Amidst buzz on the recent departure of its artistic director, Dennis Hanthorn, the Atlanta Opera opened its 2012-2013 season with Bizet’s Carmen to an enthusiastic reception on Saturday, November 10. The evening was led Carl and Sally Gable Music Director Arthur Fagen, whose polished baton emphasized the vitality and sparkling qualities of this familiar score. A clever leader, he understood the proclivities of his singers, and allowed them to luxuriate their lines when inspired without ever becoming a detriment to the dramatic gestures dictated by the score. He was also a match to the complexity of the piece, and successfully anchored the company in the most intricate sections, even managing to realign the massive act two finale when the ensemble got a tad out of sync.
Tag Archives: Opera
The 2012-2013 season at Opera Southwest gets under way this week with what promises to be a historic run of Rossini’s unfairly neglected “Otello”. In spite of a grueling rehearsal schedule, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Anthony Barrese took a breather to share some thoughts on this work, and how it makes for a perfect season opener in Albuquerque.
The 2012-2013 season at the Minnesota Opera marks the 50th anniversary of the company, and it opened last September with five performances of Verdi’s Nabucco, which played to packed houses throughout its run. In many ways, the quality of this presentation signaled how far this company has come: From its fringe beginnings to its current standing as one of the most important operatic destinations in the United States. In terms of cast and production values, any opera house in the world would be hard pressed to better Minnesota’s efforts.
Atlanta is no stranger to Mozart’s great opera, Don Giovanni. The work was brought to the city seven times by the Metropolitan Opera Tour between 1954 and 1978, the impressive list of heavy hitters back then included George London, Cesare Siepi, Eleanor Steber, Leontyne Price, Nicolai Gedda, and Lisa Della Casa, just to mention a few. The Atlanta Opera proper first mounted its first production of Don Giovanni at the Woodruff Arts Center in 1993, and it is here where I can count myself as one with a personal remembrance of the luminaries of that first cast: Dean Peterson as Don Giovanni, Kip Wilburn as Don Ottavio, and Brenda Harris’ spectacular Atlanta Opera debut as Donna Anna. The company staged the work for the second time in grand fashion at the Fox Theater in 1998, and many still remember the more racy elements of that production. The mind’s ear remembers best Eugene Perry as Don Giovanni, Matile Rowland as Donna Anna, Brian Jauhianen as the Commendatore, Pamela Kucenic as Donna Elvira and Philip Cokorinos as Leporello. The last staging of the opera undertaken by the company took place in 2004, this time at the Civic Center with a lineup that almost merged the casts of the prior two productions (Dean Peterson reprising his Don Giovanni, Brenda Harris now as an exemplary Donna Elvira, Jeff Morrissey as Masetto, and the wonderful Leporello of Phillip Cokorinos). This new production of Don Giovanni thus marks the company’s fourth effort in mounting what many have ruled as one of, if not the, greatest opera ever written. Sadly, judging by the opening night’s performance on April 28, the values of the current presentation ranked below those of the company’s past efforts; and this was not due to the flexible baton of maestro Arthur Fagen, or the bare simple sets provided by Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Rather, the performance was undermined by a general clumsiness in Richard Kagey’s direction and an extremely uneven cast.
There is no doubt in my mind that Eve Queler loves Wagner’s opera, Rienzi. Watching her receive a well deserved ovation as she ascended the podium on January 29th to lead the forces of the Opera Orchestra of New York, it struck me that this was the conductor’s fourth open case for this Wagnerian rarity, making her an unofficial champion of a piece that even Wagner himself turned his back against after he established his career. Following the performance, one could only be grateful for her insistence.
Minnesota Opera’s production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda opened last Saturday, January 29 at the Ordway theatre to an enthusiastic, near sold out house. Patrons who attended last year’s first installment of the so-called “Tudor Trilogy,” Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, were instantly brought back to director Kevin Newbury’s vision of the English court.
As the plane skids on patches of ice along the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport runway, my eye turns to the window to witness the exotic landscape of white snow that awaits me once outside the plane. Yet, a Southern boy must suffer to get his fix of Donizetti, and as the weight of carry-on bags crush my left shoulder during my search for the bus terminal, my mind races towards the events that await me as Minnesota Opera premieres Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda this Saturday.