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

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Michael Fabiano and Maria Agresta [Photo © Todd Rosenberg]
23 Oct 2018

A New La bohème Opens Season at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its 2018-19 season with Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème. This new production, shared with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and with the Teatro Real, Madrid, features an accomplished cast and innovative scenic approaches.

A New La bohème Opens Season at Lyric Opera of Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Michael Fabiano and Maria Agresta [Photo © Todd Rosenberg]

 

The lovers who meet in Act One, Mimì and Rodolfo, are sung by Maria Agresta and Michael Fabiano. The second pair of lovers Musetta and Marcello, estranged until the close of Act Two, are portrayed by Danielle De Niese and Zachary Nelson. Additional members of the Bohemian group of friends are represented by Adrian Sàmpetrean as Colline and Riccardo José Rivera as Schaunard. The roles of Benoît and Alcindoro are performed by Jake Gardner. The Lyric Opera Orchestra is conducted by Domingo Hindoyan; the Lyric Opera Chorus is prepared by its Chorus Master Michael Black, and the Chicago Children’s Chorus is prepared by Josephine Lee. The production is directed by Richard Jones with sets and costumes by Stewart Laing and lighting by Mimi Jordan Sherin. Messrs. Fabiano, Rivera, Hindoyan, and Laing make their house debuts in these performances.

From the start of Act One the pacing among the group of male voices is lively and filled with the urge to make the most of the circumstances under which they live. Mr. Nelson’s rich, focused baritone is an ideal voice for the painter Marcello. His vocal projection, stylish delivery, and facial expressions underline a total identification with the character portrayed. Nelson’s banter with the writer Rodolfo about the attractions of Paris despite their frigid interior is delivered with lyrical gusto. In the role of the poet Rodolfo Mr. Fabiano sings with a truly Italianate warmth and a comfortable sense for legato. His top pitches with forte emphasis are used, at times, to delineate the volatile personality of the poet. Messrs Sâmpetrean and Rivera add to the bounce and color of the quartet, which performs this act against a stark white and black backdrop representing the garret. Once they have dispensed with the landlord Benoit, the group determines to continue their spirited mood in the Parisian outdoors. Rodolfo agrees to join their revelry after further attempts at writing, yet Mimì’s interruption at the door stage rear proves to be a fateful distraction.

Ms. Agresta is a marvel of touching ardor and lyrical expressivity. Both principal singers have become sufficiently identified with their roles, so that they succeed in giving a fresh, credible interpretation to this work. Fabiano sings with a continuous line of impassioned declaration, his voice rising and falling in keeping with the import of Puccini’s music. Agresta matches this sense of character portrayal by imparting a tentative shyness to initial lines, a technique which renders her ultimate participation in the duet more joyous. Both singers use piano shading to enhance their portrayals and to underscore the lovers’ growing commitment. By the close of the act thy have transformed the spare stage with their hope in new love.

Acts Two and Three are appropriate scenic opposites in this production. The ebullient and overpopulated stage of the Café Momus in Act Two extends the burgeoning passion with which the previous act had concluded. Arcades and outdoor passage-ways suggest the bustle of Parisian streets. Costumes are now more in keeping with an 1830s milieu. The bustle of figures at the tables stage-front allows the new lovers to blend in to the public society while at once sharing their intimate thoughts. This atmosphere also allows for the reconciliation between Marcello and Musetta, the latter arriving with her current companion. In the role of Musetta Ms. De Niese is brash and determined. She sings her waltz, perched on a café table, with a languid tone, inserting occasional pitches sharp to emphasize her growing emotional state. Her final gesture used to recapture the devotion of Marcello succeeds and seems fully at odds with the delicate innocence that has been traced for the first pair of overs. A more closely etched emotional identification informs the atmosphere of Act Three. Nelson’s importunate exchange with Mimi upon her return to see Rodolfo suggests his own emotional commitment now as well as his concern for Rodolfo. Once they are reunited Agresta and Fabiano sing of past, present, and future in ethereal shades of sadness, denial, and potential reconciliation. This duet remains, as it should, one of the production’s highlights, since the tone established enhances the poignancy of the final act.

In Act Four, now a mirror of the opening scene, all the principals focus on the deteriorating health of Mimì. The dedication of Musetta is admirably sung with graceful line by De Niese while Fabbiano’s Rodolfo seems to stave off the reality of illness until the final moments. Agresta’s voice rises with the self-denial of a final burst of strength, and wafts into the angelic repose of her final moments. Her performance captures the essence of the complex figure of” La bohème.”

Salvatore Calomino

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):