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Thread: Our own reviews of operas we've attended

  1. #121
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    I went to SF Opera Lab Pop-Up event at Public Works. The venue typically features DJs and other electronic music. It's got a nice bar.

    The crowd was large, mobile, and not particularly quiet. This was as encouraged. This also meant the singers used mics, and were accompanied by an electronic keyboard.

    The singers and pianists were all from the Merola program. The overall effect of the night was making me want to look at their schedule for more traditional recitals, which they seem to have about once a month.

    Song choice varied, but was mostly operatic arias - "Stà nell'Ircana pietrosa tana," "Vous qui faites l'endormie," "News Has a Kind of Mystery," a bunch of Puccini - along with some lieder - "Der Atlas" from Schwanengesang and "Chanson à boire" from Don Quichotte à Dulcinée - and some popular songs, "My Funny Valentine," "O solo mio," "Can't Help Falling In Love," and "Dinner at Eight" (Wainwright).

    My favorites were "Dich, teure Halle" (she also was good at mic control), the Handel and "Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio." The guy who sang "Questa o quella" and, for the closer, the Act 1 duet between the Duke and Gilda (with his actual wife).

    I didn't really care for the goofy introductions or memes projected behind the singers, all attempting to explain what was being sung, but aiming more for ridiculous than accurate. But, then again, I already like opera and knew some of what they were singing. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, mostly. There probably were some people who came out of this more likely to go to other operatic events including the SF Opera Lab season at the Wilsey Center and main stage productions.

    It was an enjoyable enough evening, but not quite what I'm looking for. It was cheap, though!

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  3. #122
    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountmccabe View Post
    I went to SF Opera Lab Pop-Up event at Public Works. The venue typically features DJs and other electronic music. It's got a nice bar.

    The crowd was large, mobile, and not particularly quiet. This was as encouraged. This also meant the singers used mics, and were accompanied by an electronic keyboard.

    The singers and pianists were all from the Merola program. The overall effect of the night was making me want to look at their schedule for more traditional recitals, which they seem to have about once a month.

    Song choice varied, but was mostly operatic arias - "Stà nell'Ircana pietrosa tana," "Vous qui faites l'endormie," "News Has a Kind of Mystery," a bunch of Puccini - along with some lieder - "Der Atlas" from Schwanengesang and "Chanson à boire" from Don Quichotte à Dulcinée - and some popular songs, "My Funny Valentine," "O solo mio," "Can't Help Falling In Love," and "Dinner at Eight" (Wainwright).

    My favorites were "Dich, teure Halle" (she also was good at mic control), the Handel and "Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio." The guy who sang "Questa o quella" and, for the closer, the Act 1 duet between the Duke and Gilda (with his actual wife).

    I didn't really care for the goofy introductions or memes projected behind the singers, all attempting to explain what was being sung, but aiming more for ridiculous than accurate. But, then again, I already like opera and knew some of what they were singing. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, mostly. There probably were some people who came out of this more likely to go to other operatic events including the SF Opera Lab season at the Wilsey Center and main stage productions.

    It was an enjoyable enough evening, but not quite what I'm looking for. It was cheap, though!
    Very interesting, thanks for the write up. Hopefully there are some people who will now be interested in seeing an opera.
    Ann

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    I saw the Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson work Lost in the Stars in the Kennedy Center's intimate Eisenhower Theater last night. While it was put on by the Washington National Opera, Lost in the Stars is actually closer to a work like Show Boat or South Pacific than to an opera. As in South Pacific or Show Boat its dialogue is spoken rather than sung, and I was honestly surprised at how well the singers handled it. Eric Owens, who also sings Wagner, played the lead role of Stephen Kumalo, a South African minister in the Anglican Church whose son accidentally kills a white man and eventually goes to his death after refusing to lie in court. I know that Todd Duncan, Gershwin's original Porgy, created this role on Broadway; having no idea what he was actually like (other than his renditions of the songs on the original cast recording -- see below), I think Owens did a fantastic job. The rest of the cast was first-rate, too, especially the actor who played the (non-singing) role of the father of the murdered man, whose attitude toward black people changes radically by the drama's end, and the tenor who sung the Ensemble Leader (a sort of commentator on the action).

    As Lost in the Stars is so rarely done, I don't expect ever to see it performed again; I regard last night as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That said, the title song from the work is fairly well-known (Frank Sinatra recorded it), and there is a recording of "Stay Well" from Act II by Dawn Upshaw on her album I Wish It So:



    Last edited by Bellinilover; Feb-20-2016 at 19:46.

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  6. #124
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    Norma - English National Opera

    Went to this with some trepidation. It had some very mixed mixed reviews in the press. When the cast list was picked up, it was found that this was a two act opera with a 90 min first act. These late 18thC and early 19thC opera with 90 minute acts are quite off putting. Sure I will put up with a 2hr Wagner, but generally prefer acts in one hour or less chunks.

    However this is the best sounding opera I have heard at the ENO. Normally the accoustics are a bit reedy, but not tonight. The singers were nice and loud, the orchestra crisp and shimmering. Maybe the wooden box set acted as a sound board, but the sound was so good I could have been at the ROH. And I was in a cheapo seat up on the balcony.

    The cast were excellent Majorie Owens fulfilling her potential as Norma (she will make a fine Isolde). Jennifer Holloway almost her match as Adalgisa. Peter Auty had a fine ringing voice as Pollione, and got some Pinkertonesque boos at the curtain call (all in good jest though). Also the first act flew by. Stephen Lord and the orchestra got some criticism in the press, but to my ears they sounded vibrant. And as always the chorus was oustanding.

    As for the production, it did not offend me. It is set in a rural community in America during the Mid 19thC, with the Romans dressed up like Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Reviewers criticised the staginess and lack of movement. But there was plenty of movement and the direction told the story (even though the clothes and libreto did not match). You even get to see some unfortunate Roman get castrated by a sickle live on stage. And the ending was impressive with real flames for the funeral pyre (hope the ENO will not burn down during this run).

    Really enjoyed the opera, reminded me of a proto Wagnerian opera, with many of the same elements used later in Gotterdammerung. A vengence trio, soldiers being called to arms and finally a death on a funeral pyre. Only quibble, would have loved to have heard it in the original Italian. The cast was so good, singing in Engish didn't do it justice. But that's the ENO for you.

    Goodfellas, Tommy's mum gives good advice, in Italian it sounds much nicer..

    [yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eVqdnDk02Y[/yt]
    Last edited by Loge; Feb-21-2016 at 03:21.

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  8. #125
    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loge View Post
    Norma - English National Opera

    Went to this with some trepidation. It had some very mixed mixed reviews in the press. When the cast list was picked up, it was found that this was a two act opera with a 90 min first act. These late 18thC and early 19thC opera with 90 minute acts are quite off putting. Sure I will put up with a 2hr Wagner, but generally prefer acts in one hour or less chunks.

    However this is the best sounding opera I have heard at the ENO. Normally the acoustics are a bit reedy, but not tonight. The singers were nice and loud, the orchestra crisp and shimmering. Maybe the wooden box set acted as a sound board, but the sound was so good I could have been at the ROH. And I was in a cheapo seat up on the balcony.

    The cast were excellent Majorie Owens fulfilling her potential as Norma (she will make a fine Isolde). Jennifer Holloway almost her match as Adalgisa. Peter Auty had a fine ringing voice as Pollione, and got some Pinkertonesque boos at the curtain call (all in good jest though). Also the first act flew by. Stephen Lord and the orchestra got some criticism in the press, but to my ears they sounded vibrant. And as always the chorus was outstanding.

    As for the production, it did not offend me. It is set in a rural community in America during the Mid 19thC, with the Romans dressed up like Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Reviewers criticised the staginess and lack of movement. But there was plenty of movement and the direction told the story (even though the clothes and libretto did not match). You even get to see some unfortunate Roman get castrated by a sickle live on stage. And the ending was impressive with real flames for the funeral pyre (hope the ENO will not burn down during this run).

    Really enjoyed the opera, reminded me of a proto Wagnerian opera, with many of the same elements used later in Gotterdammerung. A vengeance trio, soldiers being called to arms and finally a death on a funeral pyre. Only quibble, would have loved to have heard it in the original Italian. The cast was so good, singing in English didn't do it justice. But that's the ENO for you.


    Great review Loge.

    Was it well attended?
    Ann

  9. #126
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post


    Great review Loge.

    Was it well attended?
    The balcony was packed out, never seen the ENO so full. When I saw Mastersingers the balcony was half empty.

  10. #127
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loge View Post
    The balcony was packed out, never seen the ENO so full. When I saw Mastersingers the balcony was half empty.
    That's good to hear and also shoots down my theory that audiences prefer operas in original language.
    Last edited by sospiro; Feb-21-2016 at 20:20.
    Ann

  11. #128
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    That's good to hear and also shoots down my theory that audiences don't mind operas in original language.
    Changing the language of an Opera does change to sound, even though the notes are all the same. For example have a good chuckle at this, The Beggar's Opera in Italian! Bawdy English folk songs now sound like high art, though I have to admit in Italian it sounds much nicer. Move to 46:53 for a good song.

    [yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNUJHaAcgf8[/yt]
    Last edited by Loge; Feb-21-2016 at 17:51.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Loge View Post
    Changing the language of an Opera does change to sound, even though the notes are all the same. For example have a good chuckle at this, The Beggar's Opera in Italian! Bawdy English folk songs now sound like high art, though I have to admit in Italian it sounds much nicer. Move to 46:53 for a good song.

    [yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNUJHaAcgf8[/yt]


    Wow!! That's fabulous and indeed it does sound better.

    PS I meant to say 'shoots down my theory that audiences prefer operas in original language' not 'audiences don't mind operas in original language.
    Ann

  13. #130
    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    That's good to hear and also shoots down my theory that audiences prefer operas in original language.
    If your theory can be shot down by one example amongst many counter examples then it's not much of a theory :-) Actually I share your view about the audience preferring the original language and feel you should hold on to your theory. I prefer the originals, but I'm not going to turn down the chance to see something I like or am very interested to see.

    ENO invariably does pretty well with classic operas that aren't often seen down the road. i.e. it's of sufficient interest to the Covent Garden regulars that they'll put up with the English translations.
    Last edited by Don Fatale; Feb-21-2016 at 20:45.

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  15. #131
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    Default Last night : Otello / Antwerp

    In Antwerp was Otello in charge of a Director (Michael Thalheimer) whose favorite color is black.
    That we saw a few years ago in La forza del destino, and this performance was even blacker than black.
    The decor was a black watch box and all singers were dressed in black clothing. In the promo clip Otello had established itself, only black eyes, but in the show he had a droll round black face paint, from forehead to Chin.

    It looked ridiculous, but black was though.
    Even Desdemona was shrouded in black, including her hair colour (whole against the descriptions of Shakespeare and Verdi/Boito, which for the contrast rich blond chose).

    Otello does not, however, to black. The opera is about doubt and losing grip on the case, because he is afraid that his success not Otello can hold. The Black-Black approach to me is trite and too simple. It shows lack of understanding. It's too one-dimensional and thereby determined no tribute to the so colorful English text poet.

    Flanders opera had for the lead role a vedette invited: Ian Storey, an English tenor heroes who for years all over the world the toughest roles sings. Storey acted somewhat strange.
    He had to stand in front, with the head at the start though somewhat obliquely curved, similar to David Caruso in CSI Miami.
    That he then remained continuous.
    It was unclear to me what the Director or the singer meant.

    Storeys singing could not Captivate me. The notes were sure though, usually loud and clear but he failed there is unity in. It was as if he was working to produce nuts. His lyrics were sometimes messy, like he stumbled over the words. The drama took place, lost in his singing much force.

    The Jago by Vladimir Stoyanov did have drama. He knew his villainous character razor sharp.
    Vocally, he was not always accurate, but something happened with him what one would expect from an opera singer: he crawled all the way in the role.

    The Desdemona of Corinne Winters was quite stark, although though fitted all the black around her. Her Willow song sounded pretty vulnerable, but most dramatic moments asked for vocal colours that they (still) do not own.
    The drama came out bright and fixed from the Emilia by Kai Rüütel, which in a few minutes left hear that waiting for her contribution was more than worth it.

    Where on the stage the black dominated, there came from the orchestra pit fortunately colours. Alexander Joel left both the choir and the Orchestra sparkle. Unfortunately, he saved the show. But with all that black on the scene was the fact that there is still a ray of hope somewhere burned.

    In short, if the generous giver from the tickets hadn't been there we had left in the break.
    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
    "Mahatma Gandhi"

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  17. #132
    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pugg View Post
    In Antwerp was Otello in charge of a Director (Michael Thalheimer) whose favorite color is black.
    That we saw a few years ago in La forza del destino, and this performance was even blacker than black.
    The decor was a black watch box and all singers were dressed in black clothing. In the promo clip Otello had established itself, only black eyes, but in the show he had a droll round black face paint, from forehead to Chin.

    It looked ridiculous, but black was though.
    Even Desdemona was shrouded in black, including her hair colour (whole against the descriptions of Shakespeare and Verdi/Boito, which for the contrast rich blond chose).

    Otello does not, however, to black. The opera is about doubt and losing grip on the case, because he is afraid that his success not Otello can hold. The Black-Black approach to me is trite and too simple. It shows lack of understanding. It's too one-dimensional and thereby determined no tribute to the so colorful English text poet.

    Flanders opera had for the lead role a vedette invited: Ian Storey, an English tenor heroes who for years all over the world the toughest roles sings. Storey acted somewhat strange.
    He had to stand in front, with the head at the start though somewhat obliquely curved, similar to David Caruso in CSI Miami.
    That he then remained continuous.
    It was unclear to me what the Director or the singer meant.

    Storeys singing could not Captivate me. The notes were sure though, usually loud and clear but he failed there is unity in. It was as if he was working to produce nuts. His lyrics were sometimes messy, like he stumbled over the words. The drama took place, lost in his singing much force.

    The Jago by Vladimir Stoyanov did have drama. He knew his villainous character razor sharp.
    Vocally, he was not always accurate, but something happened with him what one would expect from an opera singer: he crawled all the way in the role.

    The Desdemona of Corinne Winters was quite stark, although though fitted all the black around her. Her Willow song sounded pretty vulnerable, but most dramatic moments asked for vocal colours that they (still) do not own.
    The drama came out bright and fixed from the Emilia by Kai Rüütel, which in a few minutes left hear that waiting for her contribution was more than worth it.

    Where on the stage the black dominated, there came from the orchestra pit fortunately colours. Alexander Joel left both the choir and the Orchestra sparkle. Unfortunately, he saved the show. But with all that black on the scene was the fact that there is still a ray of hope somewhere burned.

    In short, if the generous giver from the tickets hadn't been there we had left in the break.
    Sadly, too much black spoils a production. What a shame, but thanks for the review.
    Ann

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  19. #133
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    These days, a rarity is being staged at Madrid's Teatro Real. Das Liebesverbot, a youth opera by Richard Wagner.

    I was really excited to attend.

    With these early operas by great composers, one tends to project the music and the drama into the future, looking at seeds of what came later. I tried hard not to do so, and rather concentrated in the opera itself, as if it would have been written by Rüdiger Weigel, a gentleman from Leipzig, his first and only work.

    And a beautiful work it was. A German Romantic opera, influenced of course by Italian opera, and by Weber, a child of its own time, firmly anchored into the standard practice of the period, but full of nice musical ideas, and a quite interesting vocal writing, especially the outstanding soprano aria in Act 2.

    The performance and the production were, however, subpar. Little to be rescued there. But I heartily applaud to program this opera, and hopeful of attending soon an staging of Die Feen.

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  21. #134
    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Ariodante (Handel), Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Scottish Opera. Weds 24th Feb

    (PREAMBLE)
    The Festival Theatre, as the name indicates, is a primary venue for the (these days) limited opera program at August's Festival. The frontage is a modern wall of glass onto a busy central street, exposing the 3 floors of public space. Once inside the theatre however we're back to the Victorian age, complete with uncomfortable, cramped seats which when flipped up do so with an iron clang. The theatre has a rather chequered history of ruin and mixed usage, including 30 years as a bingo hall. After the major refurb in 1994 we have this serviceable though unlovely theatre (1900 seats) for big musicals, opera etc. Scottish Opera's home is Glasgow, but most of their work appears here too.

    I remember being very fond of ENO's Ariodante from the 80's/90's. With a top roster of singers (Murray, Rodgers, Garrett) it felt like a big night at the opera. (Sheesh, I'm tempted for fork out for the DVD now!)

    (REVIEW)
    And what of Scottish Opera's new production of Ariodante? I was blown away by the extravagance of the sets, completely different for each act, from a huge castle interior, an amazing naturalist recreation of the Scottish moors. The costumes and wigs took us right back to the elegance of the baroque era. Just kidding! This was a very low budget production that would scarcely do justice to a part-time touring company. With its off-the-shelf costumes (or off the High Street) this was exceeding plain. An ever-present modern spiral staircase and a glass back wall being the only stage equipment of note. Behind the glass wall were a few derisory piles of fake snow. I appreciate that budgets can be tight but is this really the way to go?

    The overture is embellished by a live tableau of two men being hanged, their bodies twitching at the end of ropes as they breathed their last. Gratuitous and unpleasant. Let's move on. Sarah Tynan (Ginevra) and Aussie Caitlin Hulcup (Ariodante) make a bright first impression. Jennifer France (the nearest of the cast to home-grown) does a nice job in the flattering role of Dalinda. Xavier Sabata, the stocky middle-aged, mustachioed countertenor, soon sets up Polinesso as the pantomime villian, which at least makes the plot easy to follow for anyone who hasn't read the synopsis. Generally, the singing was decent throughout, but there wasn't a singer who rose above everything, no-one you couldn't wait to hear sing again. I didn't feel the conductor and orchestra brought out the zing of Handel's delightful score.

    It's good that Scottish Opera are willing to take on the likes of Ariodante, but whether they can do it justice is another matter.
    Last edited by Don Fatale; Feb-29-2016 at 23:31.

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  23. #135
    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don Fatale View Post
    Ariodante (Handel), Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Scottish Opera. Weds 24th Feb

    (PREAMBLE)
    The Festival Theatre, as the name indicates, is a primary venue for the (these days) limited opera program at August's Festival. The frontage is a modern wall of glass onto a busy central street, exposing the 3 floors of public space. Once inside the theatre however we're back to the Victorian age, complete with uncomfortable, cramped seats which when flipped up do so with an iron clang. The theatre has a rather chequered history of ruin and mixed usage, including 30 years as a bingo hall. After the major refurb in 1994 we have this serviceable though unlovely theatre (1900 seats) for big musicals, opera etc. Scottish Opera's home is Glasgow, but most of their work appears here too.

    I remember being very fond of ENO's Ariodante from the 80's/90's. With a top roster of singers (Murray, Rodgers, Garrett) it felt like a big night at the opera. (Sheesh, I'm tempted for fork out for the DVD now!)

    (REVIEW)
    And what of Scottish Opera's new production of Ariodante? I was blown away by the extravagance of the sets, completely different for each act, from a huge castle interior, an amazing naturalist recreation of the Scottish moors. The costumes and wigs took us right back to the elegance of the baroque era. Just kidding! This was a very low budget production that would scarcely do justice to a part-time touring company. With its off-the-shelf costumes (or off the High Street) this was exceeding plain. An ever-present modern spiral staircase and a glass back wall being the only stage equipment of note. Behind the glass wall were a few derisory piles of fake snow. I appreciate that budgets can be tight but is this really the way to go?

    The overture is embellished by a live tableau of two men being hanged, their bodies twitching at the end of ropes as they breathed their last. Gratuitous and unpleasant. Let's move on. Sarah Tynan (Ginevra) and Aussie Caitlin Hulcup (Ariodante) make a bright first impression. Jennifer France (the nearest of the cast to home-grown) does a nice job in the flattering role of Dalinda. Xavier Sabata, the stocky middle-aged, mustachioed countertenor, soon sets up Polinesso as the pantomime villian, which at least makes the plot easy to follow for anyone who hasn't read the synopsis. Generally, the singing was decent throughout, but there wasn't a singer who rose above everything, no-one you couldn't wait to hear sing again. I didn't feel the conductor and orchestra brought out the zing of Handel's delightful score.

    It's good that Scottish Opera are willing to take on the likes of Ariodante, but whether they can do it justice is another matter.
    Oh dear. But, as you say, at least they tried.
    Ann

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