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

Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 opens with Annilese Miskimmon's Madama Butterfly

As the bells rang with romance from the tower of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the rolling downs of Sussex - which had just acquired a new Duke - echoed with the strains of a rather more bitter-sweet cross-cultural love affair. Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s 2018 season opened with Annilese Miskimmon’s production of Madama Butterfly, first seen during the 2016 Glyndebourne tour and now making its first visit to the main house.

Remembering Debussy

This concert might have been re-titled Remembrance of Musical Times Past: the time, that is, when French song, nurtured in the Proustian Parisian salons, began to gain a foothold in public concert halls. But, the madeleine didn’t quite work its magic on this occasion.

A chiaroscuro Orfeo from Iestyn Davies and La Nuova Musica

‘I sought to restrict the music to its true purpose of serving to give expression to the poetry and to strengthen the dramatic situations, without interrupting the action or hampering it with unnecessary and superfluous ornamentations. […] I believed further that I should devote my greatest effort to seeking to achieve a noble simplicity; and I have avoided parading difficulties at the expense of clarity.’

Lessons in Love and Violence: powerful musical utterances but perplexing dramatic motivations

‘What a thrill -/ My thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone/ Except for a sort of hinge/ Of skin,/ A flap like a hat,/ Dead white. Then that red plush.’ Those who imagined that Sylvia Plath (‘Cut’, 1962) had achieved unassailable aesthetic peaks in fusing pain - mental and physical - with beauty, might think again after seeing and hearing this, the third, collaboration between composer George Benjamin and dramatist/librettist Martin Crimp: Lessons in Love and Violence.

Les Salons de Pauline Viardot: Sabine Devieilhe at Wigmore Hall

Always in demand on French and international stages, the French soprano Sabine Devieihle is, fortunately, becoming an increasingly frequent visitor to these shores. Her first appearance at Wigmore Hall was last month’s performance of works by Handel with Emmanuelle Haïm’s Le Concert d’Astrée. This lunchtime recital, reflecting the meetings of music and minds which took place at Parisian salon of the nineteenth-century mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), was her solo debut at the venue.

Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago is now featuring as its spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar with music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production originated with the Regent’s Park Theatre, London with additional scenery by Bay Productions, U.K. and Commercial Silk International.

Persephone glows with life in Seattle

As a figure in the history of 20th century art, few deserve to be closer to center stage than Ida Rubenbstein. Without her talent, determination, and vast wealth, Ravel’s Boléro, Debussy’s Martyrdom of St. Sebastien, Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, and Stravinsky’s Perséphone would not exist.

La concordia de’ pianeti: Imperial flattery set to Baroque splendor in Amsterdam

One trusts the banquet following the world premiere of La concordia de’ pianeti proffered some spicy flavors, because Pietro Pariati’s text is so cloying it causes violent stomach-churning. In contrast, Antonio Caldara’s music sparkles and dances like a blaze of crystal chandeliers.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final 2018

The 63rd Competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2018 was an unusually ‘home-grown’ affair. Last year’s Final had brought together singers from the UK, the Commonwealth, Europe, the US and beyond, but the six young singers assembled at Wigmore Hall on Friday evening all originated from the UK.

Affecting and Effective Traviata in San Jose

Opera San Jose capped its consistently enjoyable, artistically accomplished 2017-2018 season with a dramatically thoughtful, musically sound rendition of Verdi’s immortal La traviata.

Brahms Liederabend

At his best, Matthias Goerne does serious (ernst) at least as well as anyone else. He may not be everyone’s first choice as Papageno, although what he brings to the role is compelling indeed, quite different from the blithe clowning of some, arguably much closer to its fundamental sadness. (Is that not, after all, what clowns are about?) Yet, individual taste aside, whom would one choose before him to sing Brahms, let alone the Four Serious Songs?

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.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Heath Saunders [Photo © Todd Rosenberg]
03 May 2018

Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago is now featuring as its spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar with music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production originated with the Regent’s Park Theatre, London with additional scenery by Bay Productions, U.K. and Commercial Silk International.

Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Heath Saunders [Photo © Todd Rosenberg]

 

For Lyric Opera’s production the principal roles of Jesus, Judas, Mary, Caiaphas, Annas, Simon Zealotes, Pilate, Peter, and Herod are sung by Heath Saunders, Ryan Shaw, Jo Lampert, Calvin Cornwall, Joseph Anthony Byrd, Mykal Kilgore, Michael Cunio, Andrew Mueller, and Shaun Fleming. The performances are conducted by Tom Deering and directed by Timothy Sheader. Sets and costumes are designed by Tom Scutt with lighting and sound design by Lee Curran and Nick Lidster. Choreography is under the direction of Drew McOnie. The Chorus is prepared by Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Chorus Master Michael Black.


The essence of the New Testament story, as evoked in the Rice / Lloyd Webber version by both music and text, is supported in this production by strong vocal and dramatic performances. Tensions existing over perceptions of Christ are emphasized from the start. The crowds of adherents stream down the theater’s aisles near the start of this production, when they surround and kneel before the central figure. This adulation is questioned immediately in Mr. Shaw’s first solo, “Heaven on Their Minds,” which summarizes effectively the recent differences noted by Judas as “your right hand man.” The familiarity and struggles captured by Ryan’s dramatic portrayal signal, at once, admiration and resentment. The apostles chorus, “What’s the Buzz,” has here the effect of a zealous inquiry despite the admonitions of Christ to focus on the immediate. In his depiction of Christ Mr. Saunders embodies the dichotomy of humanness with an anxious awareness of the coming sacrifice. As such, his disagreements with Judas provide a cautionary reminder, “If your slate is clean,” while hinting at the inevitable dangers about to surface. Into this swirl of conflicts the Mary Magdalene of Ms. Lampert injects a musical and dramatic balm. Her lyrical repetitions in “Everything’s alright” are delivered with a folk-like ease and beauty. Although she addresses primarily Christ in confronting his humanity with lines such as “Try not to get worried,” Lampert’s message of peace is still at this point communicated to Judas as well.


The council of elders, led by Caiaphas and Annas positioned stage front, ponders the danger represented by Christ and a potential following. Lines sung here with a remarkable bass resonance, such as “We’ve not much time,” render Mr. Cornwall’s interpretation an ideal Caiaphas. The choral echoing of the mob, combined with Saunders’ voice opposing the relentless elders during the Hosanna, moves to a crescendo staged as an exciting public ensemble. As a prefiguration of the musical’s conclusion Saunders is hoisted and carryed lying flat before the interaction with Simon Zealotes and the assurances by Christ that “To conquer death you only have to die.” Despite the intensity of the scene in the Temple and the energetic dismissal of the Moneylenders, Mary’s gentle reprise of “Everything’s alright” seeks to mollify the danger in reverberating purification. Mary’s extended solo number, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” as performed by Lampert, is here a poignant admission of the questioning effect of Christ’s message on the individual. Lampert’s rendition of the iconic lines, “I’ve been changed” and “what’s it all about” echo on a personal level the sentiments of the Apostles from the start of the act. At the close of the first part Caiaphas and Annas have clearly exerted pressure on Judas to yield information, even if Shaw’s Judas declares with repeated vehemence, “I don’t need / want your blood money!”

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR_LYR180422_151_c.Todd Rosenberg.png

The second part of the musical begins with an imaginative and cleverly staged scene depicting the atmosphere of the Last Supper. As a choral response to the gravity of Christ’s position, the staging of the Apostles singing repeatedly “Look at all my trials and tribulations” speaks to the well-meaning yet uncomprehending naiveté of their thoughts for the future. Tensions between Christ and Judas lead to emotional accusations and the preparations for betrayal in Gethsemane. Interspersed in their dialogue is the unchanged refrain from the Apostles, until the choral repetition becomes comic, yet also sad. A return to the seriousness of this Christ’s mission and sacrifice is signaled by Saunders’ powerful recitation of “I only want to say” in Gethsemane. Even here the humanness of the protagonist emerges in the final line, “Take me now - before I change my mind.” After the capture, the trial before Pilate and thirty-nine lashes are staged with glittering effect, just as the theatrical bombast of Herod’s song - performed with true flair by Mr. Fleming - fits into the hyperbole of the second part of the musical. The final scenes and chorus singing the title song remind the audience of the ultimate origins of Jesus Christ Superstar in music. This stage representation of the music and text emerges as one, and indeed a very strong, possibility.

Salvatore Calomino

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):