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 Reviews

Irish soprano Paula Murrihy on Salzburg, Sellars and Singing

For Peter Sellars, Mozart’s Idomeneo is a ‘visionary’ work, a utopian opera centred on a classic struggle between a father and a son written by an angry 25-year-old composer who wanted to show the musical establishment what a new generation could do.

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.

Rusalka in San Francisco

It must be a dream. Though really it is a nightmare. The water sprite Rusalka tortures herself if she is telling the story, or tortures the man who has imagined her if he is telling the story. Either way the bizarrely construed confusion of Czech fairy tales has no easily apparent meaning or message.

Orlando in San Francisco

George Frederic Handel was both victim and survivor of the San Francisco Opera’s Orlando seen last night on the War Memorial stage.

Anthony Negus conducts Das Rheingold at Longborough

There are those in England who decorate their front lawns with ever-smiling garden gnomes, but in rural Gloucestershire the Graham family has gone one better; their converted barn is inhabited, not by diminutive porcelain figures, but fantasy creatures of Norse mythology - dwarves, giants and gods.

Carmen in San Francisco

A razzle-dazzle, bloodless Carmen at the War Memorial, further revival of Francesca Zambello’s 2006 Covent Garden production already franchised to Oslo, Sidney and Washington, D.C.

Weimar Berlin - Bittersweet Metropolis: Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra

Strictly speaking, The Weimar Republic began on 11th August 1919 when the Weimar Constitution was announced and ended with the Enabling Act of 23rd March 1933 when all power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag was disbanded.

A superb Un ballo in maschera at Investec Opera Holland Park

Investec Opera Holland Park’s brilliantly cast new production of Un ballo in maschera reunites several of the creative team from last year’s terrific La traviata, with director Rodula Gaitanou, conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren and lighting designer Simon Corder being joined by the designer, takis.

A Classy Figaro at The Grange Festival

Where better than The Grange’s magnificent grounds to present Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Hampshire’s neo-classical mansion, with its aristocratic connections and home to The Grange Festival, is the perfect setting to explore 18th century class structures as outlined in Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto.

A satisfying Don Carlo opens Grange Park Opera 2019

Grange Park Opera opened its 2019 season with a revival of Jo Davies fine production of Verdi's Don Carlo, one of the last (and finest) productions in the company's old home in Hampshire.

Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, 2019

The first woman composer to receive the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize could not have been a worthier candidate.

Josquin des Prez and His Legacy: Cinquecento at Wigmore Hall

The renown and repute of Josquin des Prez (c.1450-1521) both during his lifetime and in the years following his death was so extensive and profound that many works by his contemporaries, working in Northern France and the Low Countries, were mis-attributed to him. One such was the six-part Requiem by Jean Richafort (c.1480-c.1550) which formed the heart of this poised concert by the vocal ensemble Cinquecento at Wigmore Hall, in which they gave pride of place to Josquin’s peers and successors and, in the final item, an esteemed forbear.

Symphonie fantastique and Lélio United – F X Roth and Les Siècles, Paris

Symphonie fantastique and Lélio together, as they should be, with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles livestreamed from the Philharmonie de Paris (link below). Though Symphonie fantastique is heard everywhere, all the time, it makes a difference when paired with Lélio because this restores Berlioz’s original context.

Ivo van Hove's The Diary of One Who Disappeared at the Linbury Theatre

In 1917 Leoš Janáček travelled to Luhačovice, a spa town in the Zlín Region of Moravia, and it was here that he met for the first time Kamila Stösslová, the young married woman, almost 40 years his junior, who was to be his muse for the remaining years of his life.

Manon Lescaut opens Investec Opera Holland Park's 2019 season

At this end of this performance of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at Investec Opera Holland Park, the first question I wanted to ask director Karolina Sofulak was, why the 1960s?

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Cosmic traveling through his Klavierstücke, Kontakte and Stimmung

Stockhausen. Cosmic Prophet. Two sequential concerts. Music written for piano, percussion, sound diffusion and the voice. We are in the mysterious labyrinth of one of the defining composers of the last century. That at least ninety-minutes of one of these concerts proved to be an event of such magnitude is as much down to the astonishing music Stockhausen composed as it is to the peerless brilliance of the pianist who took us on the journey through the Klavierstücke. Put another way, in more than thirty years of hearing some of the greatest artists for this instrument - Pollini, Sokolov, Zimerman, Richter - this was a feat that has almost no parallels.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

18 Feb 2018

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

San Jose Dutchman Treat

A review by James Sohre

Above: Noel Bouley as the Dutchman [All photos copyright Pat Kirk, courtesy of Opera San Jose].

 

First, the company has chosen to tell the story and serve the composition, rather than impose a concept and serve themselves. It was a “first” for me to ever see real spinning wheels in the spinning scene! No kidding. I have seen, oh, let’s see, Senta in a spinning class at a fitness center, ladies spinning ship’s helms, and ladies just spinning themselves in circles. What a breath of fresh (sea) air to see such a beautifully straightforward rendering of Wagner’s intentions. That is not to say there wasn’t plenty of vibrant creativity on display.

Steven C. Kemp has designed a setting that is effectively modular, all the while framing it in a handsome fixed unit. An imposing upstage wall is flanked by angled walls stage left and right, all richly textured with planking. That wooden look, suggestive of a ship’s deck is carried over to the stage floor, this entire construction forming a sort of reflective shell that greatly enhanced the acoustic.

Dutchman_SanJose1.pngGustav Andreassen as Daland

Walls can fly and retract, allowing for the addition of other scenic elements: the upstage row of windows in the spinning room, Daland’s merchant ship down right, rustic tables and benches for the revelry in the final scene. That this simplicity worked so well owes a great debt to the sumptuous, variegated lighting design by David Lee Cuthbert and especially the superlative projection design by Ian Wallace.

Wagner often envisioned stage effects without workable ideas to execute them, and in this case a spectral ship with ghostly, singing passengers must appear on cue; Senta must sacrifice her life with a suicidal leap into the roiling sea; and the Dutchman’s redemption must be visualized. It is to this talented team’s credit, that all of these challenges were persuasively met with uncommonly apt choices. If Wagner had know technical possibilities like this could be achieved, he would have undoubtedly come up with even more brainstorms!

Johann Stegmeir has provided a splendid array of costumes that were homey, comfortable, and definitive of their character’s stations in life. The pleasing silhouette of Senta’s lovely gown was matched by the effectiveness of its rich blue sheen. The folk nature of the chorus attire allowed Mr. Steigmeier to indulge in some careful use of color. Conversely, he applied more austerity to the Dutchman’s look, managing to make him look mysteriously appealing, without becoming grotesquely sinister. As always Christina Martin’s wig and make-up design was so “right” that we almost take it for granted.

Joseph Marcheso drew wondrous playing from his orchestra, with the banks of strings luxuriating in the lush writing. The winds were similarly characterful and stylistically secure. The brass provided exciting accents, with the horns nailing the familiar opening statement of the overture. Maestro Marcheso paced the evening with skill and obvious enjoyment and he drew impressive results that the most celebrated houses would take pride in. He also proved to be a highly capable partner with a cadre of exciting vocalists.

If this performance is any evidence, bass-baritone Noah Bouley is a rising star that seems poised to become the next Dutchman “of choice.” There is nothing about the taxing role that eludes him. Mr. Bouley has a robust, rolling tone that is well-supported and responsive to his every interpretive nuance. His rich vocalizing and well-considered musical journey resulted in a potent, cathartic performance.

Dutchman_SanJose3.pngKerriann Otaño as Senta

Kerriann Otaño’s engaging, rich soprano has the heft and beauty that makes hers a memorable Senta. Just listen to the variety of color she brings to her opening aria, and revel in its specificity and pliability. Ms. Otaño has the technique and musical intelligence to not only limn the introspective moments with ravishing beauty, but also ride the amassed orchestra with thrilling focus and power.

Gustav Andreassen brings a meaty, buzzy bass-baritone to the role of Daland. He is more youthful then some interpreters of this paternal role, but the sheer power of his utterance and the mellifluous tonal production fell gratefully on the ear. Derek Taylor was a splendid Erik, his steely, substantial tenor filling the house with poised phrasings.

Fresh-voiced Mason Gates successfully brought his well-schooled tenor and youthful exuberance to the role of the Steersman, and he made the most of his featured solos. The role of Mary is often doled out to veteran singers in their twilight years (Astrid Varnay, anyone?). Not so in San Jose. Nicole Birkland was easily the most impressive Mary I have yet heard, her prime, plummy mezzo filling the California Theatre with warm, expressive sound. Andrew Whitfield’s precise, robust chorus covered themselves in glory, easily giving the best performance I have ever heard from this talented ensemble.

In another first for me, San Jose performed the work in three acts, rather than the usual one long act that has been my experience. Well, sort of. While the first act had a proper intermission, and while the act curtain rang down after act two, the last two acts did nonetheless utilize the musical bridge that connects the last two thirds of the piece.

All that being said, there is no denying that Opera San Jose has presented a Flying Dutchman of such accomplishment that it could put itself firmly on the map for Wagner enthusiasts. Wunderbar!

James Sohre


Cast and production information:

Steersman: Mason Gates; Daland: Gustav Andreassen; The Dutchman: Noel Bouley; Senta: Kerriann Otaño; Mary: Nicole Birkland; Erik: Derek Taylor; Conductor: Joseph Marcheso; Director: Brad Dalton; Set Design: Steven C. Kemp; Costume Design: Johann Stegmeir; Lighting Design: David Lee Cuthbert; Projection Design: Ian Wallace; Wig and Make-up Design: Christina Martin; Chorus Master: Andrew Whitfield

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):