Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s 1949 musicalization of Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country has found a tentative home on the opera stage, attractive to companies eager to fill their musical slot(s) for its highbrow pedigree, star vehicle potential, and relevant political content. Washington National Opera is the latest to try their hand at Lost in the Stars, but despite a strong cast and sympathetic direction, this latest incarnation isn’t able to overcome the flaws of this intriguing but problematic work.Read the whole thing here...
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
I wrote about WNO's "Lost in the Stars" production for Parterre:
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Sunday's Met Council Mid-Atlantic finals were dominated by a group of exceptional bass/baritones, with all but one of those competing walking away with a prize. In an afternoon brimming with talent, the low voices set themselves apart with polished, distinctive voices, and natural dramatic flair.
Anthony Schneider, a first place winner who will continue on to semifinals in New York, brings to the table a unique, resonant sound, well represented in Il lacerato spirito from Simon Boccanegra, and demonstrated agility and personality in "Quand la flamme de l'amour" from Bizet's La Jolie Fille de Perth. His co-first place finalist, tenor Jonas Hacker, first offered Una Furtiva Lagrima, demonstrating formidable control in a series of impeccably executed dynamic effects, though his voice lacked that final touch of warmth needed for this music. The judges wisely chose "Here I stand" from Rake's Progress as a second aria, and there were no qualifications here--Hacker's incisive power and facility with text seems a natural fit for exciting Britten and other 20th century fare.
Second place went to bass Timothy Bruno, a current young WNO young artist this season, who has participated in the various young artist-staffed new work presentations. Bruno's pitch-black sound is distinctive for sure, though it was a perhaps a heavier color than one wants in his first aria, "Solche hergelaufne Laffen" from Mozart's Entfuhrung. Another round of Boccanegra fared better, with Bruno producing a very exciting second helping of "Il lacerato spirito."
Third place was also a tie. Baritone Andrew Lovato was perhaps my personal favorite among the considerable bass-baritone talent on display. "Ya va Lyublyu" from Pique Dame was devastating, Lovato carefully shading his voice to great effect throughout the work. The Tanzlied from Die Tote Stadt was a fun second choice, and a great chance to show off the capabilities of perhaps the most refined low-voice onstage, though it would have benefited from more subtlety.
He shared honors with baritone Armando Pina, who turned in a winning, if slightly generic, sound. His lead-off "Ya vas lyublyu" couldn't quite compete with the detailed pathos of Lovato's account but was nonetheless an impressive assumption. "Hai gia vinta la causa" was similarly sturdy.
Mezzo Briana Hunter was perhaps a surprising omission from the winners circle. In "Elle et la, pres de lui" from Thomas' Mignon, she showed off an ample, compelling sound, only marred by a bit of inconsistency in the high notes, some of which sounded great, while others felt a tad uncomfortable. Her follow-up, "Una voce poco fa," represented the most accomplished coloratura singing of the afternoon, and demonstrated a winning stage personality. Soprano Raquel Gonzalez also stood out among the women, with a sophisticated, smoky sound in "Come in quest'ora bruna" and "Stridono lassu" from Pagilacci.
Thursday, February 04, 2016
A few belated words on the NSO show last Saturday. This was the second of two weekends led by Eschenbach, his first appearances since the announcement that Gianandrea Noseda will succeed him at the NSO's helm. The program featured the second group of works that the NSO will take on tour to Europe this month--the overture to Der Freischutz, Schubert's Symphony No. 8, and Brahms First Symphony.
Anne Midgette rightly questions what the deal is with going all the way to Europe to play a bunch of Central European Top 40 hitz to the locals. Except for a contemporary work by Christopher Rouse this is the reddest of red meat programming. Do European promoters expect American orchestras to prove they can hack it? Sort of the opposite of how we expect Czech orchestras and conductors do the Prague Symphony and Dvorak all the time?
Anyhow, the first half Schubert and Weber were fine, but I was in it for the Brahms. Eschenbach came out swinging, highly attuned to the rollicking push and pull of the first movement and its restless lurching between meters. This was full blooded but tightly controlled Brahms that wasn't shy about playing up the fundamentally unpleasant nature of Brahms' first official statement in symphonic form. The second movement, with its balance of repression and release, benefits from a slow burn and holding something back, but Eschenbach took the bait and went back to the generic emotional swell too often. Things went downright haywire in the final bars which slow to a point of stasis, such that Nurit Bar-Josef's violin solo seemed oddly rushed and cursory, perhaps a tempo miscommunication issue? The allegretto was fairly scattered as well, with shifts in tempi that had the orchestra stumbling over itself at times. Thankfully Eschenbach was back in form for the closing movement, and led a truly exhilarating rush to the finale.
It sounds like Friday's run was much tighter, so perhaps an off-night or just trying some stuff here before heading out on the road...
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
I wrote about David Daniels recital for Vocal Arts DC last weekend for Parterre:
Washingtonians enjoyed a happy reunion this past Sunday with David Daniels, a lucky substitution for the originally scheduled Alexander Tsymbalyuk on the Vocal Arts DC calendar. Daniels isn’t exactly a regular on DC stages—he last graced the opera house in 2008 opposite Placido Domingo in Handel’s Tamerlano (a rare Baroque foray for WNO)—but contributing to Ruth Bader Ginsburg lore will get you everywhere with this crowd.Read the whole thing here...