot: Charpentier - A Christmas Oratorio

When Marc-Antoine Charpentier returned from Rome to Paris in 1669 or 1670, he found a musical culture in his native city that was beginning to reject the Italian style, which he had spent several years studying with the Jesuit composer Giacomo Carissimi, in favour of a new national style of music.

A Baroque Odyssey: 40 Years of Les Arts Florissants

In 1979, the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor, William Christie, founded an early music ensemble, naming it Les Arts Florissants, after a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Miracle on Ninth Avenue

Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first recorded opera I ever heard. Each Christmas Eve, while decorating the tree, our family sang along with the (still unmatched) original cast version. We knew the recording by heart, right down to the nicks in the LP. Ever since, no matter what the setting or the quality of a performance, I cannot get through it without tearing up.

Detlev Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (UK premiere)

It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamburg-born composer Detlev Glanert should count Hans Werner Henze as one of the formative influences on his work - he did, after all, study with him between 1984 to 1988.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Jarrett Ott as Curly and Vancessa Becerra as Laurey in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2017 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's
22 Aug 2017

Glimmerglass Oklahoma: Yeow!

Director Molly Smith knew just how to best succeed at staging the evergreen classic Oklahoma! for Glimmerglass Festival.

Glimmerglass Oklahoma: Yeow!

A review by James Sohre

Above: Jarrett Ott as Curly and Vancessa Becerra as Laurey

Photos © Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival

 

Stay out of its way.

That’s not quite fair since Ms. Smith brought a number of fresh pieces of business into play. This was hardly a dusty “homage.” But mostly, she honored the timeless appeal and superb craftsmanship of the masters, and facilitated a fast-paced, hugely entertaining dose of vintage Rogers and Hammerstein that could hardly have been better sung.

Jarrett Ott is arguably the best Curly ever, even allowing for the fact that his hair is not as obviously curly as referenced in the script. Lanky and handsome, Mr. Ott preens and prances all over the stage, a thoroughly winning bantam rooster who, it turns out, is an amiable puppy dog at his core. Jarrett’s buzzy, virile baritone smoothly encompasses his every song, and his is an evenly produced instrument of power and beauty.

KarliCadel-GGF17-Oklahoma-StageOrch-9878.pngMichael Hewitt as Jud Fry and Vanessa Becerra as Laurey

As Laurey, lovely Vanessa Becerra was a worthy sparring partner for Ott. The feigned toughness and independence of her characterization was sassy without being distancing. When Ms. Becarra finally gave way to an impetuously confessed love for her longtime faux-antagonist Curly, it was both humorous and awwww-inspiring. Vanessa’s silken soprano fleshed out Laurey’s famous solos with a vibrant presence, and her vocal work embodied a lilting radiance.

Judith Skinner offered an especially irascible, larger than life take on Aunt Eller. Ms. Skinner was vibrant and consistent, however if she modulated her angry persona a bit, she might discover even more punch and variety. Michael Roach was a stellar Will Parker, his well-focused tenor and sparkling delivery nailing both his big musical moments. Moreover, his athletic, committed dancing was as virtuosic as it was exuberant. Mr. Roach is a dynamic Triple Threat. And his goldfish-inspired kissy face schtick with Ado Annie was good silly fun.

KarliCadel-GGF17-Oklahoma-StageOrch-9751.pngMichael Roach as Will Parker (center) with members of the company

Speaking of Annie (and I was), Emma Roos was all gangly, sexed up indecision and she managed to make the role her own. Ms. Roos has a far more polished, legit voice than most interpreters and she too, dances with accomplished. As the sleazy weasel salesman Ali Hakim, Dylan Morrongiello affected a maddeningly ingratiating “Persian” accent that was so meticulously articulated that his teeth must hurt. His solid presence and sound comic timing were wedded to a singing voice so pleasant that it was a shame he didn’t have more music in his only solo.

I was very engaged by Michael Hewett’s well-considered take on Jud Fry, which explored the personal contradictions that inform the show’s most interesting and varied personality. Mr. Hewett’s Jud is a handsome man, and a reliable worker, seeming nothing like the odious threat some productions offer. Instead, he becomes more and more interesting as the layers of his tragic character peel away. His participation in Pore Jud reveals real humanity, and by the time Michael takes on Lonely Room, the pathos and urgent desperation in his beautifully produced, bronzed baritone draw us into his emotional paralysis. This was a memorable role assumption.

I have long been an admirer of William Burden, having first encountered his artistry in a Santa Fe production of La belle Helene, as notable for his assured singing as for his revealing his buff young frame by stripping to his tighty whities. Over the years, I have written before that it seems like Mr. Burden is such a fine musician that he can sing any role in any style and be utterly successful. Here, he vocalizes the small part of Andrew Carnes with ease, and I was particularly impressed with Bill’s wholly believable acting and cranky paternal presence, a star turn regardless of the size of the part.

KarliCadel-GGF17-Oklahoma-GenDress-5775.pngTucker Reed Breder as Mike (center) and members of the company

Kayleigh Decker was an assured and suitably annoying Gertie, and Conor McDonald gave Ike Skidmore a lively dimension. Ezekiel Edmonds and Olivia Barbieri made a lovely pair as Dream Curly and Laurey; whether dancing solo or in tandem, they displayed a sound technique and soulful passion. Parker Esse’s inventive choreography often threatened to out-Stroman the great Susan. The Dream Ballet was every bit the Big Moment it needed to be, and Mr. Esse succeeded at creating definitive visual characters all the while responding to the shifting musical styles with aplomb. Arguably, Kansas City was Parker’s piece de resistance with its vitality and inexorable build-up to a breathless climax that stopped the show cold.

Conductor James Lowe kept things bubbling along in the pit, and what a joy it is to hear masterful orchestrations that allow performers to work unamplified. That said, with the realities of the placement of the Busch pit, Maestro Lowe’s band on occasion might have considered a bit more restraint during the vocals.

Eugene Lee’s set design is simple, elegant, atmospheric and highly functional. A sort of low-rising ground row “pueblo” of neutral building blocks lines the back wall, with wooden planked, rustic house and shed units that can be rolled around and placed to suggest various locales. A row of fences, a windmill, a crate here, a hay bale there were all that was needed to created the rural settings.

Lighting designer Robert Wierzel has a field day (no pun intended) suggesting the gradations of prairie illumination and his warm hued plot provided a sun soaked glow. The star curtain that starts the show rises to reveal some excellent cyc effects, and the nightmarish descent in the dream allows for some appropriately surreal splashes of color. Ilona Somogyi’s effective costume design perfectly captures the hominess of the Oklahoma Territory, but she lets herself go with sensual and provocative attire in the dream’s bordello.

Back to director Molly Smith: No matter the time-tested perfection of the material nor the consummate talent of the participants, it takes a vision and steady hand to forge such a successful revival of a thrice familiar musical. Molly has injected freshness, imposed order, and energized an hugely gifted group of operatic practitioners into a superlative rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s masterpiece.

James Sohre


Cast and production information:

Curly: Jarrett Ott; Aunt Eller: Judith Skinner; Laurey: Vanessa Becerra; Ike Skidmore: Conor McDonald; Fred: Edward Graves; Slim: Andres Marino Garcia; Will Parker: Michael Roach; Mike: Tucker Reed Breder; Jud Fry: Michael Hewett; Ado Annie Carnes: Emma Roos; Ali Hakim: Dylan Morrongiello; Gertie: Kayleigh Decker; Dorcas: Abigail Dock; Andrew Carnes: William Burden; Vivian: Alyssa Martin; Ellen: Mary Evelyn Hangley; Kate: Katrina Galka; Virginia: Mary Beth Nelson; Dream Laurey/Sylvie: Olivia Barbieri; Dream Curly/Jess: Ezekiel Edmonds; Cord Elam: Harry Greenleaf; Sam: Jarrett Porter; George: Jonathan DeVries; Joe: Joseph Leppek; Aggie: Shanel Bailey; Minnie: Anju Cloud; Wes: Aidan Kahl; Edward: Makoto Winkler; Conductor: James Lowe; Director Molly Smith; Choreographer: Parker Esse; Set Design: Eugene Lee; Costume Design: Ilona Somogyi; Lighting Design: Robert Wierzel; Hair and Make-up Design: J. Jared Janas, Dave Bova; Chorus Master: David Moody

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):