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

Miracle on Ninth Avenue

Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first recorded opera I ever heard. Each Christmas Eve, while decorating the tree, our family sang along with the (still unmatched) original cast version. We knew the recording by heart, right down to the nicks in the LP. Ever since, no matter what the setting or the quality of a performance, I cannot get through it without tearing up.

Detlev Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (UK premiere)

It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamburg-born composer Detlev Glanert should count Hans Werner Henze as one of the formative influences on his work - he did, after all, study with him between 1984 to 1988.

Death in Venice at Deutsche Oper Berlin

This death in Venice is not the end, but the beginning.

Saint Cecilia: The Sixteen at Kings Place

There were eighteen rather than sixteen singers. And, though the concert was entitled Saint Cecilia the repertoire paid homage more emphatically to Mary, Mother of Jesus, and to the spirit of Christmas.

Insights on Mahler Lieder, Wigmore Hall, Andrè Schuen

At the Wigmore Hall, Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide in a recital of Schubert and Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Rückert-Lieder. Schuen has most definitely arrived, at least among the long-term cognoscenti at the Wigmore Hall who appreciate the intelligence and sensitivity that marks true Lieder interpretation.

Ermelinda by San Francisco's Ars Minerva

It’s an opera by Vicentino composer Domenico Freschi that premiered in 1681 at the country home of the son of the doge of Venice. Villa Contarini is a couple of hours on horseback from Vicenza, and a few hours by gondola from Venice).

Wozzeck in Munich

It would be an extraordinary, even an unimaginable Wozzeck that failed to move, to chill one to the bone. This was certainly no such Wozzeck; Marie’s reading from the Bible, Wozzeck’s demise, the final scene with their son and the other children: all brought that particular Wozzeck combination of tears and horror.

Korngold's Die tote Stadt in Munich

I approached this evening as something of a sceptic regarding work and director. My sole prior encounter with Simon Stone’s work had not been, to put it mildly, a happy one. Nor do I count myself a subscriber or even affiliate to the Korngold fan club, considerable in number and still more considerable in fervency.

Exceptional song recital from Hurn Court Opera at Salisbury Arts Centre

Thanks to the enterprise and vision of Lynton Atkinson - Artistic Director of Dorset-based Hurn Court Opera - two promising young singers on the threshold of glittering careers gave an outstanding recital at Salisbury’s prestigious Art Centre.

Lohengrin in Munich

An exceptional Lohengrin, this. I had better explain. Yes, it was exceptional in the quality of much of the singing, especially the two principal female roles, yet also in luxury casting such as Martin Gantner as the King’s Herald.

Hansel and Gretel in San Francisco

This Grimm’s fairytale in its operatic version found its way onto the War Memorial stage in the guise of a new “family friendly” production first seen last holiday season at London’s Royal Opera House.

An hypnotic Death in Venice at the Royal Opera House

Spot-lit in the prevailing darkness, Gustav von Aschenbach frowns restively as he picks up an hour-glass from a desk strewn with literary paraphernalia, objects d’art, time-pieces and a pair of tall candles in silver holders - by the light of which, so Thomas Mann tells us in his novella Death in Venice, the elderly writer ‘would offer up to art, for two or three ardently conscientious morning hours, the strength he had garnered during sleep’.

Philip Glass's Orphée at English National Opera

Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orphée - and Philip Glass’s chamber opera based on the film - are so closely intertwined it should not be a surprise that this new production for English National Opera often seems unable to distinguish the two. There is never a shred of ambiguity that cinema and theatre are like mirrors, a recurring feature of this production; and nor is there much doubt that this is as opera noir it gets.

Rapt audience at Dutch National Opera’s riveting Walküre

“Don’t miss this final chance – ever! – to see Die Walküre”, urges the Dutch National Opera website.

Sarah Wegener sings Strauss and Jurowski’s shattering Mahler

A little under a month ago, I reflected on Vladimir Jurowski’s tempi in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. That willingness to range between extremes, often within the same work, was a very striking feature of this second concert, which also fielded a Mahler symphony - this time the Fifth. But we also had a Wagner prelude and Strauss songs to leave some of us scratching our heads.

Manon Lescaut in San Francisco

Of the San Francisco Opera Manon Lescauts (in past seasons Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila among others, all in their full maturity) the latest is Armenian born Parisian finished soprano Lianna Haroutounian in her role debut. And Mme. Haroutounian is surely the finest of them all.

A lukewarm performance of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette from the LSO and Tilson Thomas

A double celebration was the occasion for a packed house at the Barbican: the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s birth, alongside Michael Tilson Thomas’s fifty-year association with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Mahler’s Third Symphony launches Prague Symphony Orchestra's UK tour

The Anvil in Basingstoke was the first location for a strenuous seven-concert UK tour by the Prague Symphony Orchestra - a venue-hopping trip, criss-crossing the country from Hampshire to Wales, with four northern cities and a pit-stop in London spliced between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

07 Oct 2019

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.

Romeo & Juliet at San Francisco Opera

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Amina Edris as Juliet, Pene Pati as Romeo [Photo: Kristen Loken/San Francisco Opera]

 

This October 1 performance was the only one of the seven performance run entrusted to Egyptian-born soprano Amina Edris as Juliet. With Gounod’s famed “Je veux vivre” Mlle. Edris took command of the stage, revising this aria from its usual status as a soprano showpiece to become the portrait of a young girl full of life, ready to fall in love. Mlle. Edris possesses a beautifully colored, burnished tone, rare for a lyric coloratura soprano, her voice fully capable of sailing through the brilliant coloratura to create a freedom of spirit that we know will soon be crushed.

And fall in love at first sight Romeo did, pouring out his feelings in “Ange adorable,” and opening the second act with the famed “Ah! leve toi soleil” flawlessly sung in well-focused, beautifully colored tone. Then the tender duet “O nuit divine, je t’impore” begun and concluded by the smitten Romeo in lovely pianissimos, the scene in which Juliet gives herself to Romeo.

Tenor Pene Pati came into this beautifully finished voice for Gounod’s Romeo over the seven performances. I first heard the Somoan-born tenor in the third performance of this run. I was not persuaded that his voice possessed a convincing intonation though it was lyrical and elegant singing, and most of all it was very secure, youthful singing by an appealing and highly communicative artist. And tenor Pati did indeed provide sufficient foil for the vocal fireworks of the Juliet, sung by young opera star Nadine Sierra at this performance.

I heard Pene Pati’s Romeo a second time (the fifth opera house performance) at Opera at the Ballpark sipping $15 margaritas and munching garlic fries. There were more than 15,000 of us at this 12th annual simulcast of a War Memorial Opera House performance onto the gigantic scoreboard of the SF Giants ballpark. The audience is a cross section of San Franciscans, opera aficionados to be sure, and even the “why not wander in — it’s free!” Astonishment at the discovery of opera is sometimes uniquely expressed at the ballpark — “This is better than a f***in' ballgame!” was a men's room exclamation I overheard.

sfoperaballpark19_stefancohen043.png

While the transmission of the voice of soprano Sierra to the ballpark was flattering, and the virtuosity of this brilliant young singer was even more apparent than in the real acoustic of an in-house performance, Pene Pati’s transmitted voice lacked much of the warmth that I had heard a few days before in the opera house. Though, remarkably, his strong and secure high C at the end of the Act III banishment sextet surely set a new record for high C home-runs.

At this final performance in the opera house with the Juliet of Mlle. Edris tenor Pati may have held the high C even longer than at the ballpark. But most striking was his discovery of a natural flow for the lyricism of Gounod’s ill-fated lover, the young tenor finding Romeo’s poetry without superfluous emotive emphasis and without mannerism. It was pure bel canto, and pure poetry.

With Mlle. Edris tenor Peti delivered the famed duet “Nuit d’hyménée” with unfaltering elegance, both singers revelling in the bel canto of their love. And finally Romeo’s wrenching “Salut! Tombeau sombre et silencieux” held true to the lyricism of Gounod’s musical line, the drama of Shakespeare’s tragedy laid bare in the beauty of young love, not in its angst.

It is true that Romeo is the voice of Gounod’s expressive poet, and that Juliet is the tragic victim of this love story. She must take the sleep potion offered her by Friar Lawrence to simulate death, and suffer the angst lying in the family mausoleum near her slain brother Tybald who, she imagines, demands that she reject Romeo. These, then, are the most dramatic moments of the opera, moments that are opportunities to amplify the work’s emotional outpourings into virtuoso operatic display. Mlle. Edris did not forsake the innocence of character she had created. While easily meeting the challenging technical demands of the poison aria (“Amour ranime mon courage”) she as well quietly underlined her angst by descending into a chest voice, almost spoken, from time to time.

This last performance vindicated a masterpiece status for Gounod's Roméo et Juliette. Canadian conductor Yves Abel built plateaux of orchestral lyricism that clearly inspired the ill-fated lovers to find Gounod’s poetry. Or perhaps it was that these two young artists inspired the maestro to create this world of innocence and musical beauty.

Not that the maestro did not foment the tensions to the utmost in the Act III fight scene, here noisily encouraging Juliet’s brother Tybald to skewer Mercutio, sung by Lucas Meacham, who had let loose with a Figaro-gone-mad act that truly needed to be silenced.

For my full September 19 review of this production please see Roméo et Juliette at San Francisco Opera.

Michael Milenski

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):