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Thread: Our own reviews of operas we've attended

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Default Our own reviews of operas we've attended

    I think there may already be a thread for this but I've searched without success. Anyway this is my review.

    Acis and Galatea; a pastoral by G F Handel
    Iford Festival July/August 2013

    Christian Curnyn
    Early Opera Company

    Acis: Benjamin Hulett
    Galatea: Mary Bevan
    Damon: Christopher Turner
    Polyphemus: Lukas Jakobski
    Director: Pia Furtado

    ----------------------------------

    Each summer Iford Arts presents music and opera in the cloister at Iford Manor. This small Italianate cloister seats less than 100 and you're so close to the singers you almost feel part of the show. In fact towards the end, the chorus moves amongst the audience and you are part of the show.

    The audience is seated in two rows on the four parts of a square behind a low wall with the performance area in the centre. The small orchestra takes up a section behind the wall.

    Just a few personal thoughts. There's a good review here.

    Mary Bevan was perfectly cast as Galatea. Vulnerable and waif-like but courageous in her initial defiance of Polyphemus, her lustrous soprano bringing out all of the emotions.

    'Gentle Acis' was beautifully and sensitively sung by Ben Hulett. His love for Galatea was palpable but you could feel his helplessness, he knew he was doomed. This was the first time I'd heard Ben sing and I'll definitely seek him out in future. He is making his debut as Edmondo in Manon Lescaut at ROH next June.

    Christopher Turner's Damon was 'on stage' most of the time as a sort of master of ceremonies. In fact he appears before the audience is seated, prowling around and checking things are in order. Charismatic and his face a mask of glitter, his presence was intriguing. I loved all his three arias with my favourite being Would you gain the tender creature,

    Was Polyphemus (Lukas Jakobski) drunk or just audacious? Hard to tell as he swaggered in and with a powerful and resonant I rage, I melt, I burn intimidated the nymphs and swains and poor Acis. Only Galatea is left on stage & she stands trembling and vulnerable in the corner of the set. As Polyphemus makes his feelings and intentions clear, she endeavours to escape his lustful clutches but to no avail and he victoriously (symbolically) tears her clothes off, unwrapping her like a parcel.

    His seduction of Galatea is at first brutal and he sings a spine tingling Cease to beauty as he laces her tightly into a corset and forces her to the floor; his domination complete. He drags her to his lair and despite (because of?) his "insistence" she is unresponsive and virtually catatonic. Then at Damon's advice "Would you gain the tender creature …" he becomes gentle and persuasive. It was mesmerising and riveting and Mary Bevan and Lukas Jakobski produced some of the finest acting I've ever seen.

    Finally and reluctantly Galatea is won over and as she and Polyphemus leave together, he gloats at Acis' despair. Suddenly Galatea changes her mind & returns to Acis' side. The flocks shall leave the mountains,

    At the loss of his prize Polyphemus' rage is terrifying. Torture! fury! rage! despair! is sung while he rampages around the small arena, tearing down ivy and hurling not only (polystyrene) bricks about but the odd nymph and swain as well. But then as he delivers the final blow and poor 'presumptuous Acis' dies, his rage seems spent.

    When Galatea realises that her sweet Acis is dead, she lets out a scream and mad with grief, she rushes Polyphemus and pummels his chest until Damon intervenes. You have to feel for Polyphemus; he stands there bewildered and distraught, and just takes the punishment.



    [Admin note: images and text, as well as the next post by same OP, were removed per the request of the OP]
    Last edited by Krummhorn; Aug-06-2014 at 18:33. Reason: removed images and links to images (Aug 05, 2014)
    Ann

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    Senior Member guythegreg's Avatar
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    You had a great time! Thanks.

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    This and dongio's review are both first rate and very human.

    As you know, I've sung in operas and therefore have "been there, done that" and the people with whom I performed, the singers, musicians, directors, all of them are for the most part "normal everyday folks". They laugh, watch TV, have love affairs with each other occasionally, joke backstage, and don't float above the floor nor wear halos or are transcendent just because they're good singers. A few are in fact jerks. But opera singers (and others involved) also go to baseball or soccer or football games, eat pizza, speak perfectly standard phrases, are either politically involved or not, conservative or liberal, gay or straight, married or single, in fact real humans.

    I've read far too many high-blown reviews where the author is yelling "Look at me! I'm an artistic writer and I can use lots of big fancy words in my reviews to show how glam the opera world is!"

    This is a shame, because the snooty airs that are put on by some opera folks can easily tend to deter "regular folks" from ever attending that first opera. In fact opera has for ages been appreciated by regular folks just like Shakespeare was admired by the everyday Londoners.

    Those of us who are either deep fans or are possibly involved in opera ourselves can attest that in fact opera is easily approachable to the "masses" if they'll just give it a chance. Too often however, opera review are sooooo very smarmy and so overladen with five-dollar words that the review essentially talks down to the reader --- "I was there to observe this pristine art form and I'm now shaking off my dust toward you peasants."

    It's so very refreshing to read these excellent reviews, written by someone who loves opera, and who is doing a fine job telling about the opera in mostly "real" language, nothing fancy or overdone. Thanks!

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    The rational part of my brain knows that what katdad says about singers is true.

    ... in fact real humans ...
    But when that human has a voice which reaches into your soul, it's difficult to be rational. When I was at the Buxton Opera Festival I attended a lecture by Sir Roger Parker, co-author of A History of Opera: The Last Four Hundred Years, which was fascinating & entertaining. Sir Roger recalled the time he was in the audience at Glyndebourne & on hearing a particular soprano for the first time, such was the beauty of her voice he let out an audible (involuntary) groan & he thought he might be evicted. I knew that feeling!
    Ann

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    You're absolutely right, sospiro. Superb art and its performance can bring awe and intense admiration. I totally agree.

    My only point is that if you listen to, for example, the wonderful Beverly Sills (miss her!) in her opera commentary, and some of the other live Met telecasts backstage, you can easily see that these performers are also very human and not esoteric creatures beyond our ken. It's not just opera, but all sorts of reviews, you'll read how the reviewer is more interested in "Look at me!" writing rather than coherent and solid review of the performance. It gives the mistaken impression that ordinary humans are incapable of appreciating opera.

    It's not just opera. I'm a novelist and I also write reviews for a mystery magazine. I've seen reviews of good, entertaining novels that make you think you're approaching a sacred shrine rather than a book! It's a disservice to the book or opera or movie or whatever.

    The other night, I watched my DVD of Bergman's "Virgin Spring" for the first time in a couple years, and I was gasping at the incredible imagery and camera work. I still fondly remember seeing "Blade Runner" in the theater for the first time, and before that, "2001", and both made me gasp, too. But these are all just movies, and to write pretentious reviews that elevate the art form to "holier than thou" levels is false praise. And my point, that it tends to deter newbie opera fans because they are essentially frightened by the "fancy-schmancy" attitude that they think is needed to appreciate opera. We all know that's hogwash but a novice may not know that. That's all I'm talking about.

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    Senior Member Dongiovanni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by katdad View Post
    This and dongio's review are both first rate and very human.
    Thank you ! One of the reasons I write these reviews is because after a performance I'm usually still very impressed with the experience, so writing about it is like enjoying it for a second time. I'm not a real "critic", I don't see that many performances, so I pick them well for a favourite production, conductor or singer. So I'm biased, and they are usually positive :-)

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by katdad View Post
    ... and to write pretentious reviews that elevate the art form to "holier than thou" levels is false praise. And my point, that it tends to deter newbie opera fans because they are essentially frightened by the "fancy-schmancy" attitude that they think is needed to appreciate opera. We all know that's hogwash but a novice may not know that. That's all I'm talking about.
    I hope I never give that impression in my reviews. I'd never make an impartial reviewer anyway as I usually go to see a particular singer so I tend to see the performance through 'rose tinted glasses'.
    Ann

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    I take it this thread is for anyone who wants to write a performance review? If I have misunderstood please let me know and I will edit this out.

    ---
    Mark-Anthony Turnage - Anna Nicole
    New York City Opera/Brooklyn Academy of Music at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House


    Sitting up close I could see the mics, the fake breast covers, the artificiality of it all. I am not sure that this was inappropriate. After the strong first act my wife noted that this was more Brechtian than the last Threepenny Opera she saw. I am realizing that this is the opposite of what most opera tries to do.

    Sarah Joy Miller's Anna was well sung, with a Texan accent. She showed real heartbreak when Marshall got sick and died though there were few places for her to show that vocally. The pace of the opera was quick, with little time for emotive arias.

    Susan Bickley was another standout, clear and forceful. Nicholas Barasch was mostly silent as Teenage Daniel but his post-death catalog of drugs was sweet and touching. Robert Brubaker was wild and funny and broad but sure and solid of voice.

    The piece was done with high production values, the costumes looked great and the set designs were often great and insightful.

    Steven Sloan conducted though I have a hard time saying anything about either the conducting or even the orchestral writing. It set the mood well but didn't grab me, though this was my first time hearing it.

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountmccabe View Post
    I take it this thread is for anyone who wants to write a performance review? If I have misunderstood please let me know and I will edit this out.
    Yep! That's what I intended.

    Quote Originally Posted by mountmccabe View Post
    ---
    Mark-Anthony Turnage - Anna Nicole
    New York City Opera/Brooklyn Academy of Music at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House


    Sitting up close I could see the mics, the fake breast covers, the artificiality of it all. I am not sure that this was inappropriate. After the strong first act my wife noted that this was more Brechtian than the last Threepenny Opera she saw. I am realizing that this is the opposite of what most opera tries to do.

    Sarah Joy Miller's Anna was well sung, with a Texan accent. She showed real heartbreak when Marshall got sick and died though there were few places for her to show that vocally. The pace of the opera was quick, with little time for emotive arias.

    Susan Bickley was another standout, clear and forceful. Nicholas Barasch was mostly silent as Teenage Daniel but his post-death catalog of drugs was sweet and touching. Robert Brubaker was wild and funny and broad but sure and solid of voice.

    The piece was done with high production values, the costumes looked great and the set designs were often great and insightful.

    Steven Sloan conducted though I have a hard time saying anything about either the conducting or even the orchestral writing. It set the mood well but didn't grab me, though this was my first time hearing it.
    Interesting review, thanks.

    I never saw this in the house but I've watched the DVD and it didn't really grab me.
    Ann

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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    Yep! That's what I intended.
    Great! I wouldn't start my own thread and won't be writing very many but this is appreciated.


    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    Interesting review, thanks.

    I never saw this in the house but I've watched the DVD and it didn't really grab me.
    I haven't seen the DVD. I normally prefer to know what I'm getting into before seeing something live but it is also an interesting exercise to go in more or less blind.

    It was engaging theater live even if it was a bit disappointing/I wasn't ready for it.

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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Falstaff (Verdi) Aurora Opera Theatre, Victoria, Gozo, Malta 12th October 2013

    Presented by The Leone Philharmonic Society Falstaff: Leonardo Lopez-Linares Eva Mei: Alice Anna Skibinsky: Nannetta Gianluca Breda: Pistola Marzio Giossi: Ford

    As a regular winter visitor to Malta I was resolved this year to come a little early so I could take in this notable event. A performance two days after Verdi's bicentennial gave me a fan's chance to pay homage to one of my heroes.

    This is probably one of the most out of the way opera houses to be found in Europe and one of the most unlikely, being on a Mediterranean Island of just 25,000 people. Each year it hosts a single home-grown production. The Leone Philharmonic Society dates back 150 years, although this annual operatic venture was initiated in 1977 when Madame Butterfly became the first opera ever to be staged on Gozo. Whilst the frontage of their building appears of a similar age to the Society, the hall within is a 1970's creation, and was further refurbished this year. It seats 1600 in a long shoebox (35 rows?) and 3 shallow balconies - boxes throughout. Rather unusually for an opera house, the ground floor public area contains 2 snooker tables and numerous pool tables. You can peruse the trophy cabinet or try to engage the resident parrot in conversation during the intermissions. For this swanky event (dress code: Gala) the tables were covered with boards and used as drinks and bar tables.

    With the temperature an unseasonable 31c it was rather sweltering, and I'll spare you further details in this matter in a building without air-con. With 1600 people all heading up the same staircase, the appointed start time passed - the internal photo was taken at 19:29 - and then a slight delay for the arrival of the King of Malta* a statutory 20 minutes late. Strange, I can't remember the Queen delaying operas in Covent Garden for 20 minutes, but this seems to be the norm for Maltese Prime Ministers.

    And so with 1600 lady's fans and programs beating frantically, the house lights dim, muted applause for conductor of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra... after that brief orchestral intro, most of the audience stops talking as the singers commence. I'm at the back in a box next to the Prime Minister, and the projection of orchestra and singers isn't ideal, although seasoned opera-goers know that our ears gradually become attuned to the volume.

    The scenery is traditional and painted in warm rustic colours, the costumes generic Ye Olde England. Nothing to offend here. And so to the singers. Decent performers from the European circuit are brought in for the major roles, which I assume they're already familiar with. As my fellow Falstaff fans here will concur, this opera has many fiendishly fast ensembles and orchestral interludes and whilst we'd love them to hit all these moments perfectly, in reality it came down to keeping things simple, slowing up certain passages, and passing blithely through any difficulties without dwelling on them. Clearly the best policy!

    There are no surtitles, but most Maltese have good comprehension of Italian, as indicated by chuckles in the appropriate places. My limited Italian knowledge comes from Signores Verdi, Rossini and Co, but I know Falstaff well enough to not need a translation. However, for those hard of hearing the full libretto is printed in the programme - Italian only - and this accounts for part of the speckled blue glow of mobile phones in the stalls below me. Others, like the young lady next to me, were simply texting, which I guess is slightly less annoying than talking to your neighbour as many were.

    I’m not qualified to give a definitive account of the singing, but rather than wait for the reviews I’ll give my impressions. I wasn’t a fan of Lopez-Linares in the title role, his wasn’t the biggest voice, and he lacked somewhat in the physical acting aspect. Eva Mei was very assured as Alice, likewise Elisabetta Fiorillo as Quickly. Gianluca Breda made a good impression as Pistola.

    The texting young lady next to me disappeared after the first act, but took her seat again halfway through the second, dressed rather fetchingly as a fairy for her scene in Act 3. Very cute, and sans phone of course!

    I joined some friends in mid-stalls for the 3rd Act and have to say that the audibility was much better. I like to get a balcony seat for a first visit to an opera house, but front stalls is clearly the place to be, and probably fewer mobile phones around you too.

    Prices €60-80
    Programme: €5 .Excellent content, well worth it.
    Food and drink: Inexpensive. This is a full time cafe so plenty on offer.
    If you like the idea of autumnal warmth, swimming in the Med followed by a swanky night at the opera, then drinks at the harbourside until the small hours, this is the place to be!
    IMAG1190 (Small).jpgIMAG1192 (Small).jpg
    Last edited by Don Fatale; Oct-13-2013 at 22:18. Reason: typos

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Thank you Alexander. A brilliant review & you have painted a perfect picture of the occasion! I love Falstaff too & I'm pleased you enjoyed it.
    Ann

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    Loved the review. What fun!
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    And next Thursday I have the second part of my operatic odyssey* when the Philharmonic Society on the other side of the street are performing Otello.

    I've often mused that there should be a Verdi equivalent of the ring cycle consisting of his later works i.e. Aida, Requiem, Otello and Falstaff. If a city ever did these in a week, I would surely pay a visit!

    *The actual cave where Odysseus was held captive by Calypso is on this island. I've been there, and I think they may be wrong about it, but kudos to the marketing genius who thought of the idea.
    Last edited by Don Fatale; Oct-16-2013 at 19:31. Reason: typos typos typos!

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    Senior Member Dongiovanni's Avatar
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    What a fantastic venue on this pretty island, I had no idea! Very worth a visit. Thanks for the review.

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