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

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

A refined Acis and Galatea at Cadogan Hall

The first performance of Handel's two-act Acis and Galatea - variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral or ‘little opera’ - took place in the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the elegant residence of James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos.

Lise Davidsen: A superlative journey through the art of song

Are critics capable of humility? The answer should always be yes, yet I’m often surprised how rare it seems to be. It took the film critic of The Sunday Times, Dilys Powell, several decades to admit she had been wrong about Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, a film excoriated on its release in 1960. It’s taken me considerably less time - and largely because of this astounding recital - to realise I was very wrong about Lise Davidsen.

Parsifal in Toulouse

Aurélien Bory, director of a small, avant garde theater company in Toulouse, staged a spellbinding Parsifal at the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse’s famed Orchestre National du Capitole in the pit — FYI the Capitole is Toulouse’s city hall, the opera house is a part of it.

An Evening with Rosina Storchio: Ermonela Jaho at Wigmore Hall

‘The world’s most acclaimed Soprano’: the programme booklet produced for Ermonela Jaho’s Wigmore Hall debut was keen to emphasise the Albanian soprano’s prestigious status, as judged by The Economist, and it was standing-room only at the Hall which was full to capacity with Jaho’s fervent fans and opera-lovers.

Parsifal in Palermo

Richard Wagner chose to finish his Good Friday opera while residing in Sicily’s Palermo, partaking of the natural splendors of its famed verdant basin, the Conca d’Oro, and reveling in the golden light of its surreal Monreale cathedral.

Vladimir Jurowski conducts a magnificent Siegfried

“Siegfried is the Man of the Future, the man we wish, the man we will, but cannot make, and the man who must create himself through our annihilation.” This was Richard Wagner, writing in 1854, his thoughts on Siegfried. The hero of Wagner’s Siegfried, however, has quite some journey to travel before he gets to the vision the composer described in that letter to August Roeckel. Watching Torsten Kerl’s Siegfried in this - largely magnificent - concert performance one really wondered how tortuous a journey this would be.

I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Rome

Shakespearean sentiments may gracefully enrich Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet, but powerful Baroque tensions enthrall us in the bel canto complexities of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Conductor Daniele Gatti’s offered a truly fine bel canto evening at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera introducing a trio of fine young artists.

Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes versatile debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali has been making waves internationally for some time. The chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra is set to take over from Esa-Pekka Salonen as principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2021.

Tristan und Isolde in Bologna

East German stage director Ralf Pleger promised us a Tristan unlike anything we had ever seen. It was indeed. And Slovakian conductor Jura Valčuha gave us a Tristan as never before heard. All of this just now in the most Wagnerian of all Italian cities — Bologna!


Seductively morbid – The Fall of the House of Usher in The Hague

What does it feel like to be depressed? “It’s like water seeping into my heart” is how one young sufferer put it.

Daring Pairing Doubles the Fun by Pacific Opera Project

Puccini’s only comedy, the one act Gianni Schicchi is most often programmed with a second short piece of tragic fare, but the adventurous Pacific Opera Project has banked on a fanciful Ravel opus to sustain the mood and send the audience home with tickled ribs and gladdened hearts.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Image courtesy of Des Moines Metro Opera
08 Jul 2018

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

Ingenious Des Moines Metro Opera continued its string of site-specific hits with an endearing production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land on the grounds of the Maytag Dairy farm.

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

A review by James Sohre

Above image courtesy of Des Moines Metro Opera

 

Such “second stage” productions of smaller works have proven to be highly popular, sold-out accent pieces to the company’s three main stage offerings at the Blank Performing Arts Center in Indianola.

The bucolic setting with a backdrop of rolling cornfields and a colorful sunset were the perfect environment for Adam Crinson’s evocative set design, a farm-within-a-farm. The imposing barn façade stage left and family house, right, made solid, earthy impressions while still incorporating some skeletal artistic elements that imbued them with a theatrical whimsy. A semi-circular white, wooden fence corralled the action and effectively defined the playing space on the plush lawn.

Nate Wheatley worked wonders with limited, sprawling resources to create an evocative lighting design that was an amalgam of even washes, variable colors, subtle isolated specials, and a blazing sunrise effect that visually underscored the heroine’s dawning awareness of her path in life. Heather Lesieur’s homey, lived in costumes proved just the right look to define individual characters. I wondered if the itinerant Martin mightn’t have looked a bit too clean cut and unrumpled, but there is no doubting that Ms. Lesieur’s choice set him apart as the attractive hero.

Octavio Cardenas directed the gentle doings of Laurie’s coming of age with a knowing eye and a sure hand. Mr. Cardenas used the expansive playing space to good advantage, creating varied, continually morphing tableaux in the party scene, all the while keeping a good focus on the smaller dramas playing out within it. Character relationships were clear, sincere, and focused. The director also used well-motivated blocking to move the action around so that all audience members in the semi-circular tiered seating were engaged. Choreographer Isaac Martin Lerner devised simple, cleverly synchronized steps and gestures for “Stomp Your Foot” that still allowed Lisa Hasson’s well-tutored chorus to sing with abandon and precision.

Conductor Joshua Horsch not only found all the colors of the blatant Americana in Copland’s folksy writing, but also elicited a shimmering serenity inherent in so much of the score’s luminous atmosphere. Thanks to the placement of monitors (hidden in wooden crates around the perimeter), Maestro Horsch maintained awesome control of his disparate forces, whether in the jaunty, playful story-telling passages, or the inexorable build-up of the unfolding “Promise of Living.” The instrumentalists rewarded him with a flavorful, idiomatic reading.

As did Glimmerglass a few seasons ago, DMMO chose to people its exceptional cast with soloists from its admirable Apprentice Program, meaning all the characters save the child Beth Moss (a delightful Camryn Overton) appeared to be the same average age, whether high school graduate or grandfather. The trade-off is that we were treated to ninety minutes of some continually impressive, fresh-voiced singing.

Lindsay Kate Brown used her rich, plummy mezzo to fine effect as a sympathetic Ma Moss. While Ma has affecting moments of melodious resignation, Ms. Brown also proved that her delivery could crackle and snap, as she confronted her defiant daughter, or falsely accused the drifters of a heinous crime. Rhys Lloyd Talbot’s orotund bass-baritone suggests maturity far beyond his years. Mr. Talbot opens his mouth and a rolling, oaken sound pours out with incredible ease, yet always with dramatic conviction and appropriate coloring. It is to the show’s credit that while both suggest older age with their gait and posture, neither resorts to caricature. Kudos too, to Brittany Crinson’s subtle hair and make-up design for avoiding this trap.

As the restless Laurie, Grace Kahl was perfectly matched to the role’s requirements, her poised, gleaming soprano effortlessly encompassing the musical and emotional gamut. Ms. Kahl instantly engages our hearts and ears with a radiant rendition of “The World So Wide,” and never lets go. Her journey to self-awareness is the reason for the piece and she never falters in her focused trajectory. As her love interest, Martin, tenor Remy Martin (yes!) is boyishly shy, and he suggests that and his indecision with a pleasing lyrical delivery that grows in scope and determination as his love for Laurie deepens. Both Mr. Martin and Ms. Kahl are so attractive and sing so persuasively that we buy into the love-at-first-sight cliché with willing disbelief.

Harry Greenleaf had a great time as the ne’er-do-well Top, his lustrous baritone somewhat belying his malintent. Mr. Greenleaf’s incisive banter with Martin/Martin resulted in some of the evening’s highlights. Tenor Adam Bradley made the most of his time as the postman Mr. Splinters, securely delivering many important expository and explanatory passages. Emily Triebold’s focused mezzo served Mrs. Splinter’s solo lines well. As Mr. and Mrs. Jenks, baritone Craig Juricka and Emily Kern enlivened the party scene with solid, appealing vocalizing.

At the premiere, the amplification of the singers, especially the men, was unfortunately not always up to DMMO’s usual high standard. This will no doubt be fully corrected for the second and final showing. Nevertheless, these occasional minor problems could not distract from the overall excellence of the experience. Operagoers even had the option of additionally booking a late afternoon tour of the famous farm, and/or an on-site dinner. For all, free popcorn preceded the show, pie and ice cream followed. How often does that happen?

But that’s Des Moines Metro Opera. Unique. Surprising. Engaging.

James Sohre

The Tender Land

Laurie Moss: Grace Kahl; Martin: Remy Martin; Grandpa Moss: Rhys Lloyd Talbot; Ma Moss: Lindsay Kate Brown; Beth Moss: Camryn Overton; Top: Harry Greenleaf; Mr. Splinters: Adam Bradley; Mrs. Splinters: Emily Triebold; Mr. Jenks: Craig Juricka; Mrs. Jenks: Emily Kern; Conductor: Joshua Horsch; Director: Octavio Cardenas; Set Design: Adam Crinson; Lighting Design: Nate Wheatley; Costume Design: Heather Lesieur; Make-up and Hair Design: Brittany Crinson for Elsen Associates; Choreographer: Isaac Martin Lerner; Chorus Master: Lisa Hasson

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):