In Quest of Operatic “Exoticism” – July 2017-May 2018.

The following operas by the Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov and French composers Bizet, Saint-Saëns and Massenet all employ exotic harmonies to suggest Biblical Gaza, Byzantine Egypt, ancient Ceylon or an imaginary “Oriental” world:

 

The Golden Cockerel [Le Coq d’Or], Santa Fe Opera, July 15, 19, 28, August 3 and 9, 2017.

British director Paul Curran creates a new production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s fantasy/political satire Le Coq d’Or [The Golden Cockerel].

[Below: The Queen of Samakha (Venera GImadieva, left) has bedazzled King Dodon (Tim Mix, right); edited image, based on a Ken Howard photograph, courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera.]

Eric Owens appears as King Dodon, Venera Gimadieva as the Queen of Shemakha. Kevin Burdette is Commander Polkan, Barry Banks the Astrologer, and Meredith Arwady is Amelia. Maestro Emmanuel Villaume conducts.

[For my performance review, see: Review: Santa Fe Opera’s Glistening “Golden Cockerel” Starring Venera Gimadieva – July 28, 2017.]

 

The Pearl Fishers [Les Pecheurs de Perles] (Bizet) Los Angeles Opera, October 7, 15(m), 19, 22(m), 25 and 28, 2017.

When in early 1863 Paris’ Theatre Lyrique (flush with success from its sponsorship of Gounod’s “Faust”) agreed to mount a new opera by Gounod’s protege Georges Bizet, it was to be about pearl fishers in Acapulco, Mexico.

Some commentators on the opera have wondered why its locale was changed to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), but to me it is obvious. On May 5, 1863 (Cinco de Mayo) the Mexicans routed the French military. Meanwhile 1863 was a year of an exposition of the Oriental decorative arts. A shift of the opera from Mexico to Sri Lanka (and the inclusion of a couple of arias and a chorus whose harmonies were meant to evoke the Orient) was instrumental in the opera’s ultimate success.

[Below: Zurga (here, Mariusz Kwiecien, left, in blue vest) and Nadir (here, Matthew Polenzani, standing right) observe a ceremony in which Leila (here, Diana Damrau, front, left center, in red veil) participates, in the production at the Metropolitan Opera; edited image, based on a Ken Howard photograph, courtesy of the New York Metropolitan Opera.]

In Los Angeles Opera’s Penny Woolcock production (co-produced with the Metropolitan Opera and English National Opera], Nino Machaidze is Leila, Javier Camarena is Nadir and Alfredo Daza is Zurga. Nicholas Brownlee sings the role of Nourabad, wnile Placido Domingo and Grant Gershon  split the conducting duties.

 

Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns), The Dallas Opera, October 20, 22(m), 25, 28 and November 5(m), 2017.

Camille Saint-Saëns’ setting of the Old Testament story includes two of the most famous excerpts from French opera – the aria that seals the deal for Dalila’s seduction of the Hebrew warrior Samson, and the last act Bacchanale that leads to the blinded Samson destroying the Temple of the Hebrews’ enemies.

[Below: as the bacchanal continues, Samson (here, Frank Porretta) pulls down the load-bearing pillars, thereby destroying the temple in the Pittsburgh Opera’s 2008 production of Saint-Saens’ “Samson et Dalila”; edited image, based on a David Bachman photograph, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Opera.]

Clifton Forbis is Samson, Olga Borodin is Dalila. Richard Paul Fink, Michael Chioldi and Ryan Kuster round out the cast. Maestro Emmanuel Villaume conducts. Bruno Berger directs, with sets by Peter Dean Beck.

 

Thaïs (Massenet), Minnesota Opera, May 12, 15, 17, 19 and 20, 2018.

Jules Massenet’s opera, adapted from an Anatole France novel, relates the story of an ascetic monk, Athanaël, who is at first obsessed with the idea of converting the courtesan Thaïs to a life of religious purity. Although Thais’ conversion succeeded, in the meantime, Athanaël finds that he himself is vulnerable to the weaknesses of the flesh and to a new obsession – his desire to become Thaïs’ lover.

[Below: Kelly Kaduce will be Thaïs; edited image, based on a publicity photograph.]

Maestro Christopher Franklin conducts, Andrea Cigni directs.

The cast consists of Minnesota native Kelly Kaduce as Thaïs, Lucas Meachem as Athanaël and John Robert Lindsey as Nicias.

 

This list is supplementary to previous lists in this “Quests and Anticipations” series of selected operas being performed through December 2017:

Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” at the Santa Fe Opera [See In Quest of Operatic Comedy – July 2016 – August 2017.]

Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the Santa Fe Opera and Donizetti’s “L’Assedio di Calais” at the Glimmerglass Festival [See In Quest of Donizetti and Bellini – November 2016 to August 2017.]

Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and Puccini’s “La Boheme” at the San Francisco Opera [See In Quest of Italian Opera Masterpieces, February – July, 2017.]

Handel’s “Xerxes” at the Glimmerglass Festival, Handel’s “Alcina” at the Santa Fe Opera and Handel’s “Giulio Cesare” at the Houston Grand Opera [See In Quest of Handel and Vivaldi Opera Performances – May to November, 2017.]

George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” and Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” at the at the Glimmerglass Festival, Bates’ “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” at the Santa Fe Opera and Adams’ “The Girls of the Golden West” at the San Francisco Opera [See In Quest of American Operas and Musicals – July to December, 2017.]