Falstaff, Verdi’s final opera, is exuberantly inventive, bubbling and roiling with ideas the 79-year-old composer was too impatient to develop. It’s a work bursting with miraculously youthful vigor, which the newly invigorated James Levine brought to the Metropolitan Opera on December 6. Levine rightfully reveres Falstaff, and his light, deft touch and detailed musical ear were matched in Robert Carsen’s witty, visually stunning production, where Shakespeare’s Merry Wives live in 1950’s Windsor, leaving their bright kitchens to lunch at smart restaurants. Read more »
Handel’s first surviving musical composition is Almira, the opera he wrote in a hurry when shake-ups at the Hamburg opera house, where the 19-year-old had been playing in the violin section, left a planned production unfinished. Mixing German and Italian text, stuffed with French dances and pageantry, and with a comic servant character right out of Venetian opera, Almira is as up-to-date as the cosmopolitan city got in 1705. Read more »
Karol Szymanowski’s 1926 King Roger was the sleeper hit of SFO’s season, not so much for its weird, mystical theme and feeble libretto but because the music is powerfully effective and Evan Rogister handled the shimmering, richly expressionistic orchestral writing with consummate skill. The choral writing is ravishing, especially the ecclesiastical Russian-sounding opening movement that emerges from the stark sounds of bells and gongs. Read more »
You Parterrestrials know all about Santa Fe Opera’s amazing mountain setting and open-sided theater affording breathtaking sunsets, weather-related drama and–when the back stage wall is opened–starry backdrops, but it was my first visit, so indulge me a little.