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

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

The Gardeners: a new opera by Robert Hugill

‘When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot,/ Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,/ And flowers will shine in this now barren plot/ And fame upon it through the years descend:/ But many a heart upon each simple cross/ Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.’

Richard Jones's Boris Godunov returns to Covent Garden

There are never any real surprises with a Richard Jones production and Covent Garden’s Boris Godunov, first seen in 2016, is typical of Jones’s approach: it’s boxy, it’s ascetic, it’s over-bright, with minimalism turned a touch psychedelic in the visuals.

An enchanting Hansel and Gretel at Regent's Park Theatre

If you go out in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. And, it will be no picnic! For, deep in the broomstick forest that director Timothy Sheader and designer Peter McKintosh have planted on the revolving stage at Regent’s Park Theatre is a veritable Witches’ Training School.

First staged production of Offenbach's Fantasio at Garsington

Offenbach's Fantasio is one of the works where, replacing the mad-cap satire of his earlier operettas with a more romantic melancholy, he paved the way for Les contes d'Hoffmann. Unpopular during his lifetime, Fantasio disappeared and only work by the musicologist Jean-Christophe Keck brought the score together again.

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):