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

A Donizetti world premiere: Opera Rara at the Royal Opera House

There may be sixty or so operas by Donizetti to choose from, but if you’ve put together the remnants of another one, why not give everyone a chance to hear it? And so, Opera Rara brought L’Ange de Nisida to the concert stage last night, 180 years after it was composed for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, conductor Sir Mark Elder leading a team of bel canto soloists and the Choir and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a committed and at times stirring performance.

A stellar Ariadne auf Naxos at Investec Opera Holland Park

Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos is a strange operatic beast. Originally a Molière-Hofmannsthal-Strauss hybrid, the 1916 version presented in Vienna ditched Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which had preceded an operatic telling of the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus, and replaced it with a Prologue in which buffa met seria as competing factions prepared to present an entertainment for ‘the richest man in Vienna’. He’s a man who has ordered two entertainments, to follow an epicurean feast, and he wants these dramatic digestifs served simultaneously.

PROM 5: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Stefan Herheim’s production of Debussy’s magnificent 1902 opera for Glyndebourne has not been universally acclaimed. The Royal Albert Hall brought with it, in this semi-staged production, a different set of problems - and even imitated some of the production’s original ones, notably the vast shadow of the organ which somewhat replicates Glyndebourne’s 1920’s Organ Room, and by a huge stretch of the imagination the forest in which so much of the opera’s action is set.

Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

Sopranos Elise Brancheau and Shannon Jones, along with pianists Martin Néron and Keith Chambers, presented a thrilling evening of French-themed music in an evening entitled: “Salut à la France,” at the South Oxford Space in Brooklyn this past Saturday, July 14th.

Dido in Deptford: Blackheath Halls Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty. The artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera has overseen a production which brings together professional soloists, students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a cast of more than 80 south-east London adults and children for this, the 12th, annual Blackheath Halls Community Opera.

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Mefistofele at Orange’s Chorégies

This is the one where a very personable devil tells God that mankind is so far gone it isn’t worth his time to bother corrupting it further.

Mascagni's Isabeau rides again at Investec Opera Holland Park

There seemed to me to be something distinctly Chaucerian about Martin Lloyd-Evans’ new production of Mascagni’s Isabeau (the first UK production of the opera) for Investec Opera Holland Park.

The 2018 BBC Proms opens in flamboyant fashion

Anniversaries and commemorations will, as usual, feature significantly during the 2018 BBC Proms, with the works of Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger all prominently programmed during the season’s myriad orchestral, vocal and chamber concerts.

Banff’s Hell of an Orphée+

Against the Grain Theatre brought its award winning adaptation of Gluck’s opera to the Banff Festival billed as “an electronic baroque burlesque descent into hell.”

A Choral Trilogy at the Aix Festival

What Seven Stones (the amazing accentus / axe 21), and Dido and Aeneas (the splendid Ensemble Pygmalion) and Orfeo & Majnun (the ensemble [too many to count] of eleven local amateur choruses) share, and virtually nothing else, is spectacular use of chorus.

Vintage Audi — Parsifal, Kaufmann, Pape

From the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Wagner Parsifal with a dream cast - René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Pierre Audi. The production is vintage Audi - stylized, austere, but solidly thought-through.

Flight Soars High in Des Moines

Jonathan Dove’s innovative opera Flight is being lavished with an absolutely riveting new production at Des Moines Metro Opera’s resoundingly successful 2018 Festival.

Fledermaus Pops the Cork in Iowa

Like a fizzy bottle of champagne, Des Moines Metro Opera uncorked a zesty tasting of Johan Strauss’s vintage Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

A spritely summer revival of Falstaff at the ROH

Robert Carson’s 2012 ROH Falstaff is a bit of a hotchpotch, but delightful nevertheless. The panelled oak, exuding Elizabethan ambience, of the first Act’s gravy-stained country club reeks of the Wodehouse-ian 1930s, but has also has to serve as the final Act’s grubby stable and the Forest of Windsor, while the central Act is firmly situated in the domestic perfection of Alice Ford’s 1950s kitchen.

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.

Des Moines’ Ravishing Rusalka

Let me get right to the point: This is the Rusalka I have been waiting for all my life.

L'Ange de feu (The Fiery Angel)
in Aix

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is rarely performed. This new Aix Festival production to be shared with Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki exemplifies why.

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.

The Skating Rink: Garsington Opera premiere

Having premiered Roxanna Panufnik’s opera Silver Birch in 2017 as part of its work with local community groups, Garsington Opera’s 2018 season included its first commission for the main opera season. David Sawer's The Skating Rink premiered at Garsington Opera this week; the opera is based on the novel by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano with a libretto by playwright Rory Mullarkey.

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):