Friday, July 29, 2016
Every summer since 2003 Bard SummerScape has mounted one or more rarely done operas in the stunning Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center, and this year as part of its “Puccini and His World” festival audiences may witness the resurrection of Mascagni’s distinctly odd Iris, conducted as always by Bard president Leon Botstein. On Sunday James Darrah’s often riveting production featured a radiant, devastating Talise Trevigne as its impossibly innocent heroine and made an intriguing case for this ravishing if baffling work. Since they share a librettist (Luigi Illica) and a Japanese locale, Iris is frequently mentioned in connection to Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, written six years later, but the latter’s simpler, more moving story no doubt accounts for its long-standing popularity. Mascagni’s Iris lives with her blind father apart from the world. She delights in nature, particularly her burgeoning garden and the sun, for her the source of all these simple and finest things in life. Her singular beauty attracts the attentions of Kyoto, a ruthless pimp, and one of his regular clients Osaka, a young rake. Hoping to distract Iris, they stage a puppet show during which they kidnap her and deposit her in Kyoto’s brothel. Absolutely unaware of the ways of the world, Iris awakens and unable to make sense of her surroundings imagines that she has died and is now in paradise. Osaka arrives and his passionate attempts at seduction are met with implacable resistance. He flees and an outraged Kyoto resolves to place Iris for sale to the highest bidder. Her father, sure that she has willingly abandoned him to enjoy the world’s temptations, arrives and violently denounces her. In absolute despair, Iris throws herself down an open sewer. Initially questioning how she came to this sorry state, she soon comes to accept that her imminent death will result in the birth of more flowers brought forth by the all-powerful sun. The celebrated choral opening of the opera, the spectacular “Inno del Sole” threatens to overwhelm poor Iris’s humble story before it begins. Eventually we realize that the chorus serves as the key to this eccentrically opaque character. One problem is that she remains more of a symbol than a flesh-and-blood woman; most any other operatic heroine would have ecstatically succumb to Osaka’s fervent entreaties. Instead she recounts in her striking aria “Un di, era piccina” that a monk once told her the chilling story of a sea monster who represents Pleasure and Death. Cowering on the floor traumatized by Osaka’s suit, Trevigne skillfully balanced Iris’s trauma with her blind commitment to her innocent world view. She beautifully negotiated the pure innocence of Iris while allowing us to become occasionally frustrated with her stubbornness. She was particularly arresting in Iris’s wrenching existential encounters in the sewer with her father and Osaka and Kyoto. Although her warmly shining soprano took a while to warm up—the middle often disappeared during the first act—she soared expressively above the staff where her tight vibrato excitingly throbbed with confused emotion. Gerard Schneider as Osaka also began in rough voice, his throbbing tenor often alarmingly hoarse. He settled down in the second act and his attempted seduction of Iris often rang out impressively. Unfortunately his disturbingly over sung performance showed little concern for dynamic nuance. Although Douglas Williams strutted about provocatively as the vicious pimp, he too struggled with part a size or two too big for his mellow baritone. As Il Cieco Matthew Boehler was gratefully cast and sang well, although this promising young bass lacked the gravitas that might been brought to the role by a more experienced singer. Mezzo Cecelia Hall gracefully negotiated the vocal and awkward choreographic demands of the geisha who dominates the first-act puppet play. Particularly when he could concentrate on the interaction between two or three characters, Darrah drew focused, compelling work from his principals, and he wisely eschewed the work’s Japonisme that initially may have accounted for some of opera’s initial success. Emily Anne MacDonald and Cameron Jaye Mock’s simple and arresting sets revealed no particular geographic location. The red lacquer “sex cabins” that dotted the second act set were particularly effective. Unfortunately many of Peabody Southwell’s grim costumes were eye-poppingly hideous, particularly Kyoto’s outrageous “hostess pajamas,” and the many be-sequined denizens of his brothel who looked as if they had stepped out of a wisely discarded episode of 1960s vintage Star Trek. Generally considerate to his hard-working singers, Botstein drew loudly vigorous playing from the American Symphony Orchestra but as usual his conducting veered to the bombastic particularly in his full-bore, nearly deafening renditions of the choruses to the sun that begin and end the work. In its early years Iris attracted the greatest singers of the day—the world premiere starred Hariclea Darclée and Fernando De Lucia—but for all its frequently gorgeous music, Illica’s curiously uninvolving libretto must account for why Iris is so infrequently performed, absent from the Met for 85 years. In the quarter-century it was performed there it managed only16 performances, despite casts that included Emma Eames, Lucrezia Bori, Elisabeth Rethberg, Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, Antonio Scotti and Ezio Pinza. Since then such widely varied divas as Clara Petrella, Magda Olivero, Adriana Maliponte, and Olivia Stapp have taken on Mascagni’s innocent in the odd revival. But perhaps Iris’s fortunes are changing—tomorrow (26 July) in a concert performance in Montpellier Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva sings the title role for the first time, conducted by her husband Domingo Hindoyan. In the meantime three more performances remain during Summerscape, and Trevigne’s glowing performance is more than enough to make the trip to Annandale-on-Hudson for Iris worthwhile.
In the Park with... Sidney Outlaw Baritone, Opera in the Park 1. Where were you born / raised? Brevard, in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. 2. What is in your ideal picnic basket? I like food in general and I try to eat clean on a regular basis. So my ideal basket would be any kind, as long as it had good food in it. 3. My most memorable moment performing outside was... A cabaret performance I did for Marilyn Horne at Music Academy of the West. 4. My favorite outdoor performance I've attended was... I saw Nabucco at L'Arena di Verona while competing in Placido Domingo's Operalia. 5. My favorite summertime activity is... Working out and doing Crossfit / Olympic weight lifting early in the morning. 6. My ideal vacation is.... Going to Ibiza and hanging out for awhile. Bonus: One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer). Q: What type of music do you listen to besides opera? A: Mainly R&B / hip-hop, but all kinds. My favorite singer is Janelle Monae. Join Sidney for Opera in the Park on Saturday, July 23 at 8pm in Garner Park. FREE admission; visit madisonopera.org for more information.
Selfies at BP Big Screens © Instagram / (from left-right) @tamsandeman/ @yolandbosiger/ @kfong88/ @gibbs_sophie/ @tamsandeman/ @noseyparkers What is a BP Big Screen? A BP Big Screen is your chance to see opera and ballet – for free. The first Big Screen was in 1987 and saw Plácido Domingo perform in John Copley ’s production of Puccini 's La bohème . Almost thirty summers later, we continue to bring three Royal Opera and Royal Ballet productions to BP Big Screens around the UK each year. All audiences need to do is find their nearest BP Big Screen and show up. No booking, no tickets – the screenings are open to all. Picnics at past BP Big Screens Instagram and Twitter @alhvocalist / @caroline1990 /@VirginiaStuartTaylor / @douglasnatasta / @sallyharman /@madammalarky Bring a picnic, take a selfie We keep our fingers crossed the English weather doesn’t let us down – but even with a spot of rain (and a free waterproof poncho), no BP Big Screen is complete without a well-stocked picnic. Bring some plastic glasses and pop a bottle of prosecco for an indulgent touch. Rain or shine, we want to see picnics from across the country! So when you're settled in, send us your selfies for a chance to win Royal Opera House goodies. Post your picture on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag announced during the show. The best snaps will be broadcast on the screen during the interval and the presenter will announce the winner at the end of the performance. Dominic Peckham interviewing Katy Bathos at the La Traviata BP Big Screen in Trafalgar Square © ROH 2014 Watch exclusive behind the scenes films featuring the cast and creative team Each BP Big Screen brings you closer to the production with an exclusive look behind the scenes. Films feature interviews with the cast and creative team and offer glimpses of the rehearsal process. Join presenter Dominic Peckham live from the BP Big Screen in London’s Trafalgar Square. This is our largest venue, which can hold up to 8,000 people. Here conductor and choral expert Dominic speaks live to members of the cast and crew, who have popped over from Covent Garden in the interval, and will also lead the crowd in dance and sing-a-longs. Trafalgar Square during the live relay of Tosca on BP Big Screens. © ROH / Elliott Franks 2013 Where’s my nearest screening? From Aberdeen to Plymouth – there are several BP Big Screens located around the UK. Find your nearest BP Big Screen . If you're not in the UK, BP Big Screen relays are occasionally live streamed online too, as is the case with Il trovatore, available to watch online from 6.45pm BST on 14 July 2016 . What’s coming up? We'll be showing Verdi’s Il trovatore this evening, 14 July, at 6.45pm - don't miss out. All live screenings are classified 12A by the BBFC. Any child under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
David Gvinianidze According to Google Translate, the Russian foundation “Talents of the World ” (ФондТаланты мира) aims for nothing less than to “develop the intellectual and spiritual potential of Man, restore and promote the lost traditions of Russian vocal art, pay attention to a wide audience to the inexhaustible treasury of world opera classics through the development of cultural values, to implement the program of democracy and moral solidarity of mankind, which is reflected in the motto of the fund “From the world of culture to the world peace.” What that means for Bostonians is that we are invited to a vocal gala of operetta, opera and Broadway at the Newton City Hall auditorium on Saturday, July 16th constituting the New England début of one of the largest Eastern European concert organizations. Ticket link here . For this promising event, the artistic director of the foundation David Gvinianidze invited Adam Klein, tenor (Metropolitan Opera); Zhanna Alkhazova, soprano (Des Moines Opera); Olga Lisovskaya, soprano (Commonwealth Lyric Theater) and himself as director and baritone to mount a mélange of arias, operetta and Broadway tunes and ensembles. Apparently replete with “creative stage direction, and great voices,” the show concludes with “delicious refreshments.” Commonwealth Lyric Theater’s singer/producer Liskova tells BMInt more about Talents of the World Foundation. Founded in 2002, the organization’s motto is “From the World’s Culture to Peace on Planet Earth,” its main mission is to popularize classical vocal repertoire. The Foundation’s president and founder, David Gvinianidze, a world-renowned singer, has won several prestigious competitions, produces many unique concert projects, and is famed as a TV persona. During the 2006 “Valsesia Musica” international competition, the famous mezzo-soprano Fiorenza Cossotto compared Gvinianidze to the young Placido Domingo. While David admires many great opera singers like Maria Callas, Feodor Chaliapin and Luciano Pavarotti, it was Mario Lanza, who influenced David’s vision for his future, for it was Lanzo, who, possessing a truly beautiful voice, made the high art of classical vocalism accessible to millions through his shows and movies. David’s personal mission is to make this royal art form more popular throughout the world, and to promote classical music in the young generation’s education. Talents of the World has produced over 80 concert projects in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Israel and Azerbajdzjan, and David’s project “Royal Tournament” was chosen to be presented at the Presidential Summit in Astana. Talents of the World not only produces concerts, but also leads an educational outreach and charitable concerts. All this activity earned Gvinianidze a United Nations medal for promoting art and culture. Adam Klein and David Gvinianidze (photo A. Maslov) Opera, Operetta, Broadway July 16th at 7:00, Newton City Hall 1000 Commonwealth Avenue, Newton For more information about the concert, please call (857) 919-4832 . Tickets: $40 at the door or $35 online here . The post Foundation Mounts Vocal Gala appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
Shirley Verrett remains one of my all-time favorite artists, and I am pleased to introduce her to my Mixcloud site in one of her parade roles: the femme fatale in Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, partnered by the young Plácido Domingo in a 1980 performance from San Francisco. Verrett’s career began a decade before her 1968 Met debut as Carmen, at which time she had already sung in Köln, and at New York City Opera, The Royal Opera at Covent Garden, and the Bolshoi Theater. She introduced her Dalila to La Scala in 1969. After receiving a positive, if not exactly overwhelming, reaction to her first dozen Met performances in Carmen, Don Carlo, Aida, and Il trovatore, she was thrust into national headlines when, on opening night of the Met’s premiere of Les Troyens in 1973, she subbed for an ailing Christa Ludwig at the last minute and triumphed as both Cassandre and Didon. That was my first experience with her, and my love for her musicianship, grace and beauty, dramatic acuity, and especially her wide-ranging, silvery mezzo grew with each new role. Among my most treasured memories are Verrett’s electric Judith in A kékszakállú herceg vára (sung in English), of which I attended all 12 performances; Neocle in the rather bastardized edition of L’assedio di Corinto, in which her marathon 15-minute coloratura scena at the beginning of Act III on some nights garnered a longer, louder ovation than that awarded to debutant Beverly Sills; a youthful Adalgisa with alternate high notes to burn opposite Montserrat Caballé, as well as her first-ever performance as the titular Druid priestess in Boston in 1976 (I flew over for the show in the middle of a Provincetown vacation). She held her own as Madam Lidoine in the Met premiere of Dialogues des Carmélites (in English), and against Luciano Pavarotti in the company’s first performances of La favorite (in Italian) in 73 years. She brought her first soprano role, Tosca, to the Met in 1978 opposite Pavarotti, soon followed by her first Normas at Lincoln Center, but Leonore in Fidelio was not a success, and she cancelled as many performances as she sang. She sang only one Met performance of another parade role, Verdi’s Lady Macbeth in 1988. She brought her Dalila to Lincoln Center in 1990, also with Domingo, a decade after the San Francisco Opera performance featured this week. Two Azucenas the following month marked the end of her Met career, at which point she was 58-years-old. Domingo, 39 at the time of this performance, was just beginning to take on the dramatic roles which he favored for the later part of his career, having sung his first Otello the year before. There is still a youthful gleam and power in his upper register which would not remain there much longer. It also took him another decade to bring his Samson to Lincoln Center, but he maintained it in his active repertoire until 2001; he cancelled six performances as Samson in 2006, which marked the most recent Met performances of the opera. One could wish for a more suave, French baritone as the Grand-Prêtre de Dagon than Wolfgang Bredel, but he gets the job done (what there is of it). Julius Rudel offers a passionate, wildfire reading of the score. And what of that score? Saint-Saëns was an admirer of the oratorios of Händel and Mendelssohn, and decided in 1867 to compose his own to a Biblical story. A relative’s young husband convinced the composer that it should be a full-fledged opera, and not the extended duet with choral interjections that Saint-Saëns had envisaged. Finding the subject matter unsuitable for the stage, the French public rejected the idea after only the second act had been completed. It would take several years plus the convincing of Franz Liszt, who also guaranteed a Weimar premiere, for Saint-Saëns to complete the opera in 1876. The premiere was sung in German in Weimar the following season, and then in Hamburg; it did not reach Paris until 1890. The opera quickly spread throughout France and to Monte Carlo, and reached Carnegie Hall in 1892, in concert form. After a few Met performances with Francesco Tamagno, it took the team of Enrico Caruso and Margarete Matzenauer to turn it into a company staple: there has not been a decade without a revival or new production since those 1915 performances. Rumors have Elina Garanca and Bryan Hymel teaming-up for a new production in the 2018/2019 season. Camille Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila San Francisco Opera Julius Rudel, conductor 18 September 1980 Samson – Plácido Domingo Dalila – Shirley Verrett Le Grand-Prêtre de Dagon – Wolfgang Brendel Abimélech – Arnold Voketaitis Un vieillard hébreu – Kevin Langan Un messager philistin – Robert Tate Premier Philistin – Michael Ballam Deuxième Philistin – Stanley Wexler
Don Giovanni rehearsal: Director Kasper Holten with Malin Byström as Donna Anna With its fusion of live music and dramatic theatre, opera is often hailed as the most emotionally powerful of all art forms. Key in staging such potent art is the role of the director — the lynchpin that drives the action, and presents his or her interpretation of a composer's work. But how do directors become directors? The Royal Opera House currently offers an Opera Directing Observership, a way into the industry for budding Richard Jones es or David McVicar s. 'Before taking on this placement, I had plenty of experience of working in theatre - as both Assistant Director and Director - but none in opera', says Ellie Taylor who has recently completed an observership. 'I was lucky enough to be offered a placement with The Royal Opera's Staff Directing department, and worked on the recent revival of Nabucco starring Plácido Domingo . As well as working on a production featuring one of the world's greatest singers, I had the opportunity to shadow the Revival Director and work closely with other members of staff including the Movement Director. After an initial period of getting used to the opera world's way of working, I had the opportunity to become more actively involved, which was fantastic'. Although she was an opera newcomer on taking up her placement, Ellie's lack of experience in the art form didn't hold her back: 'I wasn't sure what to expect to be honest, and my excitement was met with an equal amount of nerves that I'd mess up, or wouldn't understand the art form and wind up completely lost. However, this wasn't the case at all — everyone was so helpful and supportive and there was no need to be concerned about not knowing something, because that's the whole point!' Ellie's experience revealed to her, that rather than being an entirely separate discipline, opera directing draws upon many of her existing skills: 'There's a myth that you can only be a theatre or opera director, and that at some point you have to choose between the two. Obviously different art forms have different inherent conventions, but fundamentally you're still telling a story, with the aim to create the best possible world for the tale to emerge from. As long as you embrace the rehearsal room, and are willing to be challenged, you'll find your way from page to stage'. As for next steps, Ellie has already lined up her first solo opera directorship: 'I'm directing my first opera in August for Northern Opera Group . I'm really excited to begin applying the skills I gained from my observership in my home region of Yorkshire. After that, I'm returning to London to assistant direct a production of All My Sons at the Rose Theatre in Kingston'. So what would her advice be to those considering moving into opera directing? 'See as much as you can, talk to those who can tell you about their experiences and ask plenty of questions', she says. 'I didn't actually realize until I came to the Royal Opera House just how many directors, designers and musicians that I already knew had been involved in opera at some point. If you're a newcomer, it's useful to get a sense of the kind of opera you might like and if you go to a performance, it's always useful to speak to audience members about what they liked and didn't about a production. Ultimately, just go for it!' Applications are now open for our August 2016 Opera Directorship .
Great opera singers