Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Vaughan Williams Dona nobis pacem - BBC Prom 41

Prom 41 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with Edward Gardner conducting the BBCSO in Vaughan Williams's Dona nobis pacem, Elgar's Cello Concerto (Jean-Guihen Queyras) and Lili Boulanger . Extremely perceptive performances that revealed deep insight, far more profound than the ostensible "1918" theme

John Wilson brings Broadway to South Kensington: West Side Story at the BBC Proms

There were two, equal ‘stars’ of this performance of the authorised concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story at the Royal Albert Hall: ‘Lenny’ himself, whose vibrant score - by turns glossy and edgy - truly shone, and conductor John Wilson, who made it gleam, and who made us listen afresh and intently to every coloristic detail and toe-tapping, twisting rhythm.

Prom 36: Webern, Mahler, and Wagner

One of the joys of writing regularly – sometimes, just sometimes, I think too regularly – about performance has been the transformation, both conscious and unconscious, of my scholarship.

Prom 33: Thea Musgrave, Phoenix Rising, and Johannes Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem, op.45

I am not sure I could find much of a connection between the two works on offer here. They offered ‘contrast’ of a sort, I suppose, yet not in a meaningful way such as I could discern.

Gianni Schicchi by Oberlin in Italy

It’s an all too rare pleasure to see Puccini’s only comedy as a stand alone opera. And more so when it is a careful production that uncovers the all too often overlooked musical and dramatic subtleties that abound in Puccini’s last opera.

Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton journey through the night at Cadogan Hall

The mood in the city is certainly soporific at the moment, as the blistering summer heat takes its toll and the thermometer shows no signs of falling. Fittingly, mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly and pianist Joseph Middleton presented a recital of English song settings united by the poetic themes of night, sleep, dreams and nightmares, juxtaposing masterpieces of the early-twentieth-century alongside new works by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Australian composer Lisa Illean, and two ‘long-lost’ songs by Britten.

Vanessa: Keith Warner's Glyndebourne production exposes truths and tragedies

“His child! It must not be born!” Keith Warner’s new production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for Glyndebourne Festival Opera makes two births, one intimated, the other aborted, the driving force of the tragedy which consumes two women, Vanessa and her niece Erika, rivals for the same young man, Anatol, son of Vanessa’s former lover.

Rollicking Rossini in Santa Fe

Santa Fe Opera welcomed home a winningly animated production of L’Italiana in Algeri this season that utterly delighted a vociferously responsive audience.

Rock solid Strauss Salomé- Salzburg

Richard Strauss Salomé from the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, a powerful interpretation of an opera which defies easy answers, performed and produced with such distinction thast it suceeds on every level. The words "Te saxa Loquuntur" (The stones are speaking to you) are projected onto the stage. Salzburg regulars will recognize this as a reference to the rock foundations on which part of the city is built, and the traditions of excellence the Festival represents. In this opera, the characters talk at cross-purposes, hearing without understanding. The phrase suggests that what might not be explicitly spoken might have much to reveal.

Prom 26: Dido and Cleopatra – Queens of Fascination

In this, her Proms debut, Anna Prohaska offered something akin to a cantata of two queens, complementary and contrasted: Dido and Cleopatra. Returning in a sense to her ‘early music’ roots – her career has always been far richer, more varied, but that world has always played an important part – she collaborated with the Italian ‘period’ ensemble, Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini.

Parsifal: Munich Opera Festival

And so, this year’s Munich Opera Festival and this year’s Bavarian State Opera season came to a close with everyone’s favourite Bühnenweihfestspiel, Parsifal, in the final outing this time around for Pierre Audi’s new production.

Santa Fe: Atomic Doesn’t Quite Ignite

What more could we want than having Peter Sellars re-imagine his acclaimed staging of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic at the renowned Santa Fe Opera festival?

Santa Fe: Continuing a Proud Strauss Tradition

Santa Fe Opera has an enduring reputation for its Strauss, and this season’s enjoyable Ariadne auf Naxos surely made John Crosby smile proudly.

From the House of the Dead: Munich Opera Festival

Frank Castorf might have been born to direct From the House of the Dead. In this, his third opera project - or better, his third opera project in the opera house, for his Volksbühne Meistersinger must surely be reckoned with, even by those of us who did not see it - many of his hallmarks and those of his team are present, yet without the slightest hint of staleness, of anything other than being reborn for and in the work.

Haydn's Orlando Paladino in Munich

Should you not like eighteenth-century opera very much, if at all, and should you have no or little interest in Haydn either, this may have been the production for you. The fundamental premise of Axel Ranisch’s staging of Orlando Paladino seems to have been that this was a work of little fundamental merit, or at least a work in a genre of little such merit, and that it needed the help of a modern medium - perhaps, it might even be claimed, an equivalent medium - to speak to a contemporary audience.

Donizetti's 'Regiment' Ride the Highway: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

'The score … is precisely one of those works that neither the composer nor the public takes seriously. The harmony, melody, rhythmic effects, instrumental and vocal combinations; it’s music, if you wish, but not new music. The orchestra consumes itself in useless noises…'

Bernstein Bemuses in New Mexico

Santa Fe Opera’s Candide is a nearly indefatigable romp that is currently parading on the Crosby Theatre stage, chockfull of inventive ideas.

Santa Fe Floats a Beauteous Butterfly

Two new stars moved triumphantly into the ongoing run of Santa Fe Opera’s mesmerizing rendition of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

Götterdämmerung in Munich

What I am about to write must be taken with the proviso that I have not seen, this year or any other, the rest of Andreas Kriegenburg’s Munich Ring. Friends tell me that would have made little difference, yet I cannot know for certain.

A celebration of Parry at the BBC Proms

For Prom 17, Martyn Brabbins, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC National Chorus of Wales brought together English music written either side of the First World War.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Christopher Cano and Jennifer Johnson Cano. [Photo by Lisa Mazzucco]
21 Jan 2018

Tucson Desert Song Festival Presents Artists from the Met and Arizona Opera

The Tucson Desert Song Festival consists of three weekends of vocal music in orchestral, chamber, choral, and solo formats along with related lectures and master classes.

Tucson Desert Song Festival

A recital by Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano, and Christopher Cano, piano

Above: Christopher Cano and Jennifer Johnson Cano. [Photo by Lisa Mazzucco]

 

Held at the University of Arizona, artists and patrons also enjoy in the warm Sonoran Desert climate where flowers bloom in January and February. The festival’s sixth year features a celebration of the life and music of Leonard Bernstein who would have been one hundred years old in 2018.

On January 17, the festival presented a recital by Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano and collaborative pianist Christopher Cano who is Head of Music and Director of the Marion Roose Pullin Opera Studio at Arizona Opera. Upon entering, the audience was greeted with a wonderfully well organized program that included song texts in the original languages and excellent English translations by the singer herself. Also the lights were never too low for members of the audience to read translations as Jennifer Cano sang them.

The Canos opened their program with three selections from Joseph Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne: “L’Antouéno” (“Anthony”), “La delaïssádo” (The Deserted Girl”), and “Lou Coucut” (“The Cuckoo”). Cantaloube’s collection is made up folk songs from the Auvergne region of France that he arranged for voice and orchestra between 1923 and 1930. The songs are sung in Occitan, (also known as Provençal or Languedoc). Occitan speakers communicate officially in French, but they still use the dialect for local purposes.

Clad in black silk trimmed with lace, in the first song, russet haired Jennifer Cano charmed “Anthony” into taking her to the fair. She sings of getting a cow but will only let him have its horns. Then she made us commiserate with the sad young girl whose lover never comes to meet her. The evening star finds “The Deserted Girl” in a place so many of us have been, alone in the dark of night. “The Cuckoo” drew us out of the sad mood with its cheery song, however, even though we had to imagine him singing in the cooler forests of France. Christopher Cano’s virtuosity had been evident during each of these pieces. He brought out sonorities not always heard in a piano accompaniment and his articulation was comparable to many of the finest solo pianists. This was one of the rare vocal recitals where it was important to sit on the keyboard side of the house.

For their second group the Canos’ performed Antonín Dvořák’s Ziguenerlieder (“Gypsy Songs”), a set of seven songs set to texts by Czech poet Adolph Heyduk. Heyduk translated some of his poems into German so Dvořák could set them to music for popular Vienna Opera tenor Gustav Walter. For many people of European extraction, these songs bring back memories of childhood. "Als die alte Mutter" (“Songs My Mother Taught Me”) could frequently be heard not only in Prague and Vienna but in many American cities during the years following World War II. It was a treat to hear it sung by members of a new generation who carefully detailed all its hidden meanings.

The Canos’ idiomatic rendition of Manuel de Falla’s 1914 composition, Siete Canciones Populares Españolas (“Seven Popular Spanish Songs”) concluded the first half of the program. De Falla composed some songs in styles representing particular areas of Spain such as Murcia and Asturias. Other songs tell of the vagaries of love. The Canos presented each piece as a precious jewel in an individual setting. I particularly loved the beautifully expressed meanings, both sung and unsung, in the “Jota,” a dance from Aragon.

After the intermission, the Canos presented songs in English by Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and Jonathan Dove. In 1935, when Barber won the Prix de Rome, he composed music for three poems about love and lovers from James Joyce’s 1907 Chamber Music. In each, Barber allows his music to follow the poetic speech pattern. The first and last songs of the low voice edition are in the key of A minor while the middle song is a minor third lower. Sung and played by the Canos, they dazzled listeners with a kaleidoscope of gorgeous sound colors.

Three Songs from West Side Story with texts by Stephen Sondheim have increased meaning when we contemplate them as a memorial to a great composer. With “One Hand One Heart” the artists spoke of unity. Onstage there was complete unity of singer and pianist during the entire evening. Christopher and Jennifer Cano seemed to breathe together and each was able to anticipate the other’s moves. In “Somewhere” they expressed common longing for a place that could appreciate people who care and create. In the less familiar “I Have a Love” they spoke of love as the most important aspect of life.

London born Jonathan Dove has composed opera, choral works, plays, films, chamber and orchestral music. Over the years he has arranged a number of operas for British companies. Three Tennyson Songs is a short song cycle composed in 2011 for Canadian baritone Philippe Sly. In it the poet first sends a swallow to tell his lady of his love. Day breaks upon a still wakeful lover and “The Sailor-Boy” obeys his unquenchable desire to spend his life riding the high seas.

Although the nearest bay is a hundred miles away, the Canos brought its beauty and its thrill to the desert with their ability to project musical images into the minds of their audience. When they finished presenting these songs, there was a great thunder of applause from this excellent audience, which only applauded at the end of each group. After several forays before the curtain they gave their single encore: John Jacob Niles’ "Go 'Way From My Window," and the audience departed slowly with tunes from this excellent recital still running around in their brains.

Maria Nockin


Program:

Joseph Cantaloube, Selections from Chants d’Auvergne; Antonín Dvořák, Gypsy Songs; Manuel deFalla, Siete Canciones Populares Españolas; Samuel Barber, Three Songs, Op 10; Leonard Bernstein, Three Songs from West Side Story; Jonathan Dove, Three Tennyson Songs.

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):