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

Cilea's L'arlesiana at Opera Holland Park

In a rank order of suicidal depressives, Federico - the Provençal peasant besotted with ‘the woman from Arles’, L’arlesiana, who yearns to break free from his mother’s claustrophobic grasp, who seeks solace from betrayal and disillusionment in the arms of a patient childhood sweetheart, but who is ultimately broken by deluded dreams and unrequited passion - would surely give many a Thomas Hardy protagonist a run for their money.

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

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):