Cher Public

Pièce de résistance

Bartoli NormaAfter enduring a pitiful performance of Verdi’s Aida at one of Italy’s most beautiful opera houses—Napoli’s Teatro San Carlo—in an ugly, mindless production performed in the “any arm you can raise, I can raise higher” style of acting, I was hopeful that my next operatic engagement would offer greater rewards: Norma at the Edinburgh Festival.  Read more »

Live and empoisoned

MalvinaIn how many operas does the heroine drink poison and then go lengthily mad? Only Tsar’s Bride comes to mind. But also: In this opera, the baritone is fought over by two adoring women. That happens to tenors all the time—and, in Mozart, to basses—but a baritone? Add characters named Morna and Wortimer, and if you’re not in a Harry Potter adventure and singers are warbling coloratura, you know it must be an obscure bel canto masterpiece. But whose? Donizetti wrote seventy and, admit it, you only know twenty of them. Mercadante wrote almost as many and you know even fewer. Verdi? Ridiculous. Rossini? Absurd. The Ricci brothers?  Read more »

Roberto Devereux: Tragedy Mirrored

Devereux Leyla GencerBy the time Roberto Devereux saw its premiere at Napoli’s Teatro San Carlo on 29 October, 1837, Gaetano Donizetti had lost, in an 18-month time frame, both his parents, two still-born children, and his beloved wife Virginia. (Ten years later, the unfortunate composer, after a gradual descent into madness, met a grisly end, from complications of syphilis.) The opera was completed a month after his wife’s death. We can scarcely imagine how the composer, in his grief, summoned up the means to create an opera—and one that so often teems with his richest levels of inspiration.  Read more »

Sonnambula Juilliard

I don’t sleep, I dream

Bellini blossomed over us like a love fest.

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Bel Canto

Dangerous liaisons

There was a certain frisson in the air entering Chicago Lyric Opera last night, and not just in anticipation of attending the world premiere of a new work by Jimmy Lopez (music) and Nilo Cruz (libretto), Bel Canto

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“Let her go!”

In this new work, entitled Can Belto, a group of terrorists kidnap and hold hostage Broadway diva Idina Menzel.

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Bolena 1

Don’t axe me why

The Metropolitan Opera’s much vaunted so-called “Tudor Ring” of three royal operas by Donizetti got off to a bumpy start Saturday afternoon with a revival of Anna Bolena that stubbornly refused to cohere either musically or dramatically.

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La Sonnambula


“Opera can, in fact, be something beautiful and moving even when all a performance has going for it is some really excellent singing.”

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You don’t have to be Druids to love it

“The Met’s production, originally directed by John Copley, is still a hideous, confusing mess. But with Ms. Meade and Ms. Barton acting with moving subtlety, singing generously and feeling deeply, it was hard to care.”

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La Cieca is sort of out of words trying to describe what makes a great performance of the role of Norma, as opposed to the conscientious traversal of the notes.

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