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

Eugene Onegin at Seattle

Passion! Pain! Poetry! (but hold the irony . . .)

Unusual and beautiful: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė with the Kremerata Baltica, in this new release from Deutsche Grammophon.

Pow! Zap! Zowie! Wowie! -or- Arthur, King of Long Beach

If you might have thought a late 17thcentury semi-opera about a somewhat precious fairy tale monarch might not be your cup of twee, Long Beach Opera cogently challenges you to think again.

Philippe Jaroussky and Jérôme Ducros perform Schubert at Wigmore Hall

How do you like your Schubert? Let me count the ways …

Crebassa and Say: Impressionism and Power at Wigmore Hall

On paper this seemed a fascinating recital, but as I was traveling to the Wigmore Hall it occurred to me this might be a clash of two great artists. Both Marianne Crebassa and Fazil Say can be mercurial performers and both can bring such unique creativity to what they do one thought they might simply diverge. In the event, what happened was quite remarkable.

'Songs of Longing and Exile': Stile Antico at LSO St Luke's

Baroque at the Edge describes itself as the ‘no rules’ Baroque festival. It invites ‘leading musicians from all backgrounds to take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads them’.

Richard Jones' La bohème returns to Covent Garden

Richard Jones' production of Puccini's La bohème is back at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden after its debut in 2017/18. The opening night, 10th January 2020, featured the first of two casts though soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who was due to sing Mimì, had to drop out owing to illness, and was replaced at short notice by Simona Mihai who had sung the role in the original run and is due to sing Musetta later in this run.

Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder on Erato

“How weary we are of wandering/Is this perhaps death?” These closing words of ‘Im Abendrot’, the last of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, and the composer’s own valedictory work, now seem unusually poignant since they stand as an epitaph to Mariss Jansons’s final Strauss recording.

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 3 & 4 from Hyperion

Latest in the highly acclaimed Hyperion series of Ralph Vaughan Williams symphonies, Symphonies no 3 and 4, with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded in late 2018 after a series of live performances.

Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Mozart’s Don Giovanni returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Robert Falls updating of the opera to the 1930s. The universality of Mozart’s score proves its adaptability to manifold settings, and this production featured several outstanding, individual performances.

Britten and Dowland: lutes, losses and laments at Wigmore Hall

'Of chord and cassiawood is the lute compounded;/ Within it lie ancient melodies'.

Tara Erraught sings Loewe, Mahler and Hamilton Harty at Wigmore Hall

During those ‘in-between’ days following Christmas and before New Year, the capital’s cultural institutions continue to offer fare both festive and more formal.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

This Accentus release of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, recorded live on 15/16th December 2018 at St. Thomas’s Church Leipzig, takes the listener ‘back to Bach’, so to speak.

Retrospect Opera's new recording of Ethel Smyth's Fête Galante

Writing in April 1923 in The Bookman, of which he was editor, about Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate (1913-14) - the most frequently performed of the composer’s own operas during her lifetime - Rodney Bennett reflected on the principal reasons for the general neglect of Smyth’s music in her native land.

A compelling new recording of Bruckner's early Requiem

The death of his friend and mentor Franz Seiler, notary at the St Florian monastery to which he had returned as a teaching assistant in 1845, was the immediate circumstance which led the 24-year-old Anton Bruckner to compose his first large-scale sacred work: the Requiem in D minor for soloists, choir, organ continuo and orchestra, which he completed on 14th March 1849.

Prayer of the Heart: Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet

Robust carol-singing, reindeer-related muzak tinkling through department stores, and light-hearted festive-fare offered by the nation’s choral societies may dominate the musical agenda during the month of December, but at Kings Place on Friday evening Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet eschewed babes-in-mangers and ding-donging carillons for an altogether more sedate and spiritual ninety minutes of reflection and ‘musical prayer’.

The New Season at the New National Theatre, Tokyo

Professional opera in Japan is roughly a century old. When the Italian director and choreographer Giovanni Vittorio Rosi (1867-1940) mounted a production of Cavalleria Rusticana in Italian in Tokyo in 1917, with Japanese singers, he brought a period of timid experimentation and occasional student performances to an end.

Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall

For those of us who live in a metropolitan bubble, where performances of Handel's Messiah by small professional ensembles are common, it is easy to forget that for many people, Handel's masterpiece remains a large-scale choral work. My own experiences of Messiah include singing the work in a choir of 150 at the Royal Albert Hall, and the venue's tradition of performing the work annually dates back to the 19th century.

What to Make of Tosca at La Scala

La Scala’s season opened last week with Tosca. This was perhaps the preeminent event in Italian cultural and social life: paparazzi swarmed politicians, industrialists, celebrities and personalities, while almost three million Italians watched a live broadcast on RAI 1. Milan was still buzzing nine days later, when I attended the third performance of the run.

La traviata at Covent Garden: Bassenz’s triumphant Violetta in Eyre’s timeless production

There is a very good reason why Covent Garden has stuck with Richard Eyre’s 25-year old production of La traviata. Like Zeffirelli’s Tosca, it comes across as timeless whilst being precisely of its time; a quarter of a century has hardly faded its allure, nor dented its narrative clarity. All it really needs is a Violetta to sweep us off our feet, and that we got with Hrachuhi Bassenz.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

14 Jun 2018

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Greer Grimsley as Wotan, Iréne Thoerin as Brünnhilde [All photos by Cory Weaver, courtesy of San Francisco Opera].

 

This was an evening of almost unbearable tension, the age old torment of love vs. duty taken to the summit of nineteenth century operatic accomplishment — and into the higher reaches of twenty-first century staging accomplishment, from the fleeting video image of a wolf to Hunding’s Appalachian cabin, from Valhalla’s sweeping vista of a crumbling black and white world to its monumental cementic bowels, and finally to the Zambello Walküre’s signature image, the valkyries parachute arrival onto a mountain peak, a peak that then burst into a circle of actual, live flame.

Far more than about its timely concepts (the “American” Ring, American environmental destruction, the abuse and subjugation of women), last night’s Walküre was about opera. It fully exposed the current artistic and technical resources that allow twenty-first century opera to transcend mere theater and operatic tradition itself to transport us to ever rarer states and durations of artistic understanding.

Walkure_SFO3.pngWotan and Brünnhilde

American bass-baritone Greer Grimsley’s Wotan, no longer the confident deal maker of Das Rheingold, was the sleek executive whose world began disintegrating when he took on its administration. Mr. Grimsley had hugely difficult encounters — with his wife Fricka, with his daughter Brünnhilde, and with himself when he learns that is daughter is, in fact, an extension of himself. Mr. Grimsley survived each encounter in magnificent voice, articulately humbling himself step-by-step to his very human and quite understandable and inescapable torment.

Swedish soprano Iréne Theorin, the valkyrie Brünnhilde burst onto the stage in a torrent of magnificent sounds that put to rest any regrets we may have harbored about the cast change (Evelyn Herlitzius cancelled at the last minute). Mme. Theorin brought the fiercely thrilling high notes of an Amazon warrior together with a richly warm, very feminine lower voice. With her significant use of piano and pianissimo tones this richness distilled her determined devotion to her father. But never far away were the forte’s of an emotional strength to be reckoned with.

The Fricka of American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton eschewed the dignity that becomes the protector of basic family law not to mention protector of basic dynastic rights. Mlle. Barton continued her contemptuous, comedic Das Rheingold Fricka, thereby eviscerating the sanctity and solidity of the social contracts that bedevil Die Walküre’s Wotan. There is no question that Mlle. Barton is a fine singer, that she created a significant Die Walküre Fricka is another question.

Walkure_SFO2.pngSiegmund and Sieglinde

There is no question that Finnish soprano Karita Mattila created a Sieglinde of requisite magnitude for the Zambello Walküre. The magnetic presence of this esteemed artist found the youth and the postures of an abused woman, her marital guilts and finally her pride as the wife of her brother and the mother of his child. It was a portrayal teetering on the edge of, somehow not surpassing, credibility — no small task for her adultery and incest. That Mme. Mattila could vocally create Sieglinde is another question.

American tenor Brandon Jovanovich brought perfection to his Siegmund, finding and exploiting the subtleties of the Wagnerian vocal line that gave immense, and new pleasures. Siegmund is a romantic hero with stories to tell. Jovanovich has the purity of voice to exploit the emotional innocence of Siegmund's adventures, and to fall victim to his hopeless love and to die for this love. With conductor Runnicles, Jovanovich and la Mattila brought the Act 1 love duet to its intended magical conclusion.

American bass Raymond Aceto created the Hollywood male predator, oozing masculinity and brute force, and doing all this in beautiful, intelligent voice while groping his wife Sieglinde. Entirely absent was a sympathy one might extend to this husband whose wife elopes with a stranger who stops by for the night.

Finally though this evening belonged to the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and its conductor Donald Runnicles whose presence was acutely and profoundly felt through the often exquisite performances on stage, and the staging itself which was expectedly masterful.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Brünnhilde: Iréne Theorin; Wotan: Greer Grimsley; Sieglinde: Karita Mattila; Siegmund: Brandon Jovanovich; Fricka: Jamie Barton; Hunding; Raymond Aceto; Siegrune: Laura Krumm; Grimgerde: Renée Rapier; Ortlinde: Sarah Cambidge; Gerhilde: Julie Adams; Rossweisse: Lauren McNeese; Schwertleite: Nicole Birkland; Helmwige: Melissa Citro; Waltraute: Renée Tatum. San Francisco Opera Orchestra. Conductor: Donald Runnicles; Production/Stage Director: Francesca Zambello; Associate Director: Laurie Feldman; Choreographer: Denni Sayers; Set Designer: Michael Yeargan; Costume Designer: Catherine Zuber; Lighting Designer: Mark McCullough; Projections: Jan Hartley. War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, June 13, 2018.

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):