Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.
In its spring musical production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady Lyric Opera of Chicago has put together an ensemble which does ample justice to the wit and lyrical beauty of the well-known score.
Hans Werner Henze’s compositions include ten fine symphonies, various
large choral and religious works, fourteen ballets (among them
one, Undine, that ranks the greatest of modern times),
numerous prominent film scores, and hundreds of additional works for orchestra,
chamber ensemble, solo instruments or voice. Yet he considered himself, above
all, a composer of opera.
If opera ultimately is about bel canto, then one need not look any
further than Manitoba Opera’s company premiere of Massenet’s
Werther, its lushly scored portrait of an artist as a young man that
also showcased a particularly strong cast of principal artists. Notably, all
were also marking their own role debuts, as well as this production being the
first Massenet opera staged by organization in its 44-year history.
Seattle Symphony’s “semi-staged” presentation of
L’enfant et les sortilèges was my third encounter with
Ravel’s 1925 one-act “opera.” It was incomparably the most
theatrical, though the least elaborate by far.
The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem
settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works
among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by
Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean
Olivia Fuchs’ new production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier is a co-production between Welsh National Opera and Theater Magdeburg. The production debuted in Magdeburg last year and now Welsh National Opera is presenting the production as part of its Summer season, the company’s first Der Rosenkavalier since 1990 (when the cast included Rita Cullis as the Marschallin and Amanda Roocroft making her role debut as Sophie).
There’s no reason why Oliver Platt’s imaginative ‘concept’ for this new production of Don Giovanni at Investec Opera Holland Park shouldn’t work very well. Designer Neil Irish has reconstructed a deck of RMS Queen Mary – the Cunard-White Star Line’s flag-ship cruiser during the 1930s, that golden age of trans-Atlantic cruising. Spanning the entire width of the OHP stage, the deck is lined with port-holed cabin doors – perfect hideaways for one of the Don’s hasty romantic dalliances.
After the preceding evening’s presentation of Annilese Miskimmon’s sparkling production of Handel’s Semele – an account of marital infidelity in immortal realms – the second opera of Garsington Opera’s 2017 season brought us down to earth for more mundane disloyalties and deceptions amongst the moneyed aristocracy of the eighteenth-century, as presented by John Cox in his 2005 production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.
To open the 2017 season at Garsington Opera, director Annilese Miskimmon and designer Nicky Shaw offer a visually beautifully new production of Handel’s Semele in which comic ribaldry and celestial feuding converge and are transfigured into star-dust.