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

Matthias Goerne and Seong-Jin Cho at Wigmore Hall

Is it possible, I wonder, to have too much of a ‘good thing’? Baritone Matthias Goerne can spin an extended vocal line and float a lyrical pianissimo with an unrivalled beauty that astonishes no matter how many times one hears and admires the evenness of line, the controlled legato, the tenderness of tone.

Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis

Madness - or perhaps, more widely, insanity - in opera goes back centuries. In Handel’s Orlando (1733) it’s the dimension of a character’s jealousy and betrayal that drives him to the state of delusion and madness. Mozart, in Idomeneo, treats Electra’s descent into mania in a more hostile and despairing way. Foucault would probably define these episodic operatic breakdowns as “melancholic”, ones in which the characters are powerless rather than driven by acts of personal violence or suicide.

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

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):