Cultural Reviews

Opera

Abduction from the Seraglio–Mozart.  Spring, 2008 at the Metropolitan Opera.  Set in Turkey with interesting music which reflects a European’s impression of Turkish music.  The opera contains some amazingly difficult soprano arias (performed well, of course), and a rare show-stopping bass aria.

The Barber of Seville–Mozart.  Fall, 2007 at the Metropolitan Opera.  I was way too tired to be going to the opera, so I left at intermission.

La Boheme–Puccini.  Spring 2005 in Dallas.  Elaborate set, terrible seats at the State Fairgrounds.  Non memorable.

Dialogues of the Carmelites–Poulenc.  January, 2000 at the Baylor Opera (I performed in the pit).  Very moving plot and the music is beatiful and intense.

Falstaff–Verdi.  January, 1999 at the Baylor Opera (I performed in the pit).  Sadly, I can’t remember much of it, though I did like it.

Hansel and Gretel–Humperdink.  Spring, 2008 at the Metropolitan Opera.  A whimsical, rather abstract interpretation with the three acts set in three kitchens of sorts.  Rather graphic given the number of small children in the audience (the witch flails in her flame-filled oven).  The most memorable part for me was the Sandman’s aria in the second act, sung by Sasha Cooke.

Lucia di Lammermoor–Donizetti.  Fall, 2008 at the Metropolitan Opera.  One of Donizetti’s most popular operas, and perhaps the finest bel canto opera.  This production opened the Met’s 2007-2008 season with Natalie Dessay playing Lucia, who sings herself to death in her mad scene.  This opera has amazing repertoire for the soprano, as well as a memorable sextet.

Macbeth–Verdi.  Fall, 2008, Metropolitan Opera.  A compelling production of this Italian opera based on an English play set in Scotland, with a modern 1940s interpretation.  Fantastic music, creative interpretation. 

The Magic Flute–Mozart.  Spring, 2004, performed by the New England Conservatory in Boston.  Very spare set, but fantastic student performances.

Madama Butterfly–Puccini.  Fall, 2008 at the Metropolitan Opera.    Wonderful performances by leading soprano Pat Racette and the baritone Consul, Dwayne Croft.  Especially Croft.  The leading tenor was an understudy.  The Anthony Minghella production was spare, modern, and at times exquisite, though it did feature a creepy puppet-child.  Butterfly dies at the end.  Didn’t see that coming.

Le Nozze Di Figaro–Mozart.  January 2001 at the Baylor Opera, and Fall, 2007 at the Metropolitan Opera.  It was in college that this opera brought me to realize how incredible the opera genre is…this is a magnificent work of art.  I performed it eight days in a row (four dress rehersals since it was double-cast, and four performances).  Though exhausting, I never tired of the music.  It has some of the most moving opera music I can think of, and it’s a comic opera!  Marjorie Owens as the Countess floated head and shoulders above the rest of the cast, and I think she was only a sophomore at the time!  My second encounter with the opera was at the Met and featured Hei-Kyung Hong as the Countess and young soprano (and friend of a friend) Lisette Oropesa as Susanna.  Hong’s radiant voice filled the hall, permeating the air with sweeping beauty.  And Oropesa brought a refreshing charm and cheerful personality to Susanna’s character.  Her colatura was spectacularly crisp and agile, though her voice seemed a little thin compared to Hong.  (Picture of the pair here.) Worthy of mention also was the huge, rotating set whose proprotions gave the production a sense of weight and grandeur.

Orfeo ed Euridice–Gluck.  January, 2009 at the Metropolitan Opera.  This is Gluck’s most famous opera, and it deals with one of the oldest themes of the opera genre, with multiple incarnations of the Greek myth going back to as early as 1600.  My biggest regret about this opera is that I was dreadfully tired, and ended up sleeping off an on.  At 90 minutes, it’s a very short opera.  All I can say is that I enjoyed the early classical instrumentation and orchestration, and the singing was on par with the Met’s high standards.  The creative set with the maqueraded chorus set on tiers was effective.  Sadly, I slept through the climax of the opera when Orfeo looks back at Euridice, sending her back to Hades.

The Queen of Spades–Tchaikowsky.  Fall, 2008 at the Metropolitan Opera.  This was my first Tchaikowsky opera to hear.  Turns out, of his ~10 operas, only two are performed regularly outside of Russia.  The thing I was most looking forward to was hearing Ben Heppner on stage.  I was a little disappointed.  Although his artistry was evident in his role of Ghermann, his voice seemed a bit small, at times swallowed by the orchestra.  It also had a slight nasal character without the open resonance I’ve heard on a number of his recordings.  The set was impressive (more on my regular post), and the music very enjoyable.  Tchaikowsky accomplishes a score that’s at once rich and graceful, at times even Beethovenian.  Yeletsky sang a fine aria in Act II.  Maria Guleghina, as one of the leading sopranos, had a powerful voice that filled the hall, but her singing was unrefined, at times even clunky.

La Traviata–Verdi.  Fall, 2008 at the Metropolitan Opera.  This opera helped me further appreciate Verdi more as a master of the opera.  The set, especially the extravagant party scene in Act II and the elevator-like moving floors in Act III impressed me.  Three vocalists made the experience undoubtedly memorable for me.  Anja Harteros anchored the opera.  The problem was that her brilliant singing nearly always outshone the leading tenor, whose name I cannot remember and will not bother to look up.  Zeljko Lucic played a believable father who sang with decorum and impeccable interpretation, his rich voice finely balancing Harteros’ in their Act II duets.  And the final treat was the Baron, sung by John Hancock, whose chocolate baritone voice soared even during group recitatives.  This one performance was enough to inspire me to follow these three’s careers.

Turandot–Puccini.  Spring, 2007 at the Metropolitan Opera.  The power surge shortly before this performance meant that my subtitle box didn’t work, and so I couldn’t follow the plot very closely.  My nosebleed standing room “seat” meant I perched far above the stage.  I anxiously awaited the aria Nessun Dorma; given that I’ve mainly heard the piece in concert settings, it was curious to hear it nestled in the context of a larger work, fitting in but not necessarily stopping the show.  Three things made this performance memorable: 1) My first performance at the Metropolitan Opera.  2) The crystalline beauty of Liping Zhang’s voice singing the part of Liu. (My original comments about the performance are here.  3) Realizing when the curtain was drawn to open Act III, that when the Met wants to pull out all the stops, it really does.

Musicals

Coming soon.

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