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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

27 Apr 2018

Angel Blue in La Traviata

One of the most beloved operas of all time, Verdi’s “ La Traviata” has never lost its enduring appeal as a tragic tale of love and loss, as potent today as it was during its Venice premiere in 1853.

Angel Blue in La Traviata

A review by Holly Harris

Above: Angel Blue as Violetta

Photos by R. Tinker

 

However rising American superstar soprano Angel Blue, notably marking her Canadian debut with Manitoba Opera from April 14th -20 th, 2018 also ensured that the timeless classic became a lesson in nobility and grace even against the dying of the light, as witnessed through the lens of her ill-fated heroine Violetta.

The 45-year old company closed its season with Giuseppe Verdi’s three-act masterpiece sung in Italian (with English surtitles), based on Francesco Maria Piave’s libretto, in turn inspired by Alexandre Dumas's play, La Dame aux Camélias. MO principal conductor Tyrone Paterson led the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra throughout the 19 th century composer’s iconic score with aplomb.

Last staged here in 2008, the 170-minute show (including two intermissions) directed by Montreal’s Alain Gauthier (MO debut) is notably the first offering co-produced by a consortium of five Canadian opera companies, including: MO, Edmonton Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Vancouver Opera and L’Opéra de Montréal, with the (mostly) re-cast production slated for each of the five respective cities throughout next season.

MB-Opera,-La-Traviata,-Angel-Blue-(Violetta),-2018,-Photo---R.-Tinker.png

Typically set in the 1850s, this particular staging transports the story to 1920s Paris, with Violetta’s character, originally a courtesan dying of consumption, a.k.a. tuberculosis, inspired by real-life American cabaret dancer Josephine Baker, whose risqué performances lit up the “City of Light” during the Roaring Twenties.

However in the end, this noble premise ultimately becomes a moot point (albeit the decadent, art-deco sets and fringed flapper costumes created by Christina Poddubiuk, and built by Edmonton Opera and Pacific Opera Victoria, respectively, provide serious eye candy). Any allusion to Baker quickly slips away, with the Los Angeles-born Blue, a protégé of Placido Domingo praised by the New York Times as “the clear star” during her Metropolitan Opera debut as Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème last September (and also sings the lead character with Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company in April 2019), and performs Violetta during her Royal Opera House Covent Garden premiere in January 2019, firmly stamping this role as her own.

Her luscious vocals were immediately apparent as she made her first grand entrance down the sweeping, wrought iron staircase, bathing the ear in shimmering beauty while always perfectly controlled and consistent throughout her expansive range, including her knack for shading her uppermost notes to a barely-there pianissimo.

But Blue’s vocal gifts are matched equally by her innate acting skills, with her nuanced portrayal seemingly growing more luminous with each passing scene. She begins her emotional trajectory as a bon vivant who gaily sings of life’s pleasures, morphing before our eyes into a woman of honour who sacrifices her own happiness in the name of love.

MB-Opera,-La-Traviata,-2018,-Photo---R.-Tinker.png

Her delivery of opera’s quintessential ode to freedom, “ Sempre Libera” nearly stopped the show with her character growing more defiant, even punctuating her own vocal line by slamming her champagne bottle at one point, that provided fascinating sub-text. She capped her aria with an enthralling final high E-flat; made even more astounding when delivered lying nearly horizontal on her velvety chaise longue while swilling bubbly.

Another highlight – of many – came during Act III, in which her Violetta grows increasingly desperate as death whispers at the door. Her heartrending “Addio del passato,” sung while tenderly cradling her former cabaret bustier like a babe in arms, followed by a deeply moving duet “Partigi, o cara” sung with Newfoundland-born tenor Adam Luther’s Alfredo elicited sobs in the opening audience, as further testament of her empathic compassion for her character.

Luther in his MO debut also possesses magnetic stage power, as dashing as a matinée idol unafraid to dig into his role, crafted as a passionate hothead in love with Violetta. He also proved a real-life hero for soldiering on despite being under the weather on opening night (as announced from the stage after the first intermission), that nonetheless played havoc in his upper range during Act II’s “ De' miei bollenti spiriti...O mio rimorso,” and did not allow him to fully project at all times.

Despite these challenges, Luther still displayed buttery smooth phrasing in Act I’s “Un dì, felice, eterea" sung with Blue including ringing high notes, and it’s a credit to his artistry he can still sound so good when not at his vocal best. And in a curious, “life-imitates-art way,” his subdued vocals mirrored the dying Violetta’s faltering utterances, viscerally bonding their characters as organically, simpatico lovers.

Another standout proved to be Canadian baritone James Westman as Alfredo’s father Germont, with his booming voice immediately establishing his imperious character during Act II’s “ Di Provenza il mar, il suol,” as well as showcasing his resonant, expressive vocals. He then proceeded to peel back the emotional onion layers of his character, showing us he is not a villain, but hapless victim of societal norms and expectations, until finally wracked by remorse at the end as he realizes Violetta’s inner goodness.

The all-Canadian cast – save for Blue – also included Violetta’s faithful dresser Annina sung by mezzo-soprano Shannon Unger (MO debut), who made every moment of her relatively brief stage time count, as did tenor Michael Barrett’s Gastone and baritone Andrew Love’s eye-patched Baron Douphol, who squires Violetta to Flora (mezzo-soprano Barbara King, MO debut), and the Marquis d’Obigny’s (baritone Howard Rempel) party.

It’s a joy to see Winnipeg baritone David Watson back onstage – this time as Doctor Grenvil - who always adds gravitas whether performing comedic or tragic fare.

The 40-member Manitoba Opera Chorus proved in its usual fine fettle, prepared by chorus master Tadeusz Biernacki notably celebrating his 35th year with MO, including their rousing opening number, “ Libiamo ne’lieti calici,” popularly known as “The Drinking Song” sung with gusto.

Several curious directorial choices included having the female chorus members, garbed in their flapper finery, performing unison choreography that evoked more a country line-dance hootenanny than free-spirited gypsy twirls during Flora’s party scene. The women’s subsequent donning of bullhorns to their male counterparts’ puffed-up, machismo matadors (wearing crisp tuxedos) also just felt plain bizarre – with any presumed parallels attempted to being made between gay Parisian nightlife and life-and-death bullrings lost in translation. Designer Kevin Lamotte’s unusually dim lighting during this scene helped mitigate the oddness of it all, and once we got past this section, proved highly effective, including several stunning, stylized lighting effects highlighting Blue and her series of white costumes visually underscoring her character’s purity of heart.

Just as there is inherent risk involved when offering edgy new contemporary operas – and this company has been there, done that – there’s also peril when producing an audience-pleasing favourite that can teeter towards predictability. This production happily marries a fresh take with a more traditional approach, but in the end, it is Blue’s show – surely one of this generation’s great opera artists in the making - with Winnipeggers now able to proudly boast, “I saw her when.”

As expected, the artists received a standing ovation with loud cries of bravo and prolonged applause by the clearly moved crowd.

Holly Harris

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):