JANAI BRUGGER: SET TO SING MOZART, PUCCINI AND CARLISLE FLOYD
Lyric Opera Welcomes The Factotum • Seattle Opera’s Premiere: A Thousand Splendid Suns • Truth & Power: William Warfield • Dorothy Maynor’s Legacy • Clear Talent: Countertenor John Holiday • Woman of Iron: Dorothy Maynor • Sound Bites: Jonathan Johnson • Liner Notes: Donna Leon
On November 10, Bartlett Sher’s Weimar-inspired production of Rigoletto, which had its Met debut last season, returned to the company with an understated opening-night performance that featured the debuts of French tenor Benjamin Bernheim as the Duke, Russian mezzo-soprano Aigul Akhmetshina as Maddalena and Italian conductor Speranza Scappucci leading the Met orchestra.
For Juilliard Opera’s production of Handel’s pastoral opera Atalanta, director Omer Ben Seadia made the canny decision to move the action from Arcadia to Bacchanalia, a modern-day Burning Man-type desert music festival.
Lyric Opera filled what has been a significant gap in Chicago’s opera experience with its first-ever mounting of Verdi's Don Carlos in its original five-act French version, and Rachel Willis-Sørensen's Elisabeth was something to hear.
Shawna Lucey's handsome new production of La Traviata, which opened at San Francisco Opera’s War Memorial Opera House in November and featured the memorable company debut of soprano Pretty Yende, registered as an unqualified triumph.
San Francisco Opera brought its fall season to a triumphant close with Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, presented in a riveting production by Matthew Ozawa and starring Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, who never let the listener forget that his character is the world’s greatest singer. His voice is pure-toned, flexible and astonishingly robust, and his performance in the role demonstrated his gift for projecting intelligence and emotion in word and sound.
Vocal values were mixed in the Royal Opera House's new production of Alcina, which opened on November 8 in Richard Jones's glamorous new staging. Soprano Lisette Oropesa sang the title role skillfully without quite producing the tonal richness and depth that might have drawn a full measure of empathy.
The premiere of a new production of Gluck's Armide at the Opéra Comique was a musical triumph for conductor Christophe Rousset, leading his orchestra Les Talens Lyriques and the chorus Les Éléments, and Véronique Gens, who enjoyed one of the great successes of her career in the title role.
Offenbach's Périchole returned in triumph to the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in a new production directed by Laurent Pelly and conducted by Marc Minkowski, the same team that enjoyed enormous success at the Châtelet with the composer’s Belle Hélène in 2000 and Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein in 2005.
Chiara Muti’s new production of Don Giovanni at the Teatro Regio—conducted by her father, Riccardo Muti, in one of his increasingly rare appearances in the opera house—was appropriately dominated by Luca Micheletti in the title role. The thirty-eight-year-old baritone has everything the part requires—charisma, stunning looks, endless vitality and a voice that is mellifluously seductive.
In November, Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège provided a rare chance to see a staging of Verdi’s Alzira in a production directed by Jean Pierre Gamarra and conducted by Giampaolo Bisanti, the house's new music director. In the title role, Francesca Dotto never forced her lyric soprano beyond its natural limits, sketching in the frilly coloratura with lightly voiced accuracy, while allowing herself more force for her dramatic recitatives.
Valentin Silvestrov, Ukraine’s greatest living composer, originally wrote his 1999 Requiem in honor of his wife, musicologist Larissa Bondarenko, who’d died unexpectedly three years earlier. Two decades later, it’s impossible not to reinterpret the piece as a memorial to the composer’s countrymen who have perished in the war.
How many ways can a tenor and baritone be paired? Father and son, romantic rivals, jealous comrades, devoted friends—they’re all here in this juicy duets album from tenor Jonas Kaufmann and baritone Ludovic Tézier.
Julia Bullock makes a spectacular debut as a solo recording artist with this album featuring five songs performed with pianist Christian Reif, Bullock’s husband, and two works—Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and John Adams’s “Memorial de Tlatelolco,” from El Niño—with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Reif.
For her second solo album, soprano Lisette Oropesa explores selections that are well suited to her, given two of her stated loves—the French language and Italian bel canto. The result is a fascinating program of Rossini and Donizetti arias as they would have been heard by French listeners.