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."



16 Jun 2019

Rusalka in San Francisco

It must be a dream. Though really it is a nightmare. The water sprite Rusalka tortures herself if she is telling the story, or tortures the man who has imagined her if he is telling the story. Either way the bizarrely construed confusion of Czech fairy tales has no easily apparent meaning or message.

Rusalka at San Francisco Opera

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Rachel Willis-Sorensen as Rusalka [All photos copyright Cory Weaver, courtesy of San Francisco Opera]


But it does have several hours of quite beautiful music to be sung and danced, and that has happened just now in San Francisco. Soprano Rachel Willis-Sorensen made her role debut as the “rusalka” or water sprite who has fallen in love with a hunter who is, incidentally, a prince. The role is a tour de force.

Seated in a moonlit tree Mme. Willis-Sorensen (35 years old) captured all of the naive magic of Dvorak’s famous Song to the Moon. Her considerable vocal resources are now fully realized (she was an ingenue Eva in SFO’s 2015 Meistersinger) and in this Rusalka fully utilized — even though she is voiceless for the entire second act when she must confront her competitor, the Foreign Princess. Rejected she returns to the forest to confront her destiny — that she kill the hunter she loves or forever lure men to their death with her kiss.

Rusalka_SF2.pngAct II Hunting Lodge

This occasioned quite a lot of singing. Mme Willis-Sorensen acquitted herself magnificently, the beauty of her silvery colored voice raging and caressing with unfaltering strength the conflicting emotions of her lost innocence. The hunter prince returns to her only to be pulled into the depths of the earth by her kiss. But not before joining Rusalka in one of opera’s most thrilling duets, it’s emotive extensions dissolving into an ultimate resignation to loss.

Tenor Brandon Jovanovich, a veteran hunter prince (he has recorded the opera with Anna Maria Martínez)) again brought beautiful, secure singing and ardent acting to this role. Mr. Jovanovich naturally brings the genuine innocence required by most tenor roles, plus he retains the requisite physicality. He is a unique artist.

The David McVicar production from Lyric Opera of Chicago gently embraces a lament of the effects of human intrusion into the natural world. The concept engenders a mysteriously lovely, animated forest marred by a concrete sewage dam, and a gigantic, trophy laden hunter’s lodge with carcass laden kitchen. Huge subtle atmospheres were thereby created that provided requisite presence for the unexpected monumentality of Dvorak’s score.

Rusalka_SF4.pngRachel Willis-Sorensen as Rusalka, Brandon Javonovich as the Prince

Houston opera principal guest conductor Eun Sun Kim drove the emotional flow, pulling the vibrant Dvorak colors from the triple winds of the opera orchestra, urging full-throated force from its strings. Unlike the subtlety of the McVicar production Ma. Kim strove for immediate effect. It was thrilling when it was not overpowering. This talented conductress did find balance in the final moments of the duet. Its hopelessness seemed genuinely felt.

The three Wood Nymphs were appropriately embodied by three delightful Adler Fellows who frolicked together with the Opera’s corps de ballet in motions of rustic grotesquerie. British operatic choreographer Andrew George as well created the extensive balletic dance caricatures in the second act hunting lodge. The witch Jezibaba who transforms Rusalka into human form was sung by mezzo Jamie Barton with exaggerated grotesque sophistication.

Rusalka_SF3.pngThe Wood Nymphs and the corps de ballet

The high level casting was completed with Icelandic bass Kristen Sigmundsson singing Rusalka’s father Vodnik and bass baritone Philip Horst as first the lusty then the frightened Gamekeeper. Both artists were appropriately cast in these character roles that were very well sung. The Kitchen Boy who becomes Rusalka’s first victim was beautifully portrayed by former Adler Fellow Laura Krumm.

Soprano Sarah Cambridge, a recent Adler Fellow, was a perfunctory, steely toned Foreign Princess. An additional hunter was rendered by former Adler Fellow baritone Andrew Manea.

Michael Milenski

Cast and production information:

Rusalka: Rachel Willis‐Sørensen; The Prince: Brandon Jovanovich; Vodník: Kristinn Sigmundsson; Ježibaba: Jamie Barton; Foreign Princess: Sarah Cambidge; First Wood Nymph: Natalie Image; Second Wood Nymph: Simone McIntosh; Third Wood Nymph: Ashley Dixon; Forester: Philip Horst; Kitchen Boy: Laura Krumm; Hunter: Andrew Manea.
The San Francisco Opera Chorus and Orchestra. Conductor: Eun Sun Kim; Production: David McVicar; Revival Stage Director: Leah Hausman; Set Designer: John Macfarlane;
Costume Designer: Moritz Junge; Lighting Designer: David Finn; Choreographer: Andrew George. War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, June 16, 2019.

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):