June 4, 2014 |
The endless Texas landscape had to be seen if she was to understand what restricted lives it had wrought. For months, mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade studied 90-year-old Myrtle Bledsoe, her character in the chamber opera A Coffin in Egypt , and asked how such an intelligent, sophisticated woman, courted by theater producers and sea captains, could have stayed in a humiliating small-town marriage rife with Southern-gothic intrigue. Was it possible that Myrtle, now looking back at all the people she has outlived, simply imagined the glamorous trips to New York and Paris she so often talked about?
June 5, 2013 |
Her first concern was The Scene. Patricia Schuman had never sung Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, in Thomas Adès' Powder Her Face . But when Opera Philadelphia called to offer the role, it wasn't the unusually short notice - two weeks before the first rehearsal - that gave her pause. How would this production handle the opera's most notorious nonmusical element? Would the depiction of fellatio be nudged in a direction more or less explicit? "When I saw that they had already chosen the director, I asked to see the sets and costumes, and that told me a lot," Schuman said.
June 9, 2009 |
For those who believe divine intervention works amid the chaos of the opera world, Opera Company of Philadelphia's production of The Rape of Lucretia seems meant to be. In its first solo foray into chamber opera at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater, the casting represents a harmonic convergence of the right singers in the right roles in the right theater. Then you must ask why any divinity would intervene for an opera that has such difficulty saying what it means. Everything about the opera - the story (of a 509 B.C. Roman woman who is raped by an Etruscan prince)
June 8, 2007 |
Now in its eighth season, Center City Opera has spent too much time competing with its audience's long-held standard-repertoire memories. Now it has decisively created original memories with Lowell Liebermann's The Picture of Dorian Gray. The work, which premiered in 1996 in Monte Carlo but has seldom been heard since, reemerged Wednesday in a new, smaller, composer-authored orchestration. And what a change. At its 1999 U.S. premiere by Milwaukee's Florentine Opera, Dorian Gray seemed like a safe practice piece (though we now know it led Liebermann to his great and powerful 2006 Nathanael West dramatization, Miss Lonelyhearts)
March 16, 2007 |
Unlike most musicals, Caroline, or Change is deeply human and passionately political (it's by Tony Kushner, after all, who gave us the huge and brilliant Angels in America). Jeanine Tesori's music - sometimes pop, sometimes chamber opera, sometimes witty, sometimes soaring - is sung by a big, fine cast who can both act and sing. And the Arden's new and bold production, under Terrence Nolen's direction, is just splendid. The Caroline (Joilet F. Harris) of the title is an African American maid in a Jewish household in Louisiana in 1963.
October 14, 2003 |
Operas can be victimized by their own success, and Carlisle Floyd's Susannah may well be one. Nearly every element of the Opera Company of Philadelphia's production was dandy at its Saturday opening, with lovely sets, excellent singing, and good overall preparation. Why did the work seem to unfold from the wrong end of the telescope? The reason is that Susannah, a woeful tale of moral fanaticism that has more to say about 21st-century America than its rural Appalachian setting, is an opera that needs to be met more than halfway.
April 29, 2003 |
Whether or not a piece is an officially designated chamber opera, it inevitably becomes one when produced by the Academy of Vocal Arts at the 150-seat theater in its Spruce Street headquarters. That's fine if the opera is a series of emotional revelations. The question in the current staging of Gounod's Faust - with its fantastical elements, crowd scenes and expansive temperament - is how small the opera can be and still deliver. The answers are provocative. Among operatic Fausts, this version is the most popular, the least respected, and the daddy of many operatic cliches.
February 23, 1999 |
Pelleas et Melisande is a disturbing opera. Disturbing because of its psychological violence and its Poe-like symbolism. Disturbing because it doesn't sound like the kind of opera most of us know: Rossini's, Verdi's, Mozart's, Puccini's. There are no traditional arias or ensembles; Pelleas is more like a play that is sung. Claude Debussy broke ground when he turned Maurice Maeterlinck's play into a chamber opera. He was making a pivotal turn away from the Wagnerian dramas he despised, one that would lead to the pared-down theater of Berg and Brecht.
January 22, 1999 |
The underlying story is slight, dated, for the comic English opera Albert Herring. A friend wonders: Is it even worth an opera? And she, too, is an opera buff. Thank goodness Benjamin Britten wrote the music. You can't go wrong listening to anything Britten composed, as a visit to the Academy of Vocal Arts' current production should show. The professional training school is staging the 1947 opera whose plot is based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant. Eric Crozier turned it into an capable libretto.
December 15, 1998 |
Thomas Ades, a Brit who is 27 and enduring much hype on both sides of the Atlantic, wrote an opera when he was only 23. It premiered in England in 1995, at the Aspen Music Festival two years later, and Saturday night closed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Majestic Theater after three performances. It is called Powder Her Face and tells the story of the salacious life and divorce (in 1963) of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll. The Duchess's predilection for fellatio, with the hired help and with a Minister of Parliament, makes recent events in Washington seem pale.