Friday, July 1, 2016
San Francisco Opera has lifted the lid on its next world premiere. It almost shares a title with a Puccini opera. Homage, or brand blurring? San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley today announced the Company will present the world premiere commission of Girls of the Golden West, an opera set during the 1850s California Gold Rush, by the internationally-renowned team of composer John Adams and director/librettist Peter Sellars. Presented at the War Memorial Opera House for seven performances opening November 2017, San Francisco Opera will announce casting, conductor, design team and ticket information in January 2017 as part of the Company’s 2017–18 repertory season. Joining San Francisco Opera as co-commissioners and co-producers of this new project are The Dallas Opera, Amsterdam’s Dutch National Opera (De Nationale Opera) and Teatro La Fenice, Venice. Girls of the Golden West is presented by arrangement with Hendon Music, Inc., a Boosey & Hawkes company, publisher and copyright owner. Comprising two acts and sung in English, Girls of the Golden West is scored for eight characters, men’s chorus and orchestra including musicians on guitar, accordion and piano. The libretto by Peter Sellars, who also directs the opera, is drawn from historical sources and interweaves stories of three Gold Rush women whose lives intersected in a small mining community in the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1850. The opera is based on factual events and persons that typify the mix of wildness, optimism, greed, violence, humor and racial prejudice of the era, all played out against the rugged beauty of California’s mountain surroundings. Read more here.
Kevin Scott has added this as a comment to my article about Havergal Brian, but it deserves a post to itself: No doubt that Havergal Brian has been, shall we say, "hyped" up, but in spite of all of this, bear in mind that many of Brian's symphonies have yet to be heard in this country. I should note that Bernard Herrmann was the first American conductor to perform anything of Brian's, and that was his Doctor Merryheart Overture with the CBS Symphony in the mid-1930s when Brian was practically unknown in this country. I'm sure Herrmann was familiar with some of the early symphonies, especially when he made frequent visits to England in the 1930s and 1940s, which I feel inspired, in part, his scores to the movies "Mysterious Island" and parts of "The Battle of Neretva". That said, it would be nice if an enterprising conductor took on Brian's early symphonies, such as the epic Third with its two concertante pianos, the gargantuan fourth symphony that was inspired, in part, by Brahms' rarely-heard Triumphlied, the dark and beautiful fifth symphony for baritone and orchestra whose setting of Lord Alfred Douglas' "Wine of Summer" is very moving, the dramatic and tempestuous one-movement "Sinfonia Tragica", and the passionate and thrilling seventh symphony, his most approachable large-scale symphony, apart from his boisterous twenty-fifth symphony that is part of the wave of the later symphonies he composed in his eighties and early nineties. Ditto the cello concerto and the Concerto for Orchestra, as well as his operas "The Cenci" and his own take on "Turandot," which I am sure is far and away different not only from Puccini's, but also Busoni's version as well. I doubt if we'll ever see "The Tigers" get mounted, but if any American orchestra or conductor wants to make a name for him/herself, they should program the "Gothic," not because it's a curiosity piece, but because they truly believe in the work's power and magnitude, structural deficiencies aside. That the press and everyone else wants to hype it up is bad enough, but a committed performance from all forces that are martialed together to bring it to the public will negate the over-excitement of the press, because it is the commitment to the music that will, in the end, win the audience over to Brian's vision.In my original post I described how "the Havergal Brian mythology is celebrated and has become a pseudo-event in its right". That resonated for me with Joseph Campbell’s seminal book on the importance of mythic traditions The Hero with a Thousand Faces. So I toyed with the title The composer with a thousand faces for that post, but it did not link to the sub-agenda of pseudo-events. So I am grateful that Kevin's erudite and thoughtful comment now allows me to use that rejected title. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.
Garsington Opera; Opera Holland Park, London; Glyndebourne The summer opera season defies the downpours with terrific Tchaikovsky, morally improving Mascagni, Shakespearean Puccini and zesty JanáčekFor a nation that seems in permanent rehearsal for the return of Noah and his Ark it’s curious how we cling to the idea that every trip to hear opera in a sylvan setting will be a sun-kissed, bucolic delight. So far, this year’s country house opera season has been positively monsoon-like, with only occasional evenings warm enough to qualify for that longed-for combination of great music and great weather.But when the sun does have the decency to show its face it makes a glorious addition to Garsington’s excellent Eugene Onegin – easily the best since Graham Vick’s gold-standard 1994 production for Glyndebourne. Bang on cue, early evening sunlight floods across the open-sided stage as the chorus bring home the harvest on Madame Larina’s country estate in Tchaikovsky’s most popular opera. Continue reading...
Opera Holland Park A Shakespearean Rodolfo and gorgeous-sounding Mimi shine in a witty and moving production Opera Holland Park is marking the Shakespeare anniversary not with an opera based on one of his plays, but with Stephen Barlow’s new production of La Bohème, which relocates Puccini’s masterpiece from 1840s Paris to Elizabethan London and its theatrical and intellectual milieu.On a mock-up of a Tudor stage, we find Shaun Dixon’s Rodolfo, looking like Shakespeare himself, scribbling at his writing table, while Andrew Finden’s Marcello slaves away at some big Renaissance canvas. Schaunard (Frederick Long) is a lutenist, Colline (John Savournin) a severe, Francis Bacon-type philosopher. Anna Patalong’s self-assured Mimi has designs from the outset on becoming the young playwright’s mistress and perhaps muse. Elin Pritchard’s outlandishly got-up Musetta is a self-dramatising shrew, waiting, perhaps, to be tamed. Continue reading...
Anna Netrebko has been one of my favorite singers not only because of her amazing voice. What I also admire are her great stage presence, her sense of humor, and her terrific adherence to interpretive excellence. Now Ms. Netrebko will soon be out with a new recording that looks like this: The meaning of Verismo in Opera relates to drawing its themes from real life, and emphasizing natural elements. Its chief exponent was Giacomo Puccini. Here is Ms. Netrebko in a well known scene from “La Traviata”:
Jaho/Bardon/Massi/Gaertner/BBCSingers/BBCSO/Benini (Opera Rara)Opera Rara here makes a plea for Leoncavallo, composer of Pagliacci, to stop being considered a one-hit wonder. His Zazà joins Puccini’s Tosca, also premiered in 1900, in an operatic subgenre of Italian works whose heroines are themselves sopranos – one rank above the tart with a heart. In the concert last autumn, after which this studio recording was made, Ermonela Jaho gave a dazzling performance as Zazà, an initially flighty music hall singer. The slender story turns on her melodramatic, sugar-sprinkled meeting with her lover’s little daughter, after which she gives him up rather than break up the family. On disc Jaho is just as good, and Zazà’s character comes through vividly. A strong supporting cast includes Riccardo Massi as the dastardly tenor lover, Stephen Gaertner as the dependable ex and Patricia Bardon as the boozy mother. Maurizio Benini’s pacy conducting makes the BBCSO sound stylish and sumptuous. Continue reading...
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