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

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.

'In my end is my beginning': Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida perform Winterreise at Wigmore Hall

All good things come to an end, so they say. Let’s hope that only the ‘good thing’ part of the adage is ever applied to Wigmore Hall, and that there is never any sign of ‘an end’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny bring 'sweet music' to Wigmore Hall

Countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny kicked off the final week of live lunchtime recitals broadcast online and on radio from Wigmore Hall.

From Our House to Your House: live from the Royal Opera House

I’m not ashamed to confess that I watched this live performance, streamed from the stage of the Royal Opera House, with a tear in my eye.

Woman’s Hour with Roderick Williams and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

At the start of this lunchtime recital, Roderick Williams set out the rationale behind the programme that he and pianist Joseph Middleton presented at Wigmore Hall, bringing to a close a second terrific week of live lunchtime broadcasts, freely accessible via Wigmore Hall’s YouTube channel and BBC Radio 3.

Natalya Romaniw - Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul

Sailing home to Corinth, bearing treasures won in a music competition, the mythic Greek bard, Arion, found his golden prize coveted by pirates and his life in danger.

Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille

Among the few compensations opera lovers have had from the COVID crisis is the abundance – alas, plethora – of streamed opera productions we might never have seen or even known of without it.

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

John Holiday in the title role of The Glimmerglass Festival's 2017 production of Handel's
23 Aug 2017

Glimmerglass: Too Much to Handel?

A funny thing happened on the way to Glimmerglass Festival’s stylish Xerxes.

Glimmerglass: Too Much to Handel?

A review by James Sohre

Above: John Holiday as Xerxes

Photos © Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival

 

Someone seemed to have lost about thirty minutes of music.

That does not mean the production was not exceedingly enjoyable. It most certainly was. But for Handel purists this opus may have seemed more like heavy hors d’oeuvres than a hearty main course. I am far from being a Xerxes scholar but as my seat mate said at intermission, “I enjoyed the A sections, but kept waiting for the B-A to follow.” Na, ja, I will stop talking about what I “think“ wasn’t there and focus very agreeably on what was.

Tazewell Thompson has directed the proceedings with invention, dimension and great attention to detail. Mr. Thompson finds wonderful variety in the interaction of his colorful characters, and moves the cast around with purpose and motivation. He has fostered an impetuous spontaneity in crackling confrontations, and invested more introspective musing with a brooding serenity. And it must said, he coaxed Arsamenes and Romilda into some pretty uninhibited smooching. Tazewell has been well served by his design team in creating a majestic sweep, and providing engaging visual interest that enlivened what could have been a static event.

KarliCadel-GGF17-Xerxes-GeneralDress-2018.pngKatrina Galka as Atalanta and Emily Pogorelc as Romilda

Set designer John Conklin has fashioned a modular concept of changeable beauty, constantly morphing configurations of floating, slightly raked platforms that are decorated with Pollock-like swirls and colors. Angled, disjointed hanging flats with architectural details in relief vie for position in Mr. Conklin’s settings, and he has anchored the whole with a floating, silver tree of life symbol. This crafty image first transforms into a piece of jealous iconography with blood red roots, then makes a cheeky commentary when it next appears, as completely upended as are Xerxes’ love relationships. The totality of his design look is underscored with popping, fire red accents of platform edges, stairs, or picture frames.

Sara Jean Tosetti has provided a truly sumptuous costume design, her lavish attire not only delighting the eye, but also tellingly defining the characters. With his accomplished lighting, Robert Wierzel was another conspicuous conspirator in the design team’s accomplishment with a sensitive, fine tuned plot of color washes and precisely calculated specials. I must also acknowledge that make-up and hair designers J. Jared Janas and Dave Bova provided another effective ‘look’ as they did for the entire Festival.

Conductor Nicole Paiement led a pulsating account of the score, brimming with inner rhythmic life and a good variety of appealing colors. Maestra Paiement found a captivating humanity in the score and inspired her accomplished soloists in turn to sensitive and propulsive vocalizing. The accommodating orchestra could not have been bettered with especial kudos reserved for the “Team Xerxes Continuo”: Katherine Kozak (Harpsichord), Ruth Berry (Baroque cello), Michael Leopold (theorbo, Baroque guitar), and Spencer F. Phillips (bassoon).

KarliCadel-GGF17-Xerxes-StageOrch-1255.pngEmily Pogorelc as Romilda and John Holiday as Xerxes

Counter tenor John Holiday, Jr. keeps going from strength to strength. Mr. Holiday was every bit the titular star the evening required, not only singing with haunting, piercing beauty, but also looking every inch the heroic persona. John’s handsome presence and resplendent vocalizing added up to a memorable achievement. The excitable and exciting Allegra de Vita gave him powerful chase with her fiercely sung Arsamenes. Ms. De Vita was adept at hurling out vigorous phrases replete with well-modulated coloratura, as well as possessing the skill to gently caress deeply felt legato passages.

Emily Polgorelc found a tragic nobility in Romilda and her elegant, poised vocal impersonation was an aural delight. As the sassy Atalanta, Katrina Galka regaled us with a fusillade of soprano pyrotechnics, her stylish, flexible soprano ringing out with aplomb. Bass Calvin Griffin was a sprightly Elviro possessed of charming vocal and theatrical gifts. Abigail Dock offered an empathetic, fluidly sung Amastris, her characterization enhanced by a most winning stage presence. Brent Michael Smith was the stalwart, solidly voiced Ariodates.

Maestra Paiement provided insightful program notes that informed us Handel deliberately eschewed the da capo format with some of the set pieces. Still, it often felt like something might be missing. Hey though, how often do I get to say that a Handel opera actually left me wanting more?

In the end, this exhilarating Xerxes was a summer delight so entertaining that it was over too soon.

James Sohre


Cast and production information:

Xerxes: John Holiday, Jr.; Arsamenes: Allegra de Vita; Elviro: Calvin Griffin; Romilda: Emily Polgorelc; Atalanta: Katrina Galka; Amastris: Abigail Dock; Ariodates: Brent Michael Smith; Conductor: Nicole Paiement; Director: Tazewell Thompson; Set Design: John Conklin; Costume Design: Sara Jean Tosetti; Lighting Design: Robert Wierzel; Hair and Make-up Design: J. Jared Janas, Dave Bova; Continuo: Katherine Kozak (Harpsichord), Ruth Berry (Baroque cello), Michael Leopold (theorbo, Baroque guitar), Spencer F. Phillips (bassoon)

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):