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

Andrea Lett (Zerlina) and Daniel Okultich (Don Giovanni) [Photo by R. Tinker]
01 Dec 2018

Don Giovanni: Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera turned the art of seduction into bloodsport with its 2018/19 season-opener of Mozart’s dramma giocoso, Don Giovanni often walking a razor’s edge between hilarious social commentary and chilling battles for the soul.

Don Giovanni: Manitoba Opera

A review by Holly Harris

Above: Andrea Lett (Zerlina) and Daniel Okultich (Don Giovanni) [Photo by R. Tinker]

 

It’s also a mystery why it’s taken 15 long years for local audiences to see the Wunderkind’s supernatural masterpiece based on an Italian libretto by Lorenzo de Ponte, in turn originally inspired by the legend of Spanish libertine Don Juan with its last MO incarnation staged in 2003.

However, Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch hailed as “flat out brilliant” by Opera News proved well worth the wait, donning – in this case – the matador’s mantle, as he reprised his signature title role he’s now performed a dozen times worldwide. The Ottawa-born artist electrified the November 24th opening night crowd with his stylized, swaggering toreador the fulcrum to Spanish-born director Oriol Tomas’s artistic vision (marking his MO debut), nearly stealing the show with every haughty, struck pose and whip-cracking foot stomp, as well as oozing charisma during his serpentine seduction of his female prey caught in his crosshairs.

MB Opera Don Giovanni, Daniel Okultich (Don Giovanni) and MO Chorus, 2018. Photo - R. Tinker (1).jpgPhoto by R. Tinker

MO Music Advisor and Principal Conductor Tyrone Paterson led the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra with his customary finesse throughout the 175-minute (including intermission) production. Scott Henderson created eye-popping lighting effects heightened by billowing stage smoke, while a wonderfully imagistic, tiered set of a skeletal bullring with hipster-vibe costumes from Edmonton Opera evokes past glory – and gory - days of blood-soaked bullfights, or alternatively a futuristic, burnt-out shell still moaning with death and decay from a not-so-distant past.

What makes this production sing are its two male leads. Okulitch as a fine actor displays supreme conviction and ease as he traverses his narrative arc, matched equally by his unflinching embodiment of Giovanni’s deepest, most volatile desires.

His wheedling of Zerlina, sung by soprano Andrea Lett during the Act I wedding party scene, which quickly escalates into a full-on sexual assault juxtaposed with Mozart’s genteel orchestral accompaniment is the stuff of nightmares - and kudos to both these strong perfomers for their no-holds-barred realization of the stomach-churning narrative.

Okulitch’s richly resonant vocals, including clear diction and agile phrasing were also exhibited during his effortless, trip-off-the-tongue Italian recitatives, and a rapid-fire delivery of famous, fizzy champagne aria, “Finch’han dal vino,” as effervescent as a glass of bubbly.

MO Don Giovanni, 2018. Photo - R. Tinker.jpgPhoto by R. Tinker

But his chameleonic artistry also includes an impressive emotional palette, with an innate ability to mine the subtlest nugget of gold from this operatic Gibraltar, including his lushly romantic “Deh vieni alla finestra,” wooing Elvira’s maid with his soaring, lyrical voice that seemingly knows no bounds.

Canadian bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus easily holds his own against Okulitch’s bravura performance as Giovanni’s valet/sidekick – and witness – creating oceanic undertows of sub-text as he rails against, reveres, and finally, triumphantly wrests power during the final brilliant image as his master perishes. His biting into an apple as forbidden fruit packed its own emotional wallop, courtesy of Tomas’s sensitive direction that also showed his knack for creating numerous, compelling stage tableaux.

Hegedus’s spot-on comedic timing during Act II’s opening scene, where he disguises himself with Giovanni’s sartorial jacket had viewers in stitches with his buffoonery, as well as during his “catalogue aria,” “Madamina, il catalogo e questo,” in which he nonchalantly lists Giovanni’s conquests to a gaping Elvira.

The trio of female leads that serve as the opera’s backbone must create a compelling, collective whole, as well as individuate their own respective characters as they embark on their own journeys. Mostly, the three Winnipeg-born, bred or based sopranos succeeded, albeit with a few bumps along the road.

MB_OPERA_DONGIOVANNI_0732.jpg

Jessica Strong, marking an auspicious MO debut as soloist projected her lusciously warm vocals, including gleaming top notes during each of her major arias, including “Or sai chi l’onore Rapire a me volse,” and later, a limpid “Non mi dir,” as well as eye-of-the-storm trio “Protegga il giusto cielo” sung with Don Ottavio (tenor Owen McCausland) and Elvira as they plead for heavenly protection. She also instilled fascinating sub-text into her role, torn between lust and revulsion for Giovanni, with her solid acting skills morphing through prismatic gradations of emotional colour.

Lyric soprano Monica Huisman crafted a wildcat Elvira who becomes the scourge — and moral checkpoint — of Giovanni’s existence, bringing bushels of energy to the stage with her indignation, at times so heightened that it caused slight intonation issues with her uppermost range. Still, this powerhouse delivered her “ Ah, chi mi dice mai” with the fury of a woman scorned, as well as her subsequent “Ah, fuggi il traditor” in which she thwarts Giovanni’s first seduction of Zerlina that also showcased her innate dramatic flair.

Last but not least, Lett’s lighter, albeit crystal clear, assured lyric soprano voice nailed each of Zerlina’s arias, including (mercifully) injecting dramatic irony into “Batti, batti o bel Masetto,” in which she invites husband Masetto (baritone Johnathon Kirby) to punish her for being tempted by Giovanni, as well as “Vedrai carino,” that flips the narrative on its head as she sly seduces Masetto making this opera equal-opportunity.

American bass Kirk Eichelberger instilled gravitas in his ghostly role as The Commendatore, including his booming “Don Giovanni! A cenar teco m’invitasti” sung to an increasingly unrepentant Giovanni. The Act II cemetery scene, in which tombstones are replaced by hanging, severed bulls’ heads created an arresting trompe l’oeil, with (depending on sightlines) his own human skull appearing replaced by that of a hulking beast.

Tomas (wisely) opted to omit the final ensemble, as per the Viennese libretto of 1788 in which the cast reappears to deliver a neatly sewn up moral, typically included since the early 20th century. Still, the opera’s shuddering finale felt oddly anti-climatic. All-too-brief pyrotechnic effects, while still shocking, felt less flaming-tongues-from-hell, than nifty special effects borrowed from your latest rock concert. And a rafter-shaking voice like Eichelberger’s really doesn’t need to be amplified, which only jarred the senses, while the female demons that suddenly appeared onstage felt far too Canadian-polite.

Having said all this, kudos to Tomas and his committed cast for bringing Mozart’s perennial classic to life, now grown even more resonant with today’s brave new #MeToo bullrings still blood-soaked with beasts of cutthroat power, politics and ever-threatening, pervasive sexual predation.

Holly Harris

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):