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Chamber Opera

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NEWS
July 12, 1988 | By Daniel Webster, Inquirer Music Critic
When the American Music Theater Festival's production of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat opens Thursday in New York, the singer in the title role will have to get used to a new wife in the part. English singer and actor Frederick Westcott will return in the title role of the musician beset by brain lesions, but with him will be Marni Nixon as his wife and baritone John Duykers as his neurologist. Duykers stepped into the role from his almost full-time life as Mao in John Adams' cartoon opera, Nixon in China; he sang the part of Mao last month in the Holland Festival and will return to it later this summer when Nixon goes to the Edinburgh Festival.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 11, 1994 | By Peter Dobrin, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
In giving Toby Olson's novel Dorit in Lesbos another life as an opera, it might have been possible to turn Dorit into a hysterical melodrama on the order of Elektra. The story, a look into the tangled relationships people make for themselves, is rife with powerful conflict. But Paul Epstein's music for the chamber opera, performed Friday by Temple University Opera Theater, went a long way in determining an emotional tone that was surely unsettling, yet never raised its voice above gentleness.
ENTERTAINMENT
September 14, 1998 | By Lesley Valdes, INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
Benjamin Britten took Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and turned it into a chamber opera. Thomas Whitman has done the same with Mann's much less well-known last novella, Die Betrogne, which, renamed The Black Swan, was presented for the first time over the weekend at Swarthmore College's Lang Performing Arts Center by Orchestra 2001. The Black Swan shares many similarities with Britten's music theater pieces, including a felicity in setting words so that they shine through and across a melody.
NEWS
February 20, 1988 | By Daniel Webster, Inquirer Music Critic
Henry Purcell's The Fairy Queen was both play and opera, a presentation of the story of A Midsummer Night's Dream with music, dance and ceremony. The descriptive word was semi-opera, and a modern staging necessarily shapes a new definition of that term. The opera was staged last night at the Port of History Museum to begin what is meant to be an annual foray into chamber opera in the small theater. No modern staging can reproduce Purcell's theater or even musical text. The audience in his day was willing to spend six hours in the working out of the play with music.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 27, 1998 | By Daniel Webster, INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
For foredoomed audacity, starting an opera company ranks with imagining balloon flights around the world - yet both activities happily go on all the time. Although the hopeful ConcertOpera Philadelphia got off the ground quietly last year, the chamber opera ensemble has now gone public with three short works in its showcase performed Wednesday at the Helen Corning Warden Theater. Its founders, Diana Borgia-Petro and Albert Chaney, say they saw a need for concert opera to give young singers a forum and to perform works not likely to make the stage because of production costs.
NEWS
September 30, 1986 | By Charles McCurdy, Special to the Inquirer
Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant of The Odyssey who raged at his blindness (inflicted through a nasty trick by Odysseus), rages again as the anti-hero of George Frideric Handel's chamber opera, Acis and Galatea, and, in many ways, steals the show. On Sunday, when Franklin B. Zimmerman's Pennsylvania Pro Musica resurrected the 1718 version of Acis at Old Christ Church, Polyphemus, sung by bass-baritone Richard Johnson, performed with eloquence and passion. The six-member chorus also was important to the dramatic and musical success of this production; overall, it and Johnson helped to stitch together a performance that showed its seams in places.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 18, 1989 | By Tom Di Nardo, Daily News Classical Music Writer
Two impressive student companies continue this season of unusual operas with 20th-century musical mysteries this weekend. The Temple University Opera Theater will perform Leos Janacek's haunting "The Makropulos Case" (1926) tonight at 8 at Centennial Hall, Haverford School on Lancaster Avenue in Haverford. Janacek adapted Karel Capek's complex fairy tale about an opera singer who may have lived other lives into a drama about the value of life and the meaning of humanity. Fifteen Temple graduate students, including Mary Floriano in the pivotal role, and the Temple University Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Hugh Kronrot, will be featured in a fully staged production.
NEWS
June 9, 2009 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
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)
ENTERTAINMENT
September 13, 1998 | By Lesley Valdes, INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
Orchestra 2001 has jump-started the opera season with its world premiere of The Black Swan, which opened Friday and receives its final performance this afternoon at the Lang Performing Arts Center in Swarthmore. A two-act chamber opera, The Black Swan was composed by Thomas Whitman to a libretto by Nathalie Anderson. Soprano Tamara Matthews and mezzo-soprano Frieda Herseth sing the opera, based on a tale by Thomas Mann; celebrated opera producer, director and conductor Sarah Caldwell will direct.
ENTERTAINMENT
June 8, 2007 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
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)
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ENTERTAINMENT
June 4, 2014 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
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?
ENTERTAINMENT
June 5, 2013 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Culture Writer
Her first concern was The Scene. Patricia Schuman had never sung Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, in Thomas Ad├Ęs' 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.
NEWS
June 9, 2009 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
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)
ENTERTAINMENT
June 8, 2007 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
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)
ENTERTAINMENT
March 16, 2007 | By Toby Zinman FOR THE INQUIRER
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.
NEWS
October 14, 2003 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
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.
NEWS
April 29, 2003 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
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.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 23, 1999 | By Lesley Valdes, INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
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.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 22, 1999 | By Lesley Valdes, INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
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.
ENTERTAINMENT
December 15, 1998 | By Lesley Valdes, INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
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.
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