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 Reviews

A Winterreise both familiar and revelatory: Ian Bostridge and Thomas Adès at Wigmore Hall

‘“Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?” the wanderer asks. If the answer were to be a “yes”, then the crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again. This could explore a notion of eternal recurrence: we are trapped in the endless repetition of this existential lament.’

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2018

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, given during last weekend, was both a tribute to the many facets of opera and a preview of what lies ahead in the upcoming repertoire season.

Classical Opera: Bastien und Bastienne on Signum Classics

Pride and Prejudice, North and South, Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing: literary fiction and drama are strewn with dissembling lovers who display differing degrees of Machiavellian sharpness in matters of amatory strategy. But, there is an artless ingenuousness about Bastien and Bastienne, the eponymous pastoral protagonists of Mozart’s 1768 opera, who pretend not to love in order to seal their shared romantic destiny, but who require a hefty dose of the ‘Magician’ Colas’s conjuring/charlatanry in order to avoid a future of lonely singledom.

A Stunning Semiramide from Opera Rara

In early October 1822, Gioachino Rossini summoned the librettist Gaetano Rossi to a villa (owned by his wife, the soprano Isabella Colbran) in Castenaso, just outside Bologna. Their project: to work on a new opera, which would be premiered during the Carnival in Venice on 3rd February the following year, based on the legend of Queen Semiramide.

Dorothea Röschmann at Wigmore Hall: songs by Schumann, Wolf and Brahms

One should not judge a performance by its audience, but spying Mitsuko Uchida in the audience is unlikely ever to prove a negative sign. It certainly did not here, in a wonderfully involving recital of songs by Schumannn, Wolf, and Brahms from Dorothea Röschmann and Malcolm Martineau.

Two of Garsington Opera's 2018 productions to reach a wider audience

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce that on Saturday 6 October, BBC Radio 3’s ‘Opera on 3’, will broadcast the production of its first festival world premiere - The Skating Rink by David Sawer set to a libretto by Rory Mullarkey based on a novel by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño.

The Path of Life: Ilker Arcayürek sings Schubert at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall’s BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert 2018-19 series opened this week with a journey along The Path of Life as illustrated by the songs of Schubert, and it offered a rare chance to hear the composer’s long, and long-germinating, setting of Johann Baptist Mayrhofer’s philosophical rumination, ‘Einsamkeit’ - an extended eulogy to loneliness which Schubert described, in a letter of 1822, as the best thing he had done, “mein Bestes, was ich gemacht habe”.

Heine through Song: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau open a new Wigmore Hall season

The BBC Proms have now gone into hibernation until July 2019. But, as the hearty patriotic strains rang out over South Kensington on Saturday evening, in Westminster the somewhat gentler, but no less emotive, flame of nineteenth-century lied was re-lit at Wigmore Hall, as baritone Florian Boesch and pianist Malcolm Martineau opened the Hall’s 2018-19 season with a recital comprising song settings of texts by Heinrich Heine.

Elgar Orchestral Songs - SOMM

Edward Elgar's Sea Pictures are extremely well-known, but many others are also worth hearing. From SOMM recordings, specialists in British repertoire, comes this interesting new collection of other Elgar orchestral songs, sponsored by the Elgar Society.

Prom 74: Handel's Theodora

“One of the most insufferable prigs in a literature.” Handel scholar Winton Dean’s dismissal of Theodora, the eponymous heroine of Handel’s 1749 oratorio, may well have been shared by many among his contemporary audience.

Remembering and Representing Dido, Queen of Carthage: an interview with Thomas Guthrie

The first two instalments of the Academy of Ancient Music’s ‘Purcell trilogy’ at the Barbican Hall have posed plentiful questions - creative, cultural and political.

Landmark Productions and Irish National Opera present The Second Violinist

Renaissance madrigals and twentieth-century social media don’t at first seem likely bed-fellows. However, Martin - the protagonist of The Second Violinist, a new opera by composer Donnacha Dennehy and librettist Enda Walsh - is, like the late sixteenth-century composer, Carlo Gesualdo, an artist with homicidal tendencies. And, Dennehy and Walsh bring music, madness and murder together in a Nordic noir thriller that has more than a touch of Stringbergian psychological anxiety, analysis and antagonism.

The Rake's Progress: British Youth Opera

The cautionary tale which W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman fashioned for Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 opera, The Rake’s Progress - recounting the downward course of an archetypal libertine from the faux fulfilment of matrimonial and monetary dreams to the grim reality of madness and death - was, of course, an elaboration of William Hogarth’s 1733 series of eight engravings.

Prom 71: John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique play Berlioz

Having recently recorded the role of Dido in Berlioz' Les Troyens on Warner Classics, there was genuine excitement at the prospect of hearing Joyce DiDonato performing Dido's death scene live at the BBC Proms. She joined John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique for an all-Berlioz Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 5 September 2018. As well as the scene from Les Troyens, DiDonato sang La mort de Cleopatre and the orchestra performed the overture Le Corsaire and The Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens, and were joined by viola player Antoine Tamestit for Harold in Italy.

ENO Studio Live: Paul Bunyan

“A telegram, a telegram,/ A telegram from Hollywood./ Inkslinger is the name; And I think that the news is good.” The Western Union Boy’s missive, delivered to Johnny Inkslinger in the closing moments of 1941 ‘choral operetta’ Paul Bunyan and directly connecting the American Dream with success in Tinseltown, may have echoed an offer that Benjamin Britten himself received, for the composer had written expectantly to Wulff Scherchen on 7th February 1939, ‘(((Shshshsssh … I may have an offer from Holywood [sic] for a film, but don’t say a word))).’ Ten days later he wrote again: ‘Hollywood seems a bit nearer - I’ve got an interview with the Producer on Monday’.

Young audience embraces Die Zauberflöte at Dutch National Opera

The Dutch National Opera season opens officially on the 7th of September with a third run of Simon McBurney’s production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, an unqualified success at its 2012 premiere. Last Tuesday, however, an audience aged between sixteen and thirty-five got to see a preview of this co-production with English National Opera and the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

Prom 67: The Boston Symphony Orchestra play Mahler’s Third

Mahler and I, at least in the concert hall, parted company over a decade ago - and with his Third Symphony it has been an even longer abandonment, fifteen years. Reviewing can nurture great love for music; but it can also become so obsessive for a single composer it can make one profoundly unresponsive to their music. This was my tragedy with Mahler.

Bampton Classical Opera Goes to the Ball

I wonder if Cinderella realised that when she found her Prince she would also find international fame, becoming not just a Princess but also a global celebrity and icon. The glass slipper, placed loving on her shapely foot, has graced theatres, variety halls, cinema screens and opera houses - even postage stamps - and the perennial popularity of this rags-to-riches fairy-tale, in which innocence and goodness triumph over injustice and oppression, shows no signs of waning.

A Landmark Revival of Sullivan's Haddon Hall

With The Gondoliers of 1889, the main period of Arthur Sullivan's celebrated collaboration with W. S. Gilbert came to an end, and with it the golden age of British operetta. Sullivan was accordingly at liberty to compose more serious and emotional operas, as he had long desired, and turned first to the moribund tradition of "Grand Opera" with Ivanhoe (1891).

Die Meistersinger at Bayreuth

Famously, controversy is the stuff of Bayreuth, be it artistic, philosophic or political. As well occasionally a Bayreuth production can simply be illuminating, as is the Barrie Kosky production of Wagner’s only comedy, Die Meistersinger.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Die Fledermaus</em>, Des Moines Metro Opera
10 Jul 2018

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.

Die Fledermaus, Des Moines Metro Opera

A review by James Sohre

Above: image courtesy of Des Moines Metro Opera

 

The story in brief involves a Refugee who is living at a major airport, unable to leave, and his interaction with the travelers/employees who are taking a flight, or who are “in flight” from obligations, relationships, or duties.

I am not sure what other opera companies are doing for world class singers at the moment, since they seem to all have been assembled in Indianola, Iowa to people this exquisitely realized performance.

Mr. Dove has set April DeAngelis’ epigrammatic libretto to a diverse, evocative score, often haunting and melancholy, frequently ironic and funny, sometimes profoundly moving, always exceedingly vibrant in theatrical and musical invention. Dove is a master orchestrator and his vocal writing, whether angular, melismatic, conversational, or lyrical, is supported by richly diversified orchestral effects.

Music Director David Neely exerted consummate control over his amassed forces, conducting a reading of sweeping power and jaw-dropping precision. DMMO’s fine orchestra has had a banner year, and they distinguished themselves yet again with a crackling reading of Dove’s richly layered, rhythmically propulsive opus. Maestro Neely inspired nuanced playing from each and every instrumentalist, whether in solo or ensemble passages, and melded them fortuitously with the singers, creating a musico-dramatic work of sensational impact.

The vocal work was uniformly exceptional, revealing each soloist at the top of their game. Composer Dove gave the signature, extended emotional “moments” to the Refugee and the Minsk Woman. John Holiday brought his distinctive counter-tenor to the Refugee and he proved a charismatic, galvanizing presence. His is a uniquely appealing, star quality instrument, and his ingratiating persona makes him a fan magnet. Mr. Holiday’s penultimate aria, which finally reveals the secret of his situation, was ineffably moving.

The superlative mezzo Elise Quagliata was an enigmatic and powerful Minskwoman, i.e. a passenger supposed to be bound for Minsk. Ms. Quagliata’s character is in the late stages of pregnancy, and her hormonal swings are the cause for lyric outbursts, recriminations, and finally resignation. In her major scena, Elise poured out beautifully judged fiery, arching phrases that captured the heart and ravished the ear. Her richly-colored mezzo was always powerful and persuasive.

Audrey Luna was a commanding presence as the Controller, who oversees and reports events. Ms. Luna has a crystal clear, pliant soprano that has to be among the purist and most finely spun in the business. From the stratospheric top notes to a gleaming middle voice to a secure bottom range, this prodigiously gifted singer imbued every phrase with ravishing vocalizing. Her fine sense of legato caressed the numerous melismatic passages in the role, but when it came time for spitfire commentary, she hurled out bolts of sound penetrating well into the wild blue yonder.

As the perpetually horny Stewardess and Steward, Sofia Selowsky and Theo Hoffman were vocally lustrous and theatrically unrestrained. Ms. Selowsky sports a wonderfully ripe mezzo, warm throughout, gleaming on top. Mr. Hoffman’s appealing, diminutive frame houses a polished, booming baritone that seems about three sizes bigger than he is. Together, they complemented each other musically and dramatically, as they provocatively worked their way through the Kama Sutra, unselfconsciously simulating all manner of randy sexual abandon.

Tenor Andrew Bidlack (Bill) and soprano Zulimar López-Hernández (Tina) were the young hipster couple escaping on vacation together in an attempt to rejuvenate their waning romance. Mr. Bidlack has an effortlessly produced, honeyed lyric tenor who brings Rossinian grace and fluidity to his rangy vocal lines. His rolled eyes and put-upon shrugs as his wife keeps picking at him were boyishly engaging. His character eventually gets pushed away to experiment quite willingly with a different kind of human connection.

Ms. López-Hernández creates a delectably fussy princess as the controlling spouse, all the while singing with glistening tone that is wedded to an admirably steady technique. Her refulgent upper register was especially sonorous and her unbridled physicality including defiantly showing off a beach body that is worthy of Baywatch.

As the deluded/hopeful Older Woman, Deanne Meek wielded a velvety mezzo that gloved a nice underlying bite in the tone. Ms. Meek created a figure of some pathos as she waits for her 22-year old young lover (who may as well be named Godot) to show up. But she never became an unappealing victim, relishing every one of her comic lines as she feigned speaking French, and injecting some welcome vocal gravity in the mix with her beautifully warm, sustained phrases.

The Minskman was glowingly sung by Norman Garrett. The burnished character of his substantial baritone and his informed delivery made us wish he had even more stage time. Ditto the always impressive bass Zachary James as the Immigration Officer. We have to wait until Act Three for him to sing, but when he rolls forth with his darkly colored, pulsating musical lines, we find it was well worth the wait.

Director Kristine McIntyre has inspired this miracle of an ensemble cast to the highest possible level of achievement. The personal journey of each character has its own arc and together the team has not only defined the individual’s quests, but also has woven them together so that in the end, they are all surprised as they embrace their interdependence.

Two ladies sitting next to me were somewhat perplexed by what the story means, why there was no conventional plot, etc. And therein lies one beauty of Flight. It allows us to speculate. It gives us vignettes and lets us struggle to resolve them. It challenges us to face dynamics in our lives, relationships, situations, where we ourselves were tempted to flee. It tells us that life is not always linear, but sometimes parenthetical. And it makes us reflect upon how well we treat not only “others,” but the “Other.” And Team Flight accomplished this with humor, tireless physical movement, utter belief in the material, limitless application of talent, and profound compassion for the frailty of their (and our) characters.

Back to the unerring staging from Ms. McIntyre, she used every possible inch of the playing space with variety and abandon. And what a playing space it is! None of us has likely ever spent time in an airport lounge this coolly beautiful. R. Keith Brumley’s set is a marvel of circular concepts. A low railing, like a classy circus ring defines and contains the fore stage. Upstage of the proscenium, a winding staircase leads up to the control room, a high tech crow’s nest from which the Controller can pontificate. A glass door leads outside to a balcony.

Stage right has a forbidding security door, while stage left features a wall of windows behind which is parked a jet plane that can be pushed back and disappear. The ever-handy downstage trap is filled with a spiral staircase down to a secretive “level two.” The stairs can retract and the gap closes to form additional playing space. When the flooring parts once more and a unit rises from the depths to elevate the very tall Immigration Officer high above the frightened Refugee, the effect suggests the last judgment on steroids.

Mr. Brumley’s pristine terminal also has recessed lighting built into it. Combined with Barry Steele’s richly complex lighting and projection design, this was a wonderland for colorful effects, to include a zany tropical sidebar that morphs into a sort of realization of the mindless crescendo of kitschy extravagance in Bernstein’s Island Magic (Trouble in Tahiti).

Designer Jonathan Knipscher is having a blast providing some of his best costumes ever, really personalizing the characters, and he includes a couple of tricks and jokes that really enliven the proceedings. From the cool elegance of the well-off, pregnant Minskwoman to the third world homeliness of the Refugee to the buttoned down Controller’s uniform to the boisterous flight attendants’ look, the costumes were witty, telling and apt.

Flight was a uniquely satisfying journey with echoes of today’s headlines, musically vibrant and theatrically engaging, passionately presented by a thoroughbred team of interpreters who simply could not have been bettered. Bravi tutti!

James Sohre

Flight
Jonathan Dove, Music
April DeAngelis, Libretto

Refugee: John Holiday; Controller: Audrey Luna; Bill: Andrew Bidlack; Tina: Zulimar López-Hernández; Older Woman: Deanne Meek; Stewardess: Sofia Selowsky; Steward: Theo Hoffman; Minskman: Norman Garrett; Minskwoman: Elise Quagliata; Immigration Officer: Zachary James; Conductor: David Neely; Director: Kristine McIntyre; Set Design: R. Keith Brumley; Costume Design: Jonathan Knipscher; Lighting and Video Design: Barry Steele; Make-up and Hair Design: Brittany Crinson for Elsen Associates

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):