Cher Public

Dirty dancing

dorian-amazonA few months before I received for review the DVD of Thomas Agerfeldt Olesen‘s 2013 opera The Picture of Dorian Gray (not to be confused with Lowell Liebermann’s 1996 opera of that name), I watched something more commonplace: a broadcast from overseas of a standard-repertory opera with a well-known tenor star, who shall remain nameless.

The tenor, who can pretend insanity but probably has not tried Insanity, was doubled in one scene by an identically dressed dancer. The singer was obliged to stand, watch and react as his fit, graceful doppelganger went through choreographic foreshadowing business at some length. I joked to friends that I wonder if an opera singer in such situations ever thinks, “Ten years from now, that guy will act the whole part while I sing from the wings.”  Read more »

Rooting for the underdoge

foscari“Take a good deal of trouble with it, because it is a fine subject, delicate and full of pathos,” Verdi wrote to his librettist, Francesco Piave. The product of their labors, the composer’s sixth opera, premiered in November 1844, six months following Ernani. The production commemorated by Opus Arte’s new DVD was first seen in Los Angeles in 2012. It traveled in the following years to Valencia, Vienna, and ultimately London, where it was filmed in 2014.

Not a great deal happens in I due Foscari. Characters anticipate events with dread, react to them with anger or resignation. Some of those events occur offstage. This short opera of mood and color is admired for its “experimental” nature but is of greater interest for its consolidation and refinement of musical techniques. Both the opera and Byron’s source play of 15th-century intrigue, The Two Foscari, place us in the shadowy, menacing Venice explored in many dramatic works through the centuries. Read more »

You can’t hide your lion eyes

untitled-5The UK’s first-ever production of Poliuto, now available from Opus Arte on DVD, set the lions of Rome among the lambs of Glyndebourne. Donizetti’s dramatic opera (or tragedica lirica) was completed in the summer of 1838, a year following Roberto Devereux and two years before La fille du regiment and La favorite, closer to the end of the composer’s career than to the beginning.

The opera dramatizes conflicts of romantic and religious natures. In the third century A.D., Armenia’s Roman conquerors, the worshippers of Jupiter, seek to eradicate Christianity. Paolina (soprano), daughter of Mitilene governor Felice (tenor), has heeded her father’s urging to marry the principal magistrate, Poliuto (tenor).  Read more »

Better call Saul

Director Barrie Kosky’s Glyndebourne 2015 production of Handel’s 1739 oratorio Saul (released on Opus Arte DVD) shows imagination as well as a strong cast and design team.

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Park and bark

Like Orest, I return to this house.

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The upper depths

The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples is a pearl itself and this presentation proffers some of the best that company has to offer.

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I saw three ships

“Never in my life having enjoyed the true happiness of love I shall erect a memorial to this loveliest of all dreams…”

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Bella come un tramonto

With the performance of Dessì we move onto a different plane than the other singers.

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Mourning Wood

Sometimes when you find the club that will have you as a member, you do not easily give up your spot.

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No contest

Richard Wagner viewed dance as an essential element of art, though he used it sparingly in his operas.

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