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

Love Songs: Temple Song Series

In contrast to the ‘single-shaming’ advertisement - “To the 12,750 people who ordered a single takeaway on Valentine’s Day. You ok, hun?” - for which the financial services company, Revolut, were taken to task, this Temple Music recital programme on 14th February put the emphasis firmly on partnerships: intimate, impassioned and impetuous.

Philip Glass: Akhnaten – English National Opera

There is a famous story that when Philip Glass first met Nadia Boulanger she pointed to a single bar of one of his early pieces and said: “There, that was written by a real composer”. Glass recalls that it was the only positive thing she ever said about him

Rachvelishvili excels in ROH Orchestra's Russian programme

Cardboard buds flaming into magic orchids. The frenzied whizz of a Catherine Wheel as it pushes forth its fiery petals. A harvest sky threshed and glittering with golden grain.

Lucrèce Borgia in Toulouse

This famed murderess worked her magic on Toulouse’s Théâtre du Capitole stage, six dead including her beloved long lost son. It was Victor Hugo’s carefully crafted 1833 thriller recrafted by Italian librettist Felice Romano that became Donizetti’s fragile Lucrezia Borgia.

Amanda Majeski makes a stunning debut at Covent Garden in Richard Jones's new production of Kát’a Kabanová

How important is ‘context’, in opera? Or, ‘symbol’? How does one balance the realism of a broad social milieu with the expressionistic intensity of an individual’s psychological torment and fracture?

Returning to heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

The Cardinall’s Musick invited us for a second time to join them in ‘the company of heaven’ at Wigmore Hall, in a recital that was framed by musical devotions to St Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary.

Diana Damrau’s Richard Strauss Residency at the Barbican: The first two concerts

Listening to these two concerts - largely devoted to the music of Richard Strauss, and given by the soprano Diana Damrau, and the superlative Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the second - I was reminded of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s observation that German music would be unthinkable without him.

De la Maison des Morts in Lyon

The obsessive Russian Dostoevsky’s novel cruelly objectified into music by Czech composer Leos Janacek brutalized into action by Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski beatified by Argentine conductor Alejo Pérez.

La Nuova Musica perform Handel's Alcina at St John's Smith Square

There was a full house at St John’s Smith Square for La Nuova Musica’s presentation of Handel’s Alcina.

Ermonela Jaho is an emotively powerful Violetta in ROH's La traviata

Perhaps it was the ‘Blue Monday’ effect, but the first Act of this revival of Richard Eyre’s 1994 production of La Traviata seemed strangely ‘consumptive’, its energy dissipating, its ‘breathing’ rather laboured.

Vivaldi scores intriguing but uneven Dangerous Liaisons in The Hague

“Why should I spend good money on tables when I have men standing idle?” asks a Regency country squire in the British sitcom Blackadder the Third. The Marquise de Merteuil in OPERA2DAY’s Dangerous Liaisons would agree with him. Her servants support her dinner table, groaning with gateaux, on their backs.

Porgy and Bess at Dutch National Opera – Exhilarating and Moving

Thanks to the phenomenon of international co-productions, Dutch National Opera’s first-ever Porgy and Bess is an energizing, heart-stirring show with a wow-factor cast. Last year in London, co-producer English National Opera hosted it to glowing reviews. Its third parent, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will present it at a later date. In the meantime, in Amsterdam the singers are the crowing glory in George Gershwin’s 1935 masterpiece.

Il trovatore at Seattle Opera

After a series of productions somehow skewed, perverse, and/or pallid, the first Seattle Opera production of the new year comes like a powerful gust of invigorating fresh air: a show squarely, single-mindedly focused on presenting the work of art at hand as vividly and idiomatically as possible.

Opera as Life: Stefan Herheim's The Queen of Spades at Covent Garden

‘I pitied Hermann so much that I suddenly began weeping copiously … [it] turned into a mild fit of hysteria of the most pleasant kind.’

Venus Unwrapped launches at Kings Place, with ‘Barbara Strozzi: Star of Venice’

‘Playing music is for a woman a vain and frivolous thing. And I would wish you to be the most serious and chaste woman alive. Beyond this, if you do not play well your playing will give you little pleasure and not a little embarrassment. … Therefore, set aside thoughts of this frivolity and work to be humble and good and wise and obedient. Don’t let yourself be carried away by these desires, indeed resist them with a strong will.’

Burying the Dead: Ceruleo offer 'Baroque at the Edge'

“Who are you? And what are you doing in my bedroom?”

'Sound the trumpet': countertenor duets at Wigmore Hall

This programme of seventeenth-century duets, odes and instrumental works was meticulously and finely delivered by countertenors Iestyn Davies and James Hall, with The King’s Consort, but despite the beauty of the singing and the sensitivity of the playing, somehow it didn’t quite prove as affecting as I had anticipated.

Brenda Rae's superb debut at Wigmore Hall

My last visit of the year to Wigmore Hall also proved to be one of the best of 2018. American soprano Brenda Rae has been lauded for her superb performances in the lyric coloratura repertory, in the US and in Europe, and her interpretation of the title role in ENO’s 2016 production of Berg’s Lulu had the UK critics reaching for their superlatives.

POP Bohème: Melodic, Manic, Misbehaving Hipsters

Pacific Opera Project is in its fourth annual, sold out run of Puccini’s La bohème: AKA 'The Hipsters', and it may seem at first blush that nothing succeeds like success.

Edward Gardner conducts Berlioz's L’Enfance du Christ

L’Enfance du Christ is not an Advent work, but since most of this country’s musical institutions shut down over Christmas, Advent is probably the only chance we shall have to hear it - and even then, only on occasion. But then Messiah is a Lenten work, and yet …

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):