Heroic Sound: Frida Leider • Classical Recording Evolves • The Maestro: Christian Thielemann • Soprano Austin Stundyte • Unwavering Purpose: Opera Odyssey & Boston Modern Orchestra Project • Tenor Eric Ferring’s Labor of Love • Sound Bites: Meridian Prall • Liner Notes: Victoria Clark
"Directed by Brian Staufenbiel and conducted by Nicole Paiement, the company’s first performance of Paul Moravec’s operatic adaptation of Stephen King’s 1977 novel the brought its dark themes to the stage with allure."
"The Met's spring run of Der Fliegende Holländer was originally meant to be a revival. But when François Girard’s production was new in March 2020 it achieved only three performances before the company, and most of the world, had to shut down. An entirely new cast and conductor were on hand for the May 30 season premiere, and while Girard’s production turned out to be thin and uninterested in the relationships of the characters, there was plenty of drama coming from the orchestra pit."
"Everything was aligned for LA Opera's recent revival of Otello, which offered an evening of near-matchless singing by Russell Thomas and Rachel Willis-Sørensen, and an orchestra, under James Conlon's baton, whose rendition ranged from truly apocalyptic to the profoundest intimacy of tragic loss."
"Memory has always been central to Madama Butterfly, and Amon Miyamoto’s new production employs it in a compelling way, imagining the opera as the flashback of a feeble old Pinkerton confined to his bed, and making Trouble the story’s silent witness. The device heightens the sense of cross-cultural injustice in ways Puccini never explicitly outlined, and while the production’s use of it grew tiresome, it offered a new perspective on a familiar story."
"Former San Francisco Opera music director Donald Runnicles—surprisingly, conducting the opera for the first time—led a starry cast in an overwhelmingly powerful performance of Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s fairy-tale masterpiece, which returned to the company after a thirty-four-year hiatus. Runnicles handled the enormous orchestra with extraordinary skill. Even the most explosive moments were transparent and without bombast, while the lightly-scored scenes had glowing intimacy."
"Opening the 2023 Glyndebourne Festival, Mariame Clément’s new Don Giovanni staging did not represent a significant improvement over its predecessor, Jonathan Kent's unsatisfactory production, which lasted from 2010 to 2016. There was a lack of clarity to most of the characterizations, and Andrey Zhilikhovsky requires more vocal and physical star-quality to command the stage as the charismatic protagonist."
Orfeo ed Euridice at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival
"Announced as having a slight cold, Cecilia Bartoli plunged into her first Orfeo with a commitment that bordered on the foolhardy. There were moments of extreme vocal refinement, exquisitely sculpted phrases, subtle shadings and the soprano’s characteristic vocal control and uncanny precision. On balance, however, Bartoli gave the impression of trying to do far too much, as if the character of Orfeo somehow contained all the operatic roles in history. While individual moments were searing in their intensity, the overall impression was of an accomplished yet mannered performance that was just this side of hammy."
"An ideal performance of the Bach B-Minor Mass might deploy a chorus with a mere fraction of the 170 singers that the Oratorio Society put on the Carnegie Hall stage. It might also use a cohort of Baroque instruments rather, than the Society’s modern-instrument pickup band. But the Society’s rendition worked beautifully, in large part because of conductor Kent Tritle and his decisive baton technique."
The Artwork of the Future presented by Fresh Squeezed Opera
"Eric Moe’s restless, atonal score is packed with almost more ideas than it can contain, and conductor Alex Wen led with crisp, clear authority. The four hardworking singers did an astonishing job unfurling their lyrical lines over the busy instrumental underpinnings, which offered little obvious pitch reference. But all the elements of Dara Malina's the production and straightforward direction fused together into a delightfully coherent whole."
"This Rusalka was a decidedly successful staging that conveyed the sombre, sometimes menacing emotional atmosphere of this musical fairytale without attempting to thrust a narrowly specific interpretation of its meaning down our throats."
"Kye Marshall and Amanda Hale's new opera juxtaposes the last days of Pompeii and the heyday of Toronto's underground lesbian bar scene, just as both cities are poised on the brink of an eruption. At times, the parallels between the two epochs are so exact—a safe space threatened, young love imperiled, a menacing enforcer—that the action stalls under the burden of correspondence. And Hale’s dialogue can be baldly expositional, shadowed by melodrama, but the poignancy of the situation carries us through."
"Soprano Karina Gauvin, authoritative and masterfully controlled, sang the title role of Boston Early Music Festival's latest operatic extravaganza, Henry Desmarest’s 1694 Circé. The opera's North American premiere, which continues a series of Grammy–attracting productions that have opened the biennial festival for almost three decades, married the visual exoticism of Cirque de Soleil with the musical elegance of the Parisian Baroque."
Highway 1, U.S.A. & Down in the Valley at the little OPERA theatre of ny
"In association with National Black Theatre and Harlem Opera Theater, the little OPERA theatre of ny presented a double bill of post–World War II American one-acts by distinctive composers. Neither the Weill nor the Still is an astonishing work but both are well worth hearing and one heard some wonderful vocal work in lines assigned to ensemble members, and in terms of rhythm and harmonics, the energetically performed choral numbers proved highlights in both operas."
"These days, Verdi’s Rigoletto tends to move its setting regularly—indeed almost invariably. Opera Holland Park’s new staging, by director Cecilia Stinton and designer Neil Irish, set in Oxford in the 1920s—the period of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited—proved far less compelling than other iterations. Regrettably, on the production’s first night, even some of the opera’s crucial vocal elements were not in place."
"Renée Fleming, in her May 25 Carnegie Hall recital with Evgeny Kissin, sang in three languages and offered scarcely an intelligible word in any of them. Songs by Schubert, Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Fauré emerged more or less as vocalises: gusts of sound essentially untethered to text."
"In the opening scene of Gothenburg Opera’s new staging of Nabucco, the Babylonians invaded the council chamber of a democratic state whose flag incorporated the gold stars of the European Union while strongly resembling the trident insignia of Ukraine. This was no army. It was a rabble of wild insurrectionists whose target was the seat of institutional democracy. In less than thirty minutes, director Jacopo Spirei had checked-off the two biggest crises to have engulfed transatlantic civilization in the last three years."
Assassinio nella Cattedrale at Opera Festival of Chicago
"The announcement that Andrea Silvestrelli would jump in for Ferruccio Furlanetto drew an appreciative din from the house. Silvestrelli is beloved in Chicago, and his performance easily demonstrated why. The Italian bass is sounding a bit raw and attenuated at the top of his range these days, but the core of his voice remains burly and pungent and was deployed with great intelligence and sensitivity. His conflicted Becket was poignantly rendered and captured both the man’s nobility and an incipient trace of pomposity as well."
"Augmented reality reached the Bayreuth Festival this season. The festival originally planned to supply the entire audience for Jay Scheib’s new staging of Parsifal with specially designed glasses to experience the production’s three-dimensional moving images. Instead only 300 ticket holders received the glasses for each show. While Scheib offered a modern, well-thought-out reading of Parsifal’s text and music, the nonstop barrage of images threatened to turn the innovative aspects of this Parsifal into visual Muzak."
"Director Claus Guth’s new Munich Opera Festival production of Handel's musical drama presents a concept that has forced him to defy the text at times, but his brilliantly incisive staging is totally convincing, full of wit and irony that cuts to the core of every character’s personality. Musically, each of the performers not only surpassed expectations but catapulted the evening to Olympian heights."
“This Midwestern ensemble showcases their improvisatory zeal and spirited performance style, bringing such communicative skill to this varied repertoire that you almost fail to notice the genuine musical sophistication.”