Category Archives: Arts

North Carolina Opera presents Bellini’s Norma


There’s a moment in Bellini’s Norma that never fails to punch me in the gut. As the opera reaches its final ensemble, the Druid High Priestess Norma, who by now has confessed her crimes to her people and has accepted her fate, turns to her father and tells him that she has borne children with the enemy and begs for their lives. After some vacillation, her father agrees, and Norma says “Ah, tu perdoni, quel pianto il dice! Io piu non chiedo, io son felice!” (You forgive me, your tears have told me. I want nothing more, I am happy). From the pit, Bellini’s orchestra provides a steady pulse that delicately sweeps at the structure, like the tide slowly washing away the majestic sand castle he has spent over two hours building, and over this a melancholy figure rises in the woodwind section as the father forgives his child and acquiesces: It doubles as a gesture of forgiveness and redemption while also signaling the tragic denouement of this extraordinary woman. In the rare instances that I have had the pleasure of experiencing Norma live, this scene has invariably inspired the tears to stream clear past the cheek, and it was no exception last Sunday October 21 when North Carolina Opera mounted a concert performance of the Bellini masterpiece. During the curtain calls, the lady sitting next to me, who had been rather talkative and kept zippering and un-zippering her purse during the entire affair, turned to me and said:

“I saw you crying…it really hit you, didn’t it?”

I agreed.

“You must have liked it a lot”

With an awkward grimace I replied: “You can hum this music and it will make me happy.”

And this is true. Yet further scrutiny reveals complications.

Awaiting the arrival of the Druids!

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Posted by on October 26, 2018 in Arts, Opera


The Minnesota Opera presents Massenet’s Thais

Last weekend, the Minnesota Opera closed its 55th season with its first production of Massenet’s unjustly underperformed opera, Thais. Newoutpost’s ties with the mid-western company are strong (this blog, in fact, debuted with their production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda back in the winter of 2011), and coupled with our desire to take part in this significant musical event, we embarked in yet another brief musical pilgrimage to beautiful St. Paul. We attended the penultimate performance given on Saturday May 19th, and taking into account the audience’s reaction as well as the artistic values on display that evening, we can happily declare the presentation a complete success.


Gerard Schneider as Nicias, Kelly Kaduce as Thaïs, and Lucas Meachem as Athanaël in Minnesota Opera’s new production of Thaïs. Photos by Cory Weaver

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Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Arts, Opera


The Atlanta Opera presents Bizet’s Carmen

To close the month of April and welcome May, the Atlanta Opera presented one of its most compelling casts and offered a memorable reading of Bizet’s immortal masterpiece, Carmen.

In a bold decision, the company handed the direction of this revival (the production premiered in our city in 2012,) to director Brenna Corner, a member of the Atlanta Opera Studio. Ms. Corner was thus pitted against director Jeffrey Marc Buchman, who’s work at the time of the production’s premiere, we recall, left the door open for corrections. While some details in the direction of the current revival, such as the over-sexualization of the heroine during the first act, as well as introducing a mentally deranged Don Jose in the opera’s final scene can be classified as a misfire, the comparisons to the premiere generally favor Ms. Corner, who focused a great deal of attention to the development of her principals clashing personalities, and thus underlined the dangerous consequences of their pairing. From the pit, Carl & Sally Gable music director Arthur Fagen led the performance at a careful pace, adjusting his tempi to the needs of his singers (specially Ms. Abrahamyan) and making due with some uncharacteristic mishaps from the Atlanta Opera Orchestra (the french horn solo during Micaela’s aria being particularly cringe worthy). We credit him for keeping the totality of the performance intact.

Gianluca Terranova as Don Jose and Varduhi Abrahamyan as Carmen. (Photo by Jeff Roffman).

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Posted by on May 8, 2018 in Arts, Opera


Capitol City Opera presents Verdi’s La Traviata

Capitol City Opera, in its most ambitious production to date, presented Verdi’s La Traviata this past weekend. Your friends at newoutpost attended the final matinee performance on Sunday March 25, and though the overall impression of the performance was uneven, we can report that there were moments of lovely music making to be heard throughout the afternoon.

“Noi siamo zingarelle” Michael Lindsay (Marchese d’Obigny) and Amanda Perera (Flora). Photo by Andre Peele.

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Posted by on March 27, 2018 in Opera


The Atlanta Opera presents Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment

Following the successful Parisian debut of his Lucie di Lammermoor at the Theatre de la Rennaissance in August of 1839, Gaetano Donizetti moved swiftly to establish himself in the nineteenth century’’s most prestigious musical capital by announcing four additional premieres in the city of lights. While two of these, L’Ange de Nisida and Le Duc d’Albe, where ultimately abandoned (L’Ange is incidentally scheduled to receive its premiere this July at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden) the remaining works made their way to the stage. At L’Opera, the composer refurbished his Poliuto within the confines of grand opera convention under the new title Les Martyrs, which coupled with the tragedy of Lucie, further underlined the composer’s facility in the dramatic realm. Between them, however, he offered a work of contrasting light-hearted and dazzling verve, which debuted at the Opera Comique in February of 1840. This was La Fille du Regiment, an opera that not only served to showcase the composer’s versatility in both tragic and comedic subjects, but also peddled his unapologetic argument to the French audience to embrace him as one of their own. Despite the initial critical reception (with my school-days hero Hector Berlioz leading the pack,) the opera became a mainstay in Paris and Francophone regions, receiving multiple presentations at the Comique and hallmarking traditional patriotic holidays such as Bastille day. The opera’s current outing at the Atlanta Opera, which your friends at newoutpost were fortunate to experience in its second presentation on Tuesday February 17, serves the company as a veritable palate cleanser between the brooding Byronic drama of Wagner’s Der Fliegende Hollander and Bizet’s savage Carmen. By all accounts, the company has done much to restore the piece back to its original scale and presented the work as the light, frothy affair it was intended to be.

Salut a la France! Andriana Chuchman (Marie), Santiago Ballerini (Tonio), Tyler Simpson (Hortensius) and the men of the Atlanta Opera Chorus. Photo Credit: Jeff Roffman.

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Posted by on March 1, 2018 in Arts, Opera


The Atlanta Opera presents Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman

On Saturday November 4th, the Atlanta Opera opened its 38th season by unveiling a new production of Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman”. “The Flying Dutchman,” or “Der Fliegende Hollander,” is the only Wagnerian work that the Atlanta Opera has staged in its thirty eight year history, and as we walked out of the auditorium following Friday night’s performance, your friends at newoutpost could not contain the flood of thoughts that we humbly offer here as the introduction to our write up.

We want to frame what follows by proclaiming that, as residents of this city for the past twenty seven years, we consider the Atlanta Opera our home, and we want to see it grow into the fantastic arts institution we know it can become. This is Atlanta’s third stab at producing Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” in the past 15 years, and already the feeling of dread that the company is unlikely to dig deeper into the Wagnerian repertoire has already begun to set in. Be it due to economic constraints, the operas duration, union restrictions, or whatever the case may be, it is a sad fact that many bets would be lost if the Atlanta Opera were to suddenly stage any other selection from the great composer’s canon. Many quietly fear that the pattern of the past twelve years, the recycling of the standard repertoire sprinkled with odd excursions into esoteric operas to somehow claim variety will continue, and a recent visit to another regional company underlined the impression as being shared by more than just locals. In conversation with a rather cheeky member of the administrative staff who, upon learning our city of origin, smirked and said “Atlanta? I hear they do a lot of Don Giovannis there!” we realized that there was enough truth in the statement to make the burn sizzle.

Senta (Melody Moore) cannot focus on the task at hand while Mary (Olivia Vote) manages the women of the village. Picture by Jeff Roffman for The Atlanta Opera.

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Posted by on November 12, 2017 in Arts, Opera


The Atlanta Opera Presents Puccini’s Turandot

Back in 2003, when scheduling issues forced the company to leave its home at the Fox Theater, the company found itself moving to the nearby Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic center. Opera patrons of that period will recall a barn like venue, not constructed with the acoustics in mind to flatter the operatic genre. The company survived the change for four years, and under the leadership of its new artistic director, Dennis Hawthorne, it relocated once again (in a mildly controversial move) away from the city limits to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. Following the Cobb venue’s inaguration as the Atlanta Opera’s new home with Puccini’s Turandot, even there naysayers were pressed to accept the acoustic functionality of the new venue. Thus, the Atlanta Opera audience adjusted, and accepted its new suburban home through the hardships of the recession, a reduction in seasonal presentations, and another change of artistic guard with the institution of its new artistic director Tomer Zvulun. To commemorate this decade of transition, the Atlanta Opera looked back to that auspicious move back in 2007, and closed its 2016-17 season this past weekend with another presentation of Puccini’s Turandot to celebrate this milestone.

The unknown prince (Gianluca Terranova) answers the riddle, as Althoum (Nathan Munsson) and Turandot (Marcy Stonikas) look on. Photo credit: Raftermen for The Atlanta Opera

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Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Arts, Opera


Opera Carolina presents Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West

This past Sunday, Opera Carolina made a significant leap forward in the southeastern operatic scene by unveiling its staging Puccini’s unjustly neglected masterpiece, La Fanciulla del West. While the opera has enjoyed a healthy amount of attention at the major operatic hubs periodically, it has been considered a high gamble for regional companies, which routinely overlook it in favor of its assumingly less chancier siblings (Tosca, La Boheme and Madama Butterfly). While its very staging makes Opera Carolina’s Fanciulla an event not to be missed, the company deserves great credit for bringing the opera to Charlotte through a production of great beauty which also marks the company’s first international collaboration. Following these performances, it will travel to the New York City Opera and then cross the Atlantic, where it will grace five Italian theaters including the Teatro di Giglio, and the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari. In keeping with this Italo-American spirit, the opera’s cast as well as the creative team is comprised exclusively of American and Italian born talent, lending the proceedings an additional degree of authenticity.

“Regalias, Auroras, Eurekas.” (Gianluca Bocchino as Nick, Kristin Sampson as Minnie, Jason McKinney as Ashby). Credit: Mitchell Kearney Photography.

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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Arts, Opera


The Atlanta Opera presents Donizetti’s Don Pasquale

Last Saturday night, as the audience readied itself for the Atlanta Opera’s opening performance of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale for the first time in the company’s history, the ante was unexpectedly raised. Following his customary salutations and the announcement of next season’s offerings, General Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun reported on the indisposition of the evening’s Ernesto, tenor Ji-Min Park, and confidently predicted an overwhelming success for his cover, Argentinian tenor Santiago Ballerini. A brief investigation of the insert hastily included in the program notes reminded us of Mr. Ballerini’s debut the previous year as a memorable Tybalt in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette while then a member of the company’s young artist program, in addition to an important debut with the Caramoor Festival as Fernand in Donizetti’s La Favorite. Caramoor’s concert format would essentially make Mr. Ballerini’s substitution as Ernesto as his professional onstage debut in a principal role. Thus, before the maestro had made his way to the podium, an even greater sense of occasion had permeated the evening.

Don Pasquale (Burak Bilgili). Photo credit: Raftermen Photography

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Posted by on March 28, 2017 in Arts, Opera


New Orleans Opera presents Verdi’s Macbeth

Absent from its stage for 22 years, Verdi’s Macbeth returned to the New Orleans Opera this past weekend for two performances (November 11 and 13 to be exact), and as it came to pass, your friends at newoutpost just happened to be in town on unrelated business. What better way to cap the most outrageous and distasteful election cycle in our lifetime than to simmer in the dark world of Macbeth? In fact, we had to see it twice. This marks newoutpost’s first operatic venture in New Orleans, a city with a celebrated operatic history (Patti, Sontag, they were all here) and hard hit by the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Eleven years later, we’re happy to report that the company has made significant headways out of the shadows, and its 2016-17 season marks the return of the company’s tradition of offering four operas per season.

Lady Macbeth (Brenda Harris) and Macbeth (Michael Chioldi) face the emotional consequences of their actions following the murder of King Duncan. Photo by Tom Grosscup.

Lady Macbeth (Brenda Harris) and Macbeth (Michael Chioldi) face the emotional consequences of their actions following the murder of King Duncan. Photo by Tom Grosscup.

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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Arts, Opera


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