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

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.

Billy Budd in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera’s Billy Budd confirms once again that Britten’s reworking of Melville’s novella is among the great masterpieces of the repertory. It boasted an exemplary cast in an exemplary production, and enlightened conducting.

Dear Marie Stopes: a thought-provoking chamber opera

“To remove the misery of slave motherhood and the curse of unwanted children, and to secure that every baby is loved before it is born.”

A revelatory Die schöne Müllerin from Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout

‘By the year 2006, half the performances of the piano music of Haydn, Mozart and the early Beethoven will be played on replicas of 18th-century instruments. Then I’d give it another 20 or 30 years for the invasion of period instruments to have taken over late Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Schumann as well. If that prediction seems far out to you, consider how improbable it seemed in 1946 that by the mid-’70s Bach on the harpsichord would have developed from exoticism to norm.’

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):