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

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.

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.

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.

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.’

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.’

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."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

18 Oct 2018

Arabella in San Francisco

A great big guy in a great big fur coat falls in love with the photo of the worldly daughter of a compulsive gambler. A great big conductor promotes the maelstrom of great big music that shepherds all this to ecstatic conclusion.

Arabella at San Francisco Opera

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Brian Mulligan as Mandryka [All photos by Cory Weaver, courtesy of San Francisco Opera]

 

Austrian dramatist Hugo Von Hofmannsthal, Arabella’s librettist, was nothing if not worldly and post WWI Vienna was nothing if not indulgent. This made rich ground for Richard Strauss to plow, playing seriously with Romantic ideals of love while toying with the poetic pastoralism of the Germanic Hellenistic revival, and indulging in the modernist zeal for dissecting reality.

It all became quite a celebration last night on the War Memorial stage at the first performance (of five) of this rarely performed example of the Strauss canon. The revelry was in the pit, the mighty San Francisco Opera orchestra unleashed by conductor German conductor Marc Albrecht in his American debut. Undaunted with only 67 players in the pit, a far cry from Elektra’s 100 or so, the maestro drove the score as if it had the richness and the urgency of Elektra’s obsession. The spectrum of colors, the motivic details, the phrasings and the volumes (considerable) that the maestro exploited did indeed verify masterpiece status if not outright awe for the score. They also made me long for singers and production that might equal such musical monumentality.

The well-traveled production (Toronto, Santa Fe, Minneapolis) by British director Tim Albery instead traded on the minimal. The sets and costumes by German designer Tobias Hoheisel were of utmost simplicity, a series of small, monochromatic, curving architectural elements of subdued classical detail construed the three spaces of von Hofmannsthal’s fin de siècle hotel. Von Hofmannsthal respects the Aristotelian unities — the opera happens before, during, and after a ball in the hotel — thus Mr. Hoheisel’s costuming has limited requirements, easily incorporating abstractions of fin de siècle opulence.

Arabella_SF3.pngHye Jung Lee (in red) as the ball mascot Fiakermilli

Director Albery moved his actors minimally, just enough to fulfill the musical and textural needs of the score. Every gesture was carefully measured to be an elegant surface motion that masked the musical compulsions underneath. It was smooth, indeed exquisite staging effected by a willing cast.

Like all Strauss female roles, Arabella too is vocally daunting. Most difficult are the moments of sublime beauty when the soprano floats an above the staff phrase over and beyond its apex, as had Strauss’ Marschallin. Then there are extended passages of longing, regret, reconciliation and finally ecstasy that sail through and above rich and soaring orchestral outpourings. Above all Strauss’ Arabella must be a beautiful woman who projects honesty and simplicity and compassion, and forgiveness for those who betray her. San Francisco Opera house soprano Ellie Dehn confronted the challenges of the role and largely succeeded, often rising to the monumentality imposed by the maestro.

Though Strauss loves most of all to exploit the female voice, in Arabella he challenges the endurance and the emotional spectrum of the baritone voice. Mandryka who has chosen Arabella to be his wife, made a bloodstained photo of Arabella his talisman for recovery after he was mauled by a bear. San Francisco Opera house baritone Brian Mulligan did not survive his first act explanation of all this, victim of the maestro who demanded a more experienced Strauss voice and more imposing presence to musically fulfill the Straussian ideal. Mr. Mulligan does possess a quite beautiful voice whose limits however were clearly exposed.

Arabella_SF2.pngHeidi Stober as Zdenko, Ellie Dehn as Arabella

Von Hofmannstahl twisted the swain from pastoral poetry into a cross dressed soprano, here San Francisco Opera house soubrette Heidi Stober who gave a quite effective account of Zdenka who loves Arabella’s rejected suitor Matteo, however Zdenka is first known as the boy Zdenko who is Matteo’s best friend (you had to be there). Mme. Stober’s charming trouser role presence abetted by fine singing well matched the maestro’s need for a big house, tongue-in-cheek shepherd/ess. The Matteo of Swedish tenor Daniel Johansson held his own in the melee. Though missing the warm vocal colors to create the ideal Straussian swain he did project appealing musical energy.

Well cast as the Countess Waldner, mezzo soprano Michaela Martens made Arabella’s mother quite sympathetic in her enthusiastic support of the ruinous gambling addiction of her husband, Count Waldner sung by Richard Paul Fink.

The balance of the cast — three more suitors, plus the Fiakermilli — conformed to the in-house casting policy for this Arabella. The suitors were drawn from the Adlers (San Francisco Opera’s operatic finishing school) or equivalent. The Fiakermilli, usually a cameo role taken by an accomplished Ariadne Zerbinetta, was sung by former Merola participant Hye Jung Lee.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Arabella: Ellie Dehn; Zdenka: Heidi Stober; Countess Waldner: Michaela Martens; Fiakermilli: Hye Jung Lee; A fortune teller: Jill Grove; Mandryka: Brian Mulligan; Matteo: Daniel Johansson; Count Waldner: Richard Paul Fink; Count elemer: Scott Quinn; Count Dominik: Andrew Manea; Count Lamoral: Christian Pursell. Chorus and Orchestra of the San Francisco Opera. Conductor: Marc Albrect; Stage director: Tim Albery; Production designer: Tobias Hoheisel; Lighting Designer: David Finn. War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, October 16, 2018

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):