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 Reviews

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

Kurt Weill’s Street Scene

Kurt Weill’s “American opera,” Street Scene debuted this past weekend in the Kay Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with a diverse young cast comprised of students and alumni of the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS).

Handel's Brockes-Passion: The Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Hall

Perhaps it is too fanciful to suggest that the German poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747) was the Metastasio of Hamburg?

POP Butterfly: Oooh, Cho-Cho San!

I was decidedly not the only one who thought I was witnessing the birth of a new star, as cover artist Janet Todd stepped in to make a triumphant appearance in the title role of Pacific Opera Project’s absorbing Madama Butterfly.

The Maryland Opera Studio Defies Genre with Fascinating Double-Bill

This past weekend, the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS) presented a double-billed performance of two of Kurt Weill’s less familiar staged works: Zaubernacht (1922) and Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927).

Nash Ensemble at Wigmore Hall: Focus on Sir Harrison Birtwistle

The Nash Ensemble’s annual contemporary music showcase focused on the work of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, a composer with whom the group has enjoyed a long and close association. Three of the six works by Birtwistle performed here were commissioned by the Nash Ensemble, as was Elliott Carter’s Mosaic which, alongside Oliver Knussen’s Study for ‘Metamorphosis’ for solo bassoon, completed a programme was intimate and intricate, somehow both elusive in spirit and richly communicative.

McVicar's Faust returns to the ROH

To lose one Marguerite may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. But, with the ROH Gounod’s Faust seemingly heading for ruin, salvation came in the form of an eleventh-hour arrival of a redeeming ‘angel’.

A superb Semele from the English Concert at the Barbican Hall

It’s good to aim high … but be careful what you wish for. Clichéd idioms perhaps, but also wise words which Semele would have been wise to heed.

A performance of Vivaldi's La Senna festeggiante by Arcangelo

In 1726 on 25 August, Jacques-Vincent Languet, Comte de Gergy, the new French ambassador to the Venetian Republic held a celebration for the name day of King Louis XV of France. There was a new piece of music performed in the loggia at the foot of Languet's garden with an audience of diplomats and, watching from gondolas, Venetian nobles.

Matthew Rose and Tom Poster at Wigmore Hall

An interesting and thoughtfully-composed programme this, presented at Wigmore Hall by bass Matthew Rose and pianist Tom Poster, and one in which music for solo piano ensured that the diverse programme cohered.

Ekaterina Semenchuk sings Glinka and Tchaikovsky

To the Wigmore Hall for an evening of magnificently old-school vocal performance from Ekaterina Semenchuk. It was very much her evening, rather than that of her pianist, Semyon Skigin, though he had his moments, especially earlier on.

Hubert Parry's Judith at the Royal Festival Hall

Caravaggio’s depiction (1598-99) of the climactic moment when the young, beautiful, physically weak Judith seizes the head of Holofernes by the enemy general’s hair and, flinching with distaste, cleaves the neck of the occupying Assyrian with his own sword, evokes Holofernes’ terror with visceral precision - eyes and screaming mouth are wide open - and is shockingly theatrical, the starkly lit figures embraced by blackness.

La Pietà in Rome

Say "La Pietà" and you think immediately of Michelangelo’s Rome Pietà. Just now Roman Oscar-winning film composer Nicola Piovani has asked us to contemplate two additional Pietà’s in Rome, a mother whose son is dead by overdose, and a mother whose son starved to death.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Orfeo ed Euridice in Rome

No wrecked motorcycle (director Harry Kupfer’s 1987 Berlin Orfeo), no wrecked Citroen and black hearse (David Alagna’s 2008 Montpellier Orfée [yes! tenorissimo Roberto Alagna was the Orfée]), no famed ballet company (the Joffrey Ballet) starring in L.A. Opera’s 2018 Orpheus and Eurydice).

Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel - a world premiere at English National Opera

Jack the Ripper is as luridly fascinating today as he was over a century ago, so it was no doubt sensationalist of the marketing department of English National Opera to put the Victorian serial killer’s name first and the true subject of Iain Bell’s new opera - his victims, the women of Whitechapel - as something of an after-thought. Font size matters, especially if it’s to sell tickets.

Tosca at the Met


The 1917 Met Tosca production hung around for 50 years, bested by the 1925 San Francisco Opera production that lived to the ripe old age of 92.  The current Met production is just 2 years old but has the feel of something that can live forever.

Drama Queens and Divas at the ROH: Handel's Berenice

A war ‘between love and politics’: so librettist Antonio Salvi summarised the conflict at the heart of Handel’s 1737 opera, Berenice. Well, we’ve had a surfeit of warring politics of late, but there’s been little love lost between opposing factions, and the laughs that director Adele Thomas and her team supply in this satirical and spicy production at the ROH’s stunningly re-designed Linbury Theatre have been in severely short supply.

Mozart’s Mass in C minor at the Royal Festival Hall

A strange concert, this, in that, although chorally conceived, it proved strongest in the performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto: not so much a comment on the choral singing as on the conducting of Dan Ludford-Thomas.

Samson et Dalila at the Met


It was the final performance of the premiere season of Darko Tresnjak’s production of Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila. Four tenors later. 

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

27 Sep 2018

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

Glass Handel: Opera Philadelphia

A review by James Sohre

Above: Ricky Ubeda

Photo credit: Dominic M. Mercier

 

How to even describe it without your thinking I am as bonkers as the mad Lucia I had seen at the festival earlier in the day? Let’s start in the venue, the long Annenberg Court that is the antechamber to the awesome Barnes Foundation art collection. (A gratis visit to the art was included in the evening.)

A small square stage platform is set in the center of the space, backed by two - count ‘em - two orchestras, a larger rectangular platform to the left, a raised platform with a large blank canvas to the right, beyond which are a bank of monitor screens. Chairs are placed around the space, set within a grid defined by blue lines. Rows of curious-looking, multi-colored dollies are parked at the ready. What could this wide-ranging spread possibly add up to?

Well, quite a lot as it turns out. Star counter-tenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, Visionaire, and Cath Brittan have conspired to present an artistic “happening” where singing, dance, fine art, and video are presented simultaneously to saturate the senses and create a one of a kind, on the spot experience. The 60-minute communal performance is anchored by the substantial interpretive gifts of Mr. Costanzo, and he sings magnificently, unstintingly, soulfully, and with unerring distinction of style alternating between Handel and Glass arias.

Anthony Roth Costanzo.jpgAnthony Roth Costanzo in Glass Handel, costumed by Raf Simons for Calvin Klein. Photo Credit: Dominic M. Mercier.

Anthony’s pure, pointed vocalizing has gained a bit in vocal heft since last I heard him, without losing any of the haunting, spiritual quality that informs his entrancing tone. He is an uncommonly expressive interpreter, not so much singing the vocal lines as embodying them. His participation is not only seminal to the project, it rightly dominates and inspires it.

For the audacious concept is this: Three gifted dancers will simultaneously perform, and a renowned painter will create a work of art in immediate “reaction” or “interpretation” as the arias are being presented. Dance world’s lithe and athletic luminaries Patricia Delgado, David Hallberg, and Ricky Ubeda take turns cavorting tirelessly with practiced abandon on the second stage, nimbly executing Tony-winning Justin Peck’s evocative, impromptu-seeming choreography.

Artist George Condo enters during the opening Grand Parade of performers and supers to take his place behind the large framed canvas at the other stage. Back lit like a shadow box, Mr. Condo spends the hour in silhouette painting a huge, abstract, cubist-inspired sketch that eventually filled the space and seemed at times like a magical, highly refined Etch-a-Sketch. Further afield past this canvas, video monitors screened installations, especially created for the event.

George Condo.jpg George Condo paints live at Glass Handel. Photo Credit: Dominic M. Mercier.

But wait, there’s more. Last year’s festival featured a premier of the opera We Shall Not Be Moved. In a reversal, the mantra of Glass Handel was that we SHALL be moved. Literally, and it happily turns out figuratively. For you see, fresh-scrubbed, attractive young supers manned those special dollies, and methodically moved audience members between the three staging locations. From the downbeat, a people shifter would put the dolly in place, put a hand on the shoulder to signal the intent to move the chair, tilt back and wheel the chair to a different vantage point. This was repeated with audience members in sequence.

I began directly in front of the singer, then went to the dance area, then finished in the painting area. While each had a different dynamic, all the while I was able to still enjoy the other concurrent elements. The hypnotic parade of spectators was itself a calculated element in the “performance art” nature of the project. As the music surged in the climactic aria, as the final touches and tweaks were daubed on the painting, and as the trio of dancers finally all assembled as one, the resettled audience had taken a mightily impressive “journey.” Although each element was exciting, it has to be said the real energizing presence of the evening was the towering, generous, inspiring contribution from Mr. Costanzo, first among equals.

There was so much to take in, we almost took for granted the two separate instrumental groups, one superbly essaying the Baroque glories of Mr. Handel, and the other restlessly, luminously liming the harmonies and pulsing rhythms of Mr. Glass. All this flash and dazzle would not have been possible without the dynamic and stylistically adroit conducting by Maestro Corrado Rovaris.

The technical elements were of necessity simple but competent, with Brandon Stirling Baker’s even lighting design solving many if not all of the challenges in lighting that space. Anthony’s costumes were over-the-top creations, starting with a red satin bell-shaped robe, with enormous puff sleeves that tied at the neck with an enormous billowing bow, contrasted with purple gloves. He eventually peeled that off to reveal a blue satin ball gown/shift emblazoned with Glass Handel, ending in a sort of androgynous white nightgown covered with Condo-like squiggles.

Did I mention it was revealed that the counter-tenor was prankishly wearing red satin high heels with rhinestone stripes under all that? The dancers were provocatively clad in the briefest of red briefs, with irregular rows of long red, silver, and black fringe creating cascades of visual movement. Completing the production “look,” the supers sported red tops and black slacks, while the black clad orchestra was accessorized with draped, wide red lanyards around their necks. This scintillating costume plot was created by Calvin Klein Chief Creative Officer Raf Simons. Kudos as well to stage manager Betsy Ayer who kept things flowing seamlessly.

I commend all concerned for taking this enormous leap of faith, this mighty artistic risk. There is much about this that portended that it shouldn’t work, but it did, and brilliantly, a stunning evening. The performers and creators were lavished with cheering ovations that called them back again and again. I am cheering them still: Bravi tutti!

James Sohre

Glass Handel
Music of George Frideric Handel
And Philip Glass

Countertenor: Anthony Roth Constanzo; Dancers: Patricia Delgado, David Hallberg’ Ricky Ubeda; Painter: George Condo; Conductor: Corrado Rovaris; Production: Anthony Roth Constanzo, Visionaire, Cath Brittan; Costume Design: Calvin Klein, designed by Chief Creative Officer Raf Simons; Choreography: Justin Peck; Videos: James Ivory and Pix Talarico, Mark Romanek, Tilda Swinton and Sandra Kapp, Tianzhou Chen, Daniel Askill, Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, Rupert Sanders, AES+F, Mickalene Thomas; Lighting Designer: Brandon Stirling Baker; Production Format: Ryan McNamara; Video Consultant: Adam Larsen; Stage Manager Betsy Ayer; Rehearsal Director: Miguel A. Castillo

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):