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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

27 Sep 2018

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

Blythely After Hours: Opera Philadelphia

A review by James Sohre

Above: Stephanie Blythe as Blythely Oratonio

 

Subtitled as “The Ring Cycle of drag, tenors, and rock & roll, unfolding over three different nights,” I saw only the first, and was sated by the time Blythely After Hours came to a close with We Are the Champions sung in an Italian translation by Corrado Rovaris.

Starring one of the great operatic mezzos of our day, Stephanie Blythe uncompromisingly adapted the guise of star “tenor,” Blythely Oratonio. “He” begins the night singing upstage, back to us, intoning Pavarotti’s signature aria, Nessun dorma, in thundering chest tones, arms semaphoring, succeeding after a fashion, but somewhat hampered by initially tinny miking. (Daniel Perelstein’s sound design thereafter settled in to a good mix.)

When Mr. Oratonio finally turned to face us on the applause, “he” looked like Baba the Turk had wandered in from another opera. And it made me realize how much rather I would be hearing the mezzo in that or any other real opera role. Don’t get me wrong, Ms. Blythe, er um, I mean Mr. Blythely can sing the phone book with artistry and compelling delivery. And while she-as-he never slums stylistically essaying the copious pop material, neither does the performer ever quite consistently come into her own. For all her confident showmanship, the evening simply did not show off the magnificent richness of Stephanie Blythe’s potent instrument, with the insistent chest voice sharply pointed without turning over into her warm, womanly, not tenorly coloring.

To her great credit, the diva seems to be having a great time, one moment the complete esthete, another calculatedly vulgar, always engaged, ever energized to entertain us, and the vast majority of the audience was eating it up. Operatic tradition put-downs: big laugh. Singers’ ego disses: ha ha ha. Mezzo singing Vesti la giubba alternating with Send in the Clowns: how does she change gears like that?

Everyone did their level best to enliven and sustain the 90-minute goof. Rachel Camp (Bey) and Rob Tucker (Linda) were willing accomplices. A group of acolytes dubbed the Merepeople sang and cavorted gamely: Dane Allison, Messapotamia Lefae, Kathryn Raines, Bobby “Fabulous” Goodrich. Two of them chirped some agreeable interjected measures of the Flower Duet. Best of all, the vivacious guest star Brenda Rae wandered in to shuck her fur coat down to her bloody white Lucia gown, accompany herself on a Tori Amos song, and then sing counterpoint to Oratonio’s Faithfully with an operatically soaring The Winner Takes It All. A second guest appearance by Justin Vivian Bond was less assured, with a cue card having to be provided for her to get through her number.

Curiously for a festival that is top tier in every way, that sort of stumble occurred a couple times in the evening, with gentle prompts having to be provided to get things back on track. Indeed, the whole enterprise seemed to have the aura of a somewhat (intended?) slapdash, wee hours drag show. At the piano, the talented Daniel Kazemi provided excellent musical leadership and very satisfying arrangements. When he took off his suit jacket to reveal a leather vest and some toned biceps, the ripple through the audience told me exactly the hedonism and chicanery most were here for.

The inventive director John Jarboe mostly kept things moving at a good clip, and while the material he wrote (in tandem with the two stars) was a little loosey goosey, the pace at least was forward-looking, and he kept us from spending too long dwelling on one beat. Machine Dazzle’s costume and production was suitably Tacky Chic, and Drew Billiau lit the show with color and imagination.

Personally, in a slightly overlong evening of flimsy, jokey, pop material, I was hoping for more Blythe and less Blythely, more emphasis on her incomparable voice than her over-the-top assumed “persona.” That said, there are probably many satisfied customers who intend to come back to be similarly subjected to the second and third installments of the series: Fauréplay with Martha Graham Cracker, and Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night. As for me, Blythely After Hours was a good enough chuckle but I think for the moment I am queened out. . .

James Sohre

Queens of the Night, Blythely After Hours

Blythely Oratonio: Stephanie Blythe; Bey: Rachel Camp; Linda: Rob Tucker; Guest stars: Brenda Rae, Justin Vivian Bond; Merepeople: Dane Allison, Messapotamia Lefae, Kathryn Raines, Bobby “Fabulous” Goodrich; Writer/Director: John Jarboe; Music Direction/Arrangements: Daniel Kazemi; Costume/Production Design: Machine Dazzle; Lighting Design: Drew Billau; Sound Design: Daniel Perelstein

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):