Cher Public

Enzo Bordello

Jason McVicker, one of the first contributors to parterre box under the name “Enzo Bordello,” was a private clinical social worker/therapist at Lakeview Center for Psychotherapy and a visiting faculty member at the University of Chicago School of SSA, the Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC and Loyola University School of Social Work. Jason’s grandmother instilled a love of opera in him at a young age and he carried that passion with him until his death in 2016 at the age of 54. His husband, Michael Worley, notes, “Jason was a walking encyclopedia of opera, which he discovered at the age of eight. He could tell you the year of any major singer’s debut at a certain opera house, recognize the singer in most audio recordings, and tell you the whole cast of most Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. Jason worked as stage manager at the New Orleans Opera and later traveled extensively to the great American and European opera houses. He wrote numerous opera reviews for Windy City Times, and most recently for an Italian online opera zine, GB Opera.”

Lady be good

I’ve given up trying to figure out why divas gravitate to certain roles and not others. Years ago, Shirley Verrett told me with an entirely serious expression that her true role in Don Carlo was Elisabetta, “not the one with the eye patch.” For years, Anna Netrebko seemed destined to become the great Desdemona, Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly of her generation. But no: the roles do not “speak” to her and Netrebko has bypassed what seems like obvious repertoire in favor of some real head-turning operas, including Norma and Macbeth. Her new CD of Verdi arias seems to be a bold, defiant, “in your face” statement about the direction she is taking with her career.  Read more »

Love in bloom

Everything about Aleksandra Kurzak’s new disc is a variation on the term “fioritura.”  From the fuchsia-colored album design, with the decoratively curvaceous soprano brandishing a bouquet of flowers wearing a patterned ensemble of similar hue, to a collection of arias and scenes that bloom through her spectacular coloratura facility, Bel Raggio is a thing of beauty.

While her first album was a “calling card” recital, designed to showcase her talent across a continuum of popular repertoire, Bel Raggio is devoted exclusively to the work of Gioacchino Rossini.  The soprano has made the works of the “master from Pesaro” something of a specialty and his operas have figured prominently in her European career.  She adds yet another Rossini heroine to her repertoire when she essays Countess Adele in Le Comte Ory for La Scala in July 2014.   Read more »

Not quite right

The last of the Strauss-Hofmannsthal collaborations, Arabella, is a real problem child.  The librettist died before significant revisions could be made to the opera and the composer set what remained in dutiful homage to his artistic partner.  Intended to evoke the heyday of Vienna and Hapsburg culture, the opera usually benefits from a lovingly traditional approach which reflects the nostalgic heart of the piece.

That is not to say that a radical re-interpretation with the ability to surface something meaningful about the work, its characters or their creators would not be welcome.  Unfortunately, this 2012 DVD from the Wiener Staatsoper is neither fish nor fowl.  Read more »

A star is reborn

Let’s start with some refreshing news:  Poèmes is the finest thing Renée Fleming has recorded in many a season.

Read more »

Now it is the turn of the poor little small one

It is hard to know just who is the intended audience for this release of Pelléas and Mélisande.

Read more »

Nothing but nets

This 2010 DVD of Brecht and Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny from Madrid assumes pride of place among the available video versions of the opera.

Read more »

Joy in the morning

“Gioia!” is the title of Aleksandra Kurzak‘s debut aria recital, her first international release under a new exclusive contract with Decca Music Group, and—not surprisingly—this writer’s response to the soprano’s sparkling vocalism.   In the liner notes, the Polish soprano explains that the title of this recording was her agent’s suggestion: “He said that he can see the joy on my face when I’m singing. I’ve also heard from fans that listening to me sing makes them smile, because they can tell how much I enjoy performing.”

Read more »

The art of making art

In this new Decca DVD of Tosca we find a highly intellectual, even fascinating staging at odds with the visceral nature of the original melodrama but one that inspires its cast to great heights.  Robert Carsen is a clever producer with an elegant visual palette.  He employs the same directorial strategy as his famous Mefistofele staging, a Pirandello-like theatrical alienation that distances his audience from easy engagement with the material, all the while utilizing familiar production elements to challenge and stimulate our perception.

Read more »