Cher Public

Same old, same old

Tosca NYCO“Just as every downtown shopping street in every major American city now features the same familiar retailers’ names, New York City Opera has no particular artistic identity different from, say, Opera Carolina.” [Observer]

  • Bill

    Dvorak’s Dimitrij at another regional opera company, the Odyssey Opera in Boston on September 16, 2016. Cursory notes.

    Dimitrij, according to the program notes has only been performed
    twice in the USA both in concert form, and this performance was also in concert form at the Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory. The hall is attractive, mostly wood, excellent
    vibrant acoustics, with rather uncomfortable seats. The Odyssey Opera Company puts on about 4 or 5 operas per year, some staged
    or semi staged and some, as this Dimitrij, in concert form
    with the singers and chorus utilizing scores. The Orchestra was,
    in this Dvorak performance something over 60 members (One Harp)
    and the Chorus about the same size -- sopranos did not wobble
    as at the Met -- deft conducting by Gil Rose.

    The opera performance, less cut than previous performances in the USA last a full 4 hours with one intermission. The theater, not at all small, was almost sold out,

    For those who know Rusalka well ( I have seen also the Devil and Kate and several times The Jacobins -- the music is
    absolutely typical but with far greater use of chorus and I suppose on stage there would be two choruses, one of Russians and another of Poles -- and the music is a bit more bombastic than the other 3 Dvorak operas mentioned -- far more choral climaxes at top volume.

    All but one of the leading singers were Czech (and one Russian)
    and it was as well cast as any leading USA Opera company could muster. The Title Role, Dimitrij, requires a spinto type tenor
    (a lyric Lohengrin) and Alex Briscein who indeed has sung Lohengrin in Erl, has an instrumental voice, rather akin to
    Vogt -- choirboy tones, absolute pitch, perhaps with slightly more nasality which is common among Czech tenors -- he had a good hand at the end and based on this hearing will definitely have
    a career in Europe. There are two sopranos, both large roles, the scheming Marina Mniskova requiring a slightly dramatic
    voice (think the Foreign Princess in Rusalka and Dana Buresova
    (whom I have seen as Rusalka in Prague and also sings Libuse)
    was superb -- a really attractive voice throughout the range. The other major female role is Xenie, Boris’ daughter, same range as
    Marina but somewhat tenderer music to fit her character.
    The soprano Olga Jelinkova, who has studied under the grandiosa Gabriela Benackova, has a beautiful limpid voice -- gorgeous really and she sings the Queen of the Night and Konstanze but her voice has much more heft than most exponents of those Mozart roles.
    I cannot imagine that any opera house in the world might not want to immediately engage her as she has been singing from about
    2011 -- both soprano roles demand an absolutely even voice
    from top to bottom and both of these sopranos delivered.

    The old Marfa Ivanova (Tsarina and wife of Ivan the terrible and reportedly the mother of the false Dimitri was cast with the Russian
    Mezzo irina Mishura, familiar to Met audiences in a number of roles circa 2000. Her voice has aged, a slight unsteadiness but
    valid in both the deeper passages and in the few high notes she has to sing. Mark S. Doss was the Sujskik , sufficient volume,
    and one doubting Dimitrij as the true Czar. He has sung at some leading opera houses -- I found him adequate in an ungreatful role.
    There are 4 other characters with less to sing and one of which was a replacement announced from the stage at the beginnning and not understanding the name of the singer or the role, I shall
    pass on commenting on these other 4 singers, all adequate.

    I am not so familiar with Boston Operatic audiences last having seen an opera there when Sarah Caldwell did a staged
    version of the Bartered Bride with Mary Costa and some Czech singers. Yesterday’s audience applauded (with some bravos)
    fervently after the big scenes and at the end. No one rushed
    out of his/her seats after the music ended as at the Met but
    the duration of the enthusiastic applause was perhaps only 6 minutes

    It was very worthwhile to have heard this opera which is not
    frequently performed (Munich did it some years ago) even
    in the Czech Republic -- much of the music is lovely and this entire performance did absolute justice to the score which I had never before heard, even on recording. It is indeed a grand opera if a bit obscure. Dvorak, reportedly, was not familiar with Mussorsky’s
    Boris according to the lengthy notes in the program.

    • It was a great evening at the magnificent Jordan Hall whose warm and vibrant acoustics were perfect for this score. The singers were all very much as Bill described, with Alex Briscein sounding like The Promised Land for clear-voiced, unstrained, lyrico-spinto tenors. Mr. Doss’s handsome bass, by the way, sounded at age 59 solid and easily produced. The Dvorak score is very beautiful — this opera should be much better known.

      • grimoaldo2

        Thanks for the reports, Bill & Will! Sounds like a great evening. I have mentioned on parterre several times the concert performance at the Proms in London I saw must be about twelve years ago of “Dimitrij” with Stuart Skelton,Krassimira Stoyanova as the sweet princess and Elena Prokina as the fearsome older Queen, or whatever she is. They were all terrific and the work itself blew my mind, simply stunning, unforgettable and I agree it deserves to be much better known -- fantastic choral music also, though like so much grand opera,, it requires exceptional singers of prodigious ability to make a full effect.

        • The three women are Xenie, Boris Godunov’s daughter (“the sweet princess,” with beautiful music), Marina from Poland, Dimitrij’s wife, and Marfa, Ivan 1V (the Terrible)’s widow, a granitic presence. They were sung, respectively, by Olga Jelinkova, Dana Buresova, and Irina Misura