Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







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.



View of audience at Millennium Park [Photo by Todd Rosenberg courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
15 Sep 2019

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park 2019

Lyric Opera of Chicago presented this year’s annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park. The evening’s program featured a range of selections from works to be presented in the 2019–2020 season along with arias and scenes from other notable and representative operas.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park 2019

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: View of audience at Millennium Park [Photo by Todd Rosenberg courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]


Soloists performing in this concert were Marianne Crebassa, Lawrence Brownlee, Adam Plachetka, Krzysztof Bączyk, and members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W, Ryan Opera Center. The Lyric Opera Orchestra was led by the company’s music director, Sir Andrew Davis, and the Lyric Opera Chorus was prepared by Michael Black.

Both halves of the concert were introduced by an orchestral selection. The overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller, scheduled to begin performance in October, opened the evening’s program. Davis elicited lush, lyrical motifs from the string section while punctuating these with dramatic lines emphasizing the opera’s fundamental tensions between love, family, and political intrigue.

Adam_Plachetka.pngAdam Plachetka [Photo courtesy of Askonas Holt]

In the first vocal selection Mr. Plachetka gave a spirited performance of Ford’s monologue from Verdi’s Falstaff. Since Plachetka is arguably equally skilled as an actor as singer, this role and scene fits his voice ideally. He concluded the aria with dramatic extended pitches.

Lawrence_Brownlee_IMG.pngLawrence Brownlee [Photo by Shervin Lainez courtesy of IMG Artists]

The audience was subsequently treated to the bel canto artistry of Lawrence Brownlee in Fernand’s aria, “Ange si pur,” from Gaetano Donizetti;s La favorite. Brownlee’s matchless sense of communicating the spirit of the piece while respecting the beauty of the musical line was manifest in this performance. His choice of piano emphasis, gleaming top notes of perfect pitch, and innate sense of legato throughout rendered this selection a memorable highlight of the evening.

As a fitting prelude to the new season’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly Matilda Edge sang “Un bel dì.” Ms. Edge showed an excellent use of shading on top notes, while the final bars of the aria floated into the aether. Experience and innocence were captured nicely by Kayleigh Decker and Christopher Kenney in their rendition of “Lã ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. In a subsequent excerpt Mr. Kenney performed Prince Ylizky’s aria from Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. As one of the memorable solo, lyrical passages from that opera, it is essential for the baritone to give a sense of focused, emotional longing. Kenney’s rounded, full tone succeeded with a touch of melancholy in the mix.

Krzysztof-Baczyk-1-by-Ksenia-S.-Photography.pngKrzysztof Bączyk [Photo by Ksenia-S Photography courtesy of GM Art & Music]

The first part of the concert featured two additional soloists in noteworthy performance. Mr. Bączyk sang an aria from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Aleko. Bączyk’s commanding vocal and stage presence suggested a blend of emotions, enhanced even more by shades of coloring in repeated phrases and words. The message of musical urgency resulted dramatically even for those not conversant in the Russian language.

1R3A2958 Marianne Crebassa Simon Fowler.pngMarianne Crebassa [Photo by Simon Fowler courtesy of IMG Artists]

Ms. Crebassa concluded this portion of the concert by singing the “Habanera” from Bizet’s Carmen in a scene also featuring the Lyric Opera Chorus. Crebassa sounded at once seductive and subtle, her breath control allowed for extended note and rapid shifts in tempo, while occasional passages taken with rubato gave appropriate emphasis.

The second half of the evening included four iconic arias from Il barbiere di Siviglia and the finale to the first act of the opera. Brownlee sang the serenade “Ecco ridente” with sufficient yearning so that his urgent desire to see Rosina was surely perceived. Brownlee’s rapid passagework, his performance of runs and decorative trills, and his beautifully phrased top notes were flawless. The emotional fervor of the scene was captured in the beauty of the singing. In much the same way, Crebassa’s performance of “Una voce poco fa” demonstrated those rare qualities of a Rossinian mezzo-soprano. Her evenness of projection and range with effortless, full low notes and flexibility of line throughout made this clever Rosina appear even more likely to outwit her superiors. Mr. Plachetka sang “Largo al factotum” with gusto and comic intensity, while Bączyk delivered a thundering performance of “La calumnia,” in which speed and volume were varied so that individual pitches communicated as much as phrases taken as a whole. The finale was spirited and bright, acting as a invitation to hear and see more of this glorious performance on stage. Since the artists here performing will be the principals in the opening of the 2019–2020 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago, there should be much to enjoy in the months to come.

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):