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

Soraya Mafi (Flora) and Marcy Stonikas (Miss Jessel) [Photo by Philip Newton]
17 Oct 2018

Two falls out of three for Britten in Seattle Screw

The miasma of doom that pervades the air of the great house of Bly seems to seep slowly into the auditorium, dulling the senses, weighing down the mind. What evil lurks here? Can these people be saved? Do we care?

Two falls out of three for Britten in Seattle Screw

A review by Roger Downey

Above: Soraya Mafi (Flora) and Marcy Stonikas (Miss Jessel)

Photos by Philip Newton

 

That was the state of play as act one of Seattle Opera’s new-ish staging of The Turn of the Screw ended. As we drifted out into the watery-sun-filled lobby of Marion McCaw Hall, I’m sure many old-timers like me (and there a lot of old-timers at Saturday matinées here) were pondering the same paradox as I: How could the dazzling local 1994 première staging of this work – Lauren Flanagan, Joyce Castle, Cyndia Sieden, Mark Lamos, John Conklin, Robert Wierzel, all at the top of their form, Richard Bradshaw in the pit – remain so much more vivid in memory 24 years later than what we’d just experienced minutes before?

When we returned to our seats – some didn’t – we were quickly reawakened. In the first act the performers had hardly been able to move beyond sparse bright-lit patches without being swallowed by the shadows of Adam Larsen’s dim, grim projections of ravaged trees and shrubbery, of architecture more penal than domestic, more Piranesi than Palladio.

In act two, Peter Kazaras’s blocking allowed them to escape, make contact. For both them and the watcher it was like being allowed for the first time to breathe freely, to feel how Britten’s extraordinarily pictorial score shivers up from the pit, hot and cold, caressing and creepy at the same time. German-born conductor Constantin Trinks may have been trying to energize the first act as well, but if so not much was getting through. In any case it was enough to keep the musical tension growing right up to the final, creepy end.

That said, it was not a staging that made the most of its resources. The costuming, by Deborah Trout, was peculiar enough to be distracting. At first the clothes seemed to suggest a post-WWII Britain. As the Governess, soprano Elizabeth Caballero spent almost the whole show in a salmon-colored twinset (no pearls) and a garish green and white lino-print skirt. Along with her stiffly-permed processed-blonde hair, the outfit made her look a great deal more like a baby-sitter than a tutor and role model.

The dithering housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, by contrast, was given rather sumptuous gowns to wear, turning the social positions of the two ladies completely upside down and rendering her occasional lapses into submissive and servant-y language inconsistent and jarring.

181009_TurnofScrew_1220_PN.jpgElizabeth Caballero (The Governess) and Rafi Bellamy Plaice (Miles)

The oddity never really went away. The phantasm of the amoral footman Peter Quint looked like a hybrid of Mr. Rochester and Lady Chatterley’s lover, until turning up dressed like a Regency buck. His ghostly victim-accomplice Miss Jessel started off looking like a Renaissance portrait of a lady but rapidly descended into raddled dishevelment.

Henry James’s 1898 novella is set in a world that travels by carriage and communicates by letters by hand. Tweaks that take it out of that world just render it implausible, and a ghost story has to be plausible to work at all.

Director Kazaras does manage in the second act to get some dramatic oomph out of Larsen’s looming projections. Aided by Connie Yun’s lighting design, he turns the house of Bly itself into the threat, and the ghosts into just as much victims of its malice as the living inhabitants.

For whatever reason, though, he has not managed to allow his singers to make much of a mark. Even at his most diabolically inspired, creating ever-evolving loops and whorls of seductive menace, Britten makes dazzling waves, but the singers only ride the frisson like surfers, never able to command it.

Roger Downey


Cast and production information:

The Governess: Elizabeth Caballero; Mrs Grose: Maria Zifchak; The Gentleman/Peter Quint: Ben Bliss; Miss Jessel: Marcy Stonikas; Miles: Forrest Wu (October 14 performance). Flora: Soraya Mafi. Stage director: Peter Kazaras; Set: Robert A Dahlstrom; Projections: Adam Larsen; Lighting: Connie Yun: Costumes: Deborah Trout. Principal players of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra; Conductor Constantin Trinks. Performance of October 14, 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):