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

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Suzan Hanson and Nathan Granner [Photo © Kip Polakoff]
21 Mar 2018

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Moody, Mysterious Morel

A review by James Sohre

Above: Suzan Hanson and Nathan Granner

Photos © Kip Polakoff

 

The piece is composed by Stewart Copeland (co-founder and drummer for The Police) to a libretto he wrote with Jonathon Moore. The surreal tale is based on La invención de Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. Being highly theatrical, the story is anything but linear. Impressions go back and forth in time, blurring reality, fantasy, truth and illusion.

There is a nice suspenseful build to the revelation of the exactnature of Morel’s “invention.” Character relationships are Pinteresque in their blurred details. Dr. Morel and his guests are on an island having an outing of some sort. Or are they really? A Fugitive happens upon the island from “somewhere.” Or has he? The Narrator figure is actually the Fugitive observing himself as he comments on the disordered episodes his doppelgänger experiences in real time. Got that? Or is it all in his head? Or ours? The creators turn time and space on their heads in this puzzling yet satisfying magical mystery tour.

image[8].pngNathan Granner and Jamie Chamberlin

LBO was blessed with a superlatively talented cast. As the mirror image, co-dependent Fugitive and Narrator, baritones Andrew Wilkowske and Lee Gregory were uniformly superb. Mr. Wilkowske has a buzzy, commanding sound and he invests his interpretation alternately with a tormented heat and touching vulnerability that make his character very sympathetic. Mr. Gregory manages the feat of commenting powerfully and cogently on the actions even as he is forced to relive unutterably painful moments over and over again. Lee’s overwhelming, highly polished, emotion laden vocalizing was one of the production’s great glories.

As the Eternal Feminine character Faustine, Jamie Chamberlin offered some astonishingly limpid and secure singing, her shimmering soprano gleaming in all register and volumes. Ms. Chamberlin conquered al the demands of this rangy role, offering some jaw-dropping forays above the staff. Nathan Granner was a revelation as Dr. Morel, lavishing his every phrase with an effortlessly produced lyric tenor that had substantial, gold-infused weight. Mr. Granner was fearlessly accurate in his easy execution of passages lying so high they threatened to live where only dogs can hear.

As the guests “along for the ride” in this surreal happening, Cedric Berry was a solid, suave, warm-voiced Stoever; Doug Jones clearly relished his sturdy double duty as Alec and Ombrellieri; Suzan Hanson was an alluring, silver-toned Dora; and Danielle Marcelle Bond deployed her rich, plummy mezzo to fine effect as the Duchess.

Jonathon Moore directed a wonderfully varied, purposefully spare, exquisitely stylized production. The total use of the space, the dropped hints of the character identities, the inexorable path to a cataclysmic denouement, all were beautifully realized. While each of the performers made the roles their own, Mr. Moore’s greatest gift may have been in forging an ensemble that was tireless in its unified purpose. The director was certainly aided mightily by the design team.

Alan E. Muraoka’s set design consisted of a large platform placed in the middle of a thrust configuration, capable of being under lit, over lit and every sort of “lit” by David Jacques, whose lighting was a wondrous mix of overall atmospheric washes, variegated colors, and telling specials. Back to Mr. Muraoka, his stylized upstage hanging suggested a skeletal seaside colonnade, and I enjoyed the mid stage platform that rose and fell to become, among other things, a dining table. The careful selection of simple set pieces that could be added or subtracted by a commendable corps of supers was all that was needed to make the effects required.

The highly effective video design from Adam Flemming did yeoman’s work in effectively establishing the mood and clarifying the action. Jenny Mannis’ diverse costumes encompassed both distressed peasant wear and wealthy chic with equal success. Bob Christian’s reliable sound design was occasionally a bit too “present.”

image[13].pngDoug Jones, Danielle Marcelle Bond, and Suzan Hanson

Conductor Andreas Mitisek led an assured reading of this knotty score, and his orchestra, sequestered stage right played with enthusiasm and commitment. Maestro clearly believes in this (and other) new work, and his dedicated leadership invested the evening’s music making with passion and clarity. So, what about the work itself?

If you like your opera tuneful and lush, you will probably find yourself at the wrong address. Mr. Copeland seems to relish rhythmic motifs more than lyric motifs, although they do occur. Vocal writing is most often suitably angular. The churning, forward musical motion rarely relaxes, but it is quite fascinating in its insistence. There are indeed also moments of serene, layered, ethereal repose that are all the more effective for the aural chaos that precedes them.

The percussive effects are many, and occasionally obscure the singing, and pretty much the rest of the orchestra. A bit of restraint in the “thunder and lightning” would likely benefit the overall result. Perhaps Maestro Mitisek could impose some volume control in coming performances. I do wish that Faustine had been given an entrance arioso to help establish her magnetism that is so important to the story thread.

That said, there is no doubt that the writing admirably serves the script in weaving an absorbing look into a specific, inscrutable tale that was staged with utmost care and dedication. While this piece may never bump your favorite Puccini off the play list, it is an important and intriguing new work that deserves attention.

James Sohre


Cast and production information:

The Invention of Morel
Music by Stewart Copeland
Libretto by Jonathan Moore and Stewart Copeland
Based on La invención de Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

Fugitive: Andrew Wilkowske; Narrator: Lee Gregory; Faustine: Jamie Chamberlin; Morel: Nathan Granner; Stoever: Cedric Berry; Alec/Ombrellieri: Doug Jones; Dora: Suzan Hanson; Duchess: Danielle Marcelle Bond; Conductor: Andreas Mitisek; Director: Jonathan Moore; Set Design Alan E. Muraoka; Lighting Design: David Jacques; Video Design: Adam Flemming; Costume Design: Jenny Mannis; Sound Design: Bob Christian

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):