Opera Warhorses

An appreciation and analysis of the 'Standard Repertory' of opera

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In Quest of Live Performances of Popular Operas – May-November, 2016

May 1st, 2016

The most popular operas have been nicknamed the opera “warhorses”. They include the ABCD operas of “Aida”, “Boheme”, “Carmen” and “Don Giovanni”.  (There is currently no “E” opera in this list and little prospect that, say, Richard Strauss’ “Elektra” or Verdi’s “Ernani” will challenge the other four).

As it turns out, I am scheduled to review live performances of each of these ABCD operas over the next several months.


Carmen (Bizet), San Francisco Opera, May 27, 28, 29(m), 31, June 1, 17, 23, 26(m), 30, July 2 and 3(m), 2016

The San Francisco Opera offers two casts for the American premiere of controversial Spanish director Calixto Bielto’s production of Bizet’s “Carmen”.  The first cast has mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts in the title role, with tenor Brian Jagde as Don Jose, soprano Ellie Dehn as Micaëla and Zachary Nelson as Escamillo.

[Below: a scene from the final act of Calixto Bielto’s production of “Carmen”; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]


The second cast is led by Ginger Costa-Jackson as Carmen, Maxim Aksenov as Don Jose, Erika Grimaldi as Micaëla and Michael Sumuel as Escamillo. Joan Anton Rechi is revival director, Alfons Flores is set designer. Carlo Montanaro conducts all but one performance (July 3, conducted by Jordi Benacer).

For more on Jagde’s Don Jose, see [Rising Stars: An Interview with Brian Jagde] as well as my review of Costa-Jackson’s Carmen at [Costa-Jackson, Diegel, Matanovic and Simpson Excel in Glimmerglass Opera’s “Carmen” – August 13, 2011].

[For my review of the United Kingdom premiere of Bielto production, see: Ruxandra Donose, Adam Diegel Are Dramatically Convincing in Calixto Bieito’s Sexy, Edgy “Carmen” – English National Opera, November 21, 2012.]

[For my performance reviews, see: Review: A Spanish “Carmen” from Calixto Bielto, May 28, 2016 and Review: Roberts, Jagde and Dehn in “Carmen” – May 29, 2016.]


Don Giovanni (Mozart), Santa Fe Opera, July 2, 8, 13, 22, August 1, 6, 10, 15, 20 and 26, 2016

Ron Daniels makes his Santa Fe Opera debut as director of a new production of Mozart’s masterpiece. Santa Fe Opera veterans Daniel Okulitch, Leah Crocetto and Isabel Leonard are cast respectively as Giovanni, Anna and Elvira.

[Below: Don Giovanni (Daniel Okulitch, right, standing) pretends to accuse Leporello (Kyle Ketelsen, left, on ground) of attempted rape; edited image of a Ken Howard photograph for the Santa Fe Opera.]


The other principals are all Santa Fe Opera debuts – Edgaras Montvidas as Don Ottavio, Rhian Lois as Zerlina (American debut) and Kyle Ketelsen as Leporello. The conductor is John Nelson.

[For my performance review, see: Review: Okulitch, Ketelsen Star in Santa Fe Opera’s New “Don Giovanni”, July 2, 2016.]


La Boheme (Puccini), Glimmerglass Festival, July 8, 17(m), 24(m), 26(m), 28, August 1(m), 6, 9(m), 11, 13(m), 19, 22(m) and 27, 2016

E. Loren Meeker creates a new production of “La Boheme”, shifting the story about a half a century later into Paris’ Belle Epoque period.

[Below: Raquel Gonzalez (left) is Mimi, with Michael Brandenburg (right) as Rodolfo, in a Washington National Opera performance of “La Boheme”; edited image, based on a Karli Kadel photograph, courtesy of the Washington National Opera.]


Michael Brandenburg is Rodolfo, Raquel Gonzalez is Mimi, Hunter Enoch is Marcello, Brian Vu is Schaunard and Rhys Lloyd Talbot is Colline,  Vanessa Becerra is Musetta and Dale Travis sings both the Benoit and Alcindoro parts.

[For my performance review, see: Review: The Glimmerglass Festival Mounts a Youthful “La Boheme” – August 6, 2016.]


Aida (Verdi), San Francisco Opera, November 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20(m), 23, 27(m), 30, December 3 and 6, 2016.

Director Francesca Zambello, who explored Verdi’s “Aida” in her 2012 production for the Glimmerglass Festival [see my review at  Role Debuts All Around in Intimate “Aida” – Glimmerglass Festival, July 23, 2012] creates a new production for the San Francisco Opera.

[Below: Leah Crocetto is to be Aida; edited image, based on a publicity photograph, from leahcrocetto.com.]


Leah Crocetto is cast as Aida, Brian Jagde as Radames, Ekaterina Semenchuk as Amneris, George Gagnidze is Amonasro and Raymond Aceto is Ramfis. Graffiti artist RETNA’s will have artistic input, while Michael Yeargan will design the sets. Nicola Luisotti will be the principal conductor.


This list is supplementary to previous lists in this “Quests and Anticipations” series of selected operas being performed from April 2016 through December 2016:

Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at the San Francisco Opera. [See In Quest of Puccini’s “Tosca” and “Butterfly” in the American Southwest – October 2015 to December 2016.]

Barber’s “Vanessa” at the Santa Fe Opera and Ward’s “The Crucible” at the Glimmerglass Festival. [See In Quest of American Operas – October 2015 through August 2016.]

Janacek’s “Jenufa” and “The Makropoulos Case” at the San Francisco Opera and Richard Strauss’ “Capriccio” at the Santa Fe Opera. [See In Quest of Operatic Masterpieces from the German and Czech Repertories – April- November, 2016.]

Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” at the Glimmerglass Festival, Sheng’s “Dream of the Red Chamber” at the San Francisco Opera and Heggie’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Houston Grand Opera [See In Quest of Repertory-Expanding Operas – April-December, 2016.]

Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Opera National de Paris, Haydn’s “Orlando Paladino” at the Zurich Oper at Theater Winterthur, Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande” at the Zurich Oper and Puccini’s “Tosca” at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich [See In Quest of European Opera Performances (Part One) April-May 2016.]

Bizet’s “Carmen” at Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, Boito’s “Mefistofele” at Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Germany; Wagner’s “Das Liebesverbot” at L’Opera National de Rhin, Strasbourg; and Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta”/Stravinsky’s “Persephone” at Opera de Lyon. [See In Quest of European Opera Performances (Part Two) Mid-May 2016.]

Tags: Quests and Anticipations