Another Giasone

Cavalli’s Il Giasone is a bit of a rarity but perhaps, like the rest of his opus, it’s getting more attention than it used to.  The latest video recording of it was made at the Grand Theâte Genève in 2017.  There’s a summary of the rather convoluted plot in my review of an earlier version from Vlaamse Opera.  Oddly in this version Isifile’s final aria omits the weird section about her cold dead breasts.

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Giulietta e Romeo

Nicola Vaccaj was a contemporary of Rossini and composer of numerous operas of which only his 1825 work Giulietta e Romeo survives.  It was produced and recorded at the Festivale della Valle d’Itria in 2018 on the outdoor stage of the Palazzo Ducale in Martina Franca.  Giulietta e Romeo, like Bellini’s work on the same subject, is based on earlier material rather than the Shakespeare play and it’s quite different apart from the basic faked death and dual suicide at the end.  Here we are less concerned with two young lovers.  There’s more broad-scale political stuff.  Romeo commands the Ghibelline army that is besieging the Guelfs (including the Capulets) in Verona.  He has already killed Giulietta’s brother in battle and the lovers have known each other for some time.  So Romeo is rather more than a boy though still sung by a mezzo.  The themes are more about bereavement and revenge than young love.  The conflict is more than a quarrel between two urban dynasties.

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Tosca noir

The 2018 Salzburg Easter Festival production of Puccini’s Tosca was directed by Michael Sturminger.  The only Sturminger works I’ve seen before are his rather odd Mozart collaborations with John Malkovich; The Giacomo Variations and The Infernal Comedy so I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  The production riffs off film noir and is updated to more or less the present.  It opens with a shoot out between Angelotti and the police  but that lasts only a few seconds and the first act and the first half of the second act are fairly conventional, bar Scarpia on an exercise bike as Act 2 opens.  That said, it’s big and monochromatic and it does have a noir feel.  It starts to get a bit more conceptual around the Scarpia/Tosca confrontation.  It’s an interesting take on Scarpia; perhaps more bureaucrat than psychopath.  The relationship between the two is well drawn and Anja Harteros does a really convincing job of her build up to killing Scarpia including a first class Vissi d’arte sung from some unusual positions.  There’s a hint of what’s to come at the very end of the act when an “I’m not dead yet” Scarpia is seen crawling towards his phone.

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The Book of My Shames

headshot-isaiah-bell-2017-websizedThis is what would happen if the opera singing love child of Noel Coward and Sylvia Plath was encouraged by his therapist to perform on “Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids”. – Isaiah Bell

Isaiah Bell’s The Book of My Shames has something in common with Teiya Kasahara’s Queer of the Night.  Both are one queer shows dealing very directly and honestly with aspects of being queer and both are very impressive singers.  There perhaps the comparison pretty much ends for while Teiya’s show was about the tribulations of being gay in the opera world Isaiah’s piece is about growing up gay in a seriously dysfunctional environment.

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Pomegranate premiere

Last night Pomegranate; music by Kye Marshall, words by Amanda Hale, opened at Buddies in Bad Times.  Inspired by the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, it tells the story of two lesbian lovers.  Cass has broken up with Suzy in 1980s Toronto.  She visits Pompeii as a tourist and is carried back in time to meet her lover in a previous incarnation in the Temple of Isis.  There’s a whole act dealing with the Mysteries, Cassia and Suli’s burgeoning relationship and the attempt by the Roman state to suppress the religion.  Then Vesuvius erupts.  Fast forward to Act 2 in a lesbian bar in Toronto.  Suzy, an immigrant from some unspecified war zone is pressured by her family to break up with Cass.  There’s a slightly surreal byt dramatically satisfying epilogue where modern Cass reunites with Roman Sulli in the ruins of Pompeii.

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The Adventures of Pinocchio

I’ve been impressed by Jonathan Dove’s art songs so I was glad to be able to take a look at one of his operas.  It’s The Adventures of Pinocchio and it was recorded in a production by Opera North at Sadlers Wells in 2008.  I feel a bit ambivalent about it.  I really like the music but I’m not hugely engaged by the libretto.  I think this is largely because of the subject matter so it may come off better for someone else.
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Royal Conservatory 2019/20

ldspThe RCM 2019/20 season has been announced.  It’s the usual mix of chamber, orchestral, piano, jazz, world music, the completely indefinable and, of course, vocal.  There are 91 concerts in total.  With such a wide range of material it’s hard to imagine anybody being interested in all of it or, conversely, anybody unable to find something to their taste.  My tastes, of course, run largely to classical vocal music so what follows is what I find most interesting: Continue reading