Browsed by
Category: Opera

NEW OPERA VIEWS UNDERBELLY OF GOLD RUSH – John Adams’ Moving Premiere, Warts and All

NEW OPERA VIEWS UNDERBELLY OF GOLD RUSH – John Adams’ Moving Premiere, Warts and All

In this his fourth opera, composer John Adams reminds me of a football game that is 0-0 at the half, but ends up in a furious 42-41 score. Given major revisions for act one, this could become the resounding opera of our times. Adams’ brutally candid historical opera premiere  retells the California Gold Rush miners’ days, this time with accounts of hardship, poverty, mob violence, lynchings  and  racial prejudice. Whether or not he truly struck gold here, once again he…

Read More Read More

JOBS, THE SMART-PHONE GUY, GOES OPERATIC

JOBS, THE SMART-PHONE GUY, GOES OPERATIC

How long since a world-premiere opera got an instant standing ovation almost five minutes long? With several scenes en route evoking spontaneous applause? The Berkeley Ph.D. grad Mason Bates pulled it off July 22 with his first such effort, a bio-opera on “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.” In portraying the late iPhone creator, warts and all, it spotlighted his unique overdrive personality and headstrong brashness. Often his own worst enemy, the workaholic Jobs drove his coworkers and women in his life as hard as himself, with only his Buddhist teacher Kobun and his own wife Laurene injecting equilibrium into existentialism before the untimely illness and death.

SCOTLAND TURNED ITALIAN IN ‘LUCIA’

SCOTLAND TURNED ITALIAN IN ‘LUCIA’

Stellar, no-holds-barred singing by all five principals marks the powerful “Lucia di Lammermoor” currently at the Santa Fe Opera, with Brenda Rae in the title role. If in his most arresting drama the very Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti nudged the Walter Scott story away from Scotland, this production firmly transplanted it to Italy. Instead of kilts and bagpipe regalia, we get white-tie formals and gowns straight out of “La Traviata,” without so much as a Scottish moor or heath in the background (The minimal backdrop appears to be straight out of the US Steel factory).

EXOTIC BIRD, QUEEN, FABLE: RUSSIAN TRIFECTA

EXOTIC BIRD, QUEEN, FABLE: RUSSIAN TRIFECTA

The Russian opera-fantasy “The Golden Cockerel” brings the glorious music of Eastern exoticism by Rimsky-Korsakov onto the stage here, with voluptuous courtly costumes fitting the 1907 era when it debuted. But, saddled with a puerile libretto in Russian, not even the brilliant stage direction by Paul Curran could save this farcical tale about an impotent, buffoonish ruler more obsessed with personal comfort than the well-being of his people. The intent was clearly to satirize the real Tsar then, and perhaps even ruling luminaries of our time in this revival.

‘DON GIOVANNI,’ DEFTLY SUNG AND ACTED BY NEWCOMERS

‘DON GIOVANNI,’ DEFTLY SUNG AND ACTED BY NEWCOMERS

Despite all the unfamiliar names and unknowns in the cast, Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” is getting sparkling performances at the S.F. Opera, among the most inspiring encountered in our regular SFO visits since 1960. The greatest difference with earlier times is in the acting and stage direction. Circa 1949 rehearsing the title role here, Met star Ezio Pinza called to the stage director, “Canto cui?” (Do I sing here?). Whereupon he planted his feet firmly and launched into his aria. We…

Read More Read More

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL OPERA GOING FROM MISCHIEF TO MAYHEM

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL OPERA GOING FROM MISCHIEF TO MAYHEM

I guess I could accept a full-grown male baritone playing a child as long as the opera is full of surreal concepts, and/or fantastic, other-worldly Cocteau-esque settings. But this production of “Les Enfants Terribles” (The Holy Terrors) proved instead to be down-to-earth, lost in every-day realism and crime-blotter chaff. In the end, it failed Cocteau. Jean Cocteau had written the 1929 book, now converted into a 1996 Philip Glass chamber opera with narration, film and dance—performance dimensions going beyond Cocteau’s…

Read More Read More

THE NIGHT THE GUNFIRE TOOK A REST

THE NIGHT THE GUNFIRE TOOK A REST

SAN JOSE—-A new kind of opera, in which groups of the military play as big a role as the individuals, made its moving West Coast premiere via “Silent Night” by Kevin Puts. While the singing by the 14-member Opera San Jose cast pushing their voices was uneven, the Feb. 11 opening night got a prolonged reception from the sell-out crowd. They witnessed a dramatization of a trench-warfare event that featured an operatic reenactment of the spontaneous Christmas-Eve 1914 cease-fire, with…

Read More Read More

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT UTOPIA

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT UTOPIA

Can you shape a viable opera scenario out of law suits and legal offices? Janacek’s answer was yes, if you thrust into the middle of the muddle a whirlwind femme fatale powering the drama and driving all the men mad as well. Janacek’s improbable 1926 opera “The Makropulos Case” ties in an intriguing fable: Because of a longevity potion, the seemingly youthful lady is now 337 years old, remembering intimate details about relationships and documents established by people long since…

Read More Read More

AN ARRESTING NEW AMERICAN-AND-CHINESE OPERA

AN ARRESTING NEW AMERICAN-AND-CHINESE OPERA

With the SFO’s “Red Chamber” World Premiere By Paul Hertelendy  artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance  Week of Sept. 14-21 , 2016 Vol. 19, No. 2 The new Chinese opera-tragedy “Dream of the Red Chamber” offers high drama after a lengthy, opulent prologue, turning a classic novel into an opera that is closer to a musical feast than to consistent theater. The emigre Chinese composer Bright Sheng has created a rich, listenable score astutely…

Read More Read More

‘JENUFA:’ COMPELLING NATIONALIST OPERA

‘JENUFA:’ COMPELLING NATIONALIST OPERA

  Janacek’s Wrenching Drama at the S.F.O. By Paul Hertelendy artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance Week of June 17-24, 2016 Vol. 18, No. 72 The powerful human drama of old-time village morality “Jenufa” returned to bolster the San Francisco Opera summer season after a 15-year hiatus. The work is sincere and compelling, built around the bigger-than-life role of the morally ambiguous Stepmother, as played by the magnetic star, dramatic soprano Karita Mattila. The…

Read More Read More