Opera Warhorses

An appreciation and analysis of the ‘Standard Repertory’ of opera

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Best Bet Revivals of Live Opera Productions May-September, 2013

April 26th, 2013

An ongoing feature of this website is the “Best Bet Revivals” series. When one opera company mounts a physical production of an opera that has been favorably praised by this website, and offers it with a cast of singers who are comparable (at least) to those seen previously, then we alert potential opera goers to the upcoming performances and to our previous relevant reviews. (This doesn’t imply that other opera productions would not be recommended, only that they have not previously been reviewed on these webpages.)

The following four productions, scheduled for Washington DC, San Francisco, Montreal and Los Angeles are recommendations as how to spend some warm weather evenings.

 

Show Boat (Kern), Washington National Opera, May 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 (m), 16, 17, 18, 19 (m), 21, 25 and 26 (m), 2013

As Washington National Opera’s incoming artistic director, Francesca Zambello, is preparing to take over the reigns, some of her insightful productions are being scheduled for the Kennedy Center.

One of her initiatives is to build bridges between the opera and musical theater communities, by performing on the opera stage some of the great classical Broadway musicals.

First performed eight years before George Gershwin’s and Du Bose Heyward’s “Porgy and Bess”, this great musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein dealt similarly dealt with substantive subject matter, even more directly with the race relations of the early 20th century.

Yet, it is an ebullient piece, crammed with hit songs. (The first three numbers are Only Make Believe I Love YouOl’ Man River and I Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine.) Hearing the character Joe’s great standard Ol’ Man River sung by an operatic basso voice in live performance is an experience to remember.

[Below: the romancing of Magnolia Hawks (Ashley Brown, center, in white dress ) by Gaylord Ravenal (Nathan Gunn, center, in top hat) sets off a joyous reaction by the show boat community; edited image, based on a Robert Kusel photograph, courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.]

SHOW BOAT

John DeMain conducts. Zambello is stage director.

Two casts, representing both the opera house and Broadway theater, share the 14 performances. Rod Gilfry and Michael Todd Simpson are cast as the charming gambler, Gaylord Ravenal; Jennifer Holloway and Adriana Churchman as Magnolia Hawks, with Morris Robinson and Solomon Howard both singing Joe.

[For my previous review, see: Team Zambello Shows off “Show Boat” to Chicago’s Lyric Opera – March 14, 2012.]

 

Cosi fan Tutte (Mozart), San Francisco Opera, June 9 (m), 12, 18, 21, 26, 29 and July 1, 2013

John Cox’ brilliantly conceived production of Mozart’s comic opera returns to San Francisco. Building on the opera’s principal idea – a bet that even betrothed  women will succumb to temptation when their men are away – the opera is time-shifted to a  Mediterranean resort with a small casino during the first world war.

[Below: Guglielmo (Philippe Sly, crouching left) and Ferrando (crouching right), both disguised an Albanian sailors make their moves on Dorabella (Christel Loetzch (standing left) and Fiordiligi (Ellie Dehn, standing right); edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

The Sisters and the Albanians

[For my previous reviews of this production, see: Warhorse Warriors: John Cox’ ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’ in S. F. – July 2, 2005 and Bel Canto “Cosi fan Tutte” at Dallas Opera – February 18, 2010.]

[For my performance review, see: A Beautifully Sung, Engaging “Cosi fan Tutte” at San Francisco Opera – June 9, 2013.]

 

Lakme (Delibes) Opera de Montreal, September 21, 24, 26 and 28, 2013

Mark Thompson’s sets for Opera Australia (in a co-production with Opera de Montreal seen here in 2007) provide the setting for an attractive and exotic production of Leo Delibes’ melodious, lushly orchestrated masterpiece.

Audrey Luna and John Tessier are respectively the lovers Lakme and Gerald, with Burak Bilgili as Lakme’s father, Nilakantha, and Dominique Cote as Gerald’s army buddy, Frederic. Alain Gauthier directs and Emmanuel Plasson conducts.

For those who are unfamiliar with this opera, it is a kind of Romeo and Juliet story, with a cross-cultural twist. She is a priestess of a rebellious Hindu sect whose anti-colonial leader is her father; he is young British officer stationed with troops ordered to keep India as a British Raj. Mutual attraction can turn into passionate love in a life-changing instant.

[Below: The Hindus gather at their sacred temple; edited image, based on an Yves Renaud photograph, courtesy of the Opera de Montreal.]

_yrc1300HINDUS

Arguably the most unjustly neglected of the great late 19th century French operatic mega-hits,  ”Lakme” is a treasure trove of arresting melodies, far beyond its big hits, Viens, Mallika  and the Bell song (Air des Clochettes). The compositional and melodic skills of its composer, Delibes, were especially admired by Peter Tchaikovsky, another composer who, like Delibes, had both successful operas and full length ballets.

[For a previous review of this opera, see: Sarah Coburn’s Ravishing Tulsa Opera Lakme – February 29, 2008, and for previous reviews of this production, see: Leah Partridge’s Splendid “Lakme” – Florida Grand Opera, Miami: February 27, 2009 and Evelyn Pollock, Chad A. Johnson in Revelatory Florida Grand Opera “Lakme” – Miami, February 28, 2009.]

[For my performance review, see: Luna, Tessier and Bilgili in Stylishly Sung “Lakme” – Opera de Montreal, September 24, 2013.]

 

Carmen (Bizet), Los Angeles Opera, September 21, 26, 28, 29, October 1, 4 and 6, 2013. 

Spanish director Emilio Sagi originally created the Los Angeles Opera’s production of “Carmen” for Madrid, with sets by Gerardo Trotti.

The Los Angeles Opera revives the production, last seen here in 2008, as the season’s opening night with Patricia Bardon as Carmen and Brandon Jovanovich as Don Jose.

[Below: Escamillo (Raymond Aceto, center right, in purple shirt, in 2008) revels in the role of a toreador; edited image, based on a Robert Millard photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]

ESCAMILLO

Placido Domingo conducts opening night and three other performances, Grant Gershon conducts the rest.

[For my review of this production in 2008, see: Impressive Debuts in L. A. Opera “Carmen” – December 6, 2008. For my review of Brian Jovanovich's Don Jose, see: Krasteva, Jovanovich Sizzle in Chicago “Carmen” – Lyric Opera, March 15, 2011.]

[For my review of this production in 2013, see: Domingo at Helm for a Stellar “Carmen” – Los Angeles Opera, September 21, 2013.]

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