Showing posts with label opera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label opera. Show all posts

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Utah Opera's Die Fledermaus

Utah Opera ended their 40th Anniversary Season, rather appropriately, with the pop of a champagne cork in a delightful production of Johann Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus.  I was able to see this opera last night and it was the perfect way to end a stressful week.  Prince Orlofsky (Abigail Levis) is throwing a ball and Falke (Troy Cook) is using it as an opportunity to play a practical joke on his friend Eisenstein (Daniel Belcher) as revenge for abandoning him in the middle of town wearing a bat costume.  He contrives to get Eisenstein to go to the ball as Marquis Renard instead of reporting to jail for insulting an official.  He also arranges for his wife Rosalinde (Sara Gartland) to attend as a masked Hungarian countess, as well as his maid Adele (Abigail Rethwisch) and the warden of the prison (Christopher Clayton) who are also using assumed names.  Hilarity ensues as everyone attempts to conceal their identities while having fun at the ball (with a little champagne).  Meanwhile, Rosalinde's former lover Alfred (Robert Breault) has reported to jail in Eisenstein's place to keep from compromising her.  When Eisenstein arrives at the jail in the morning and discovers him there, he confronts Rosalinde over her behavior bust she reveals that she is the Hungarian countess that he flirted with at the ball!  The story is so much fun to watch (it sounds convoluted but it is actually very easy to follow) and I found myself laughing out loud on multiple occasions.   The music is incredible and all of the songs are sung in English in this production.  My favorites were "Adele's Laughing Song" and the "Champagne Song."  The entire cast is wonderful but my favorite was definitely Levis as Orlofsky, whose antics are completely over the top.  The choreography, and the addition of four professional dancers to the cast, greatly enhances the party atmosphere and I loved the opulent costumes and sets.  I had so much fun watching this opera, almost as if I had also had a glass of champagne!  I highly recommend getting a ticket to the one remaining performance (go here)!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Utah Opera's Pagliacci & Gianni Schicchi

The full breadth of human emotion was on display at Capitol Theatre last night as Utah Opera presented the double bill of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi.  The evening began with the tragedy Pagliacci which tells the story of a traveling comedy troupe who arrive at a small town to give a performance, much to the delight of the crowd.  The troupe consists of Canio (Scott Piper) who plays Pagliaccio, his wife Nedda (Marina Costa-Jackson) who plays Colombina, Tonio (Wayne Tigges) who plays Taddeo, and Beppe (Aaron Blake) who plays Arlecchino.  Canio is worried that Nedda might be having an affair but is persuaded to drink at the pub with the townspeople, leaving Nedda alone.  Tonio finds her and professes his love to her but she rebukes him mercilessly.  Nedda is actually having an affair with Silvio (Michael Adams) and, when Tonio sees them together, he tells Canio in order to punish her for her harsh treatment of him.  Canio is devastated but, singing one of the most famous arias, says that he will drown his sorrows with laughter when he plays Pagliacco on stage.  The performance echoes real life as Colombina flirts with Arlecchino while Taddeo stands guard but, when Pagliacco comes home to find the lovers, the action becomes real and he declares that he is no longer Pagliacco.  He dramatically kills both Nedda and Silvio, who is in the audience, and tells the crowd that the performance is over.  Piper gives an incredibly affecting performance, especially when he sings "Vesti la giubba" while getting into his clown costume.  I have to admit that I had a tear in my eye as he stood forlornly in the middle of the stage.  After the tears came the laughter with a rousing performance of Gianni Schicchi.  The scheming extended family of Buoso Donati attend his deathbed, hoping that his will has left them all wealthy.  All of them speak about what they want but Rinuccio (Aaron Blake) hopes that he will have enough money to marry Lauretta (Marina Costa-Jackson), the daughter of a lawyer named Gianni Schicchi (Wayne Tigges), whom the family think unsuitable.  They have heard a rumor that Buoso has left his money to a monastery and, after tearing his room apart looking for the will, are in despair when the rumor is confirmed.   Rinuccio summons Lauretta and her father and, while the family forbids them to marry, they ask Gianni Schicchi to examine the will to find a loophole.  He tells them that they should summon a notary and he will impersonate Buoso and dictate a new will but he warns them of the strict punishment for falsifying documents.  When the notary arrives, Gianni Schicchi gives Buoso's fortune to himself while the family can do nothing.  Rinuccio and Lauretta are now allowed to marry!  This opera has so much physical comedy that I was laughing out loud (so was the entire audience) but it also contains another very famous aria, "O mio babbino caro," which gave me goosebumps.  In my opinion, it was a perfect night of opera: tears, laughter, and some of the most beautiful music in the repertoire.  I highly recommend seeing a performance of Pagliacci and Gianni Schicchi, which runs at Capitol Theatre until March 18 (tickets may be purchased here).

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Utah Opera's Moby-Dick

Utah Opera’s premiere of Heggie and Scheer’s Moby-Dick had three strikes against it.  First, Herman Melville’s novel, upon which the opera is based, is definitely not my favorite.  As an English teacher it pains me to admit that I have never actually made it all of the way through.  I find the endless minutiae about the whaling industry to be mind numbingly dull.  Second, I am not usually a fan of modern operas sung in English.  I much prefer the classics sung in German and Italian.  Third, the run of this opera coincided with the Sundance Film Festival and I didn’t think I would be able to fit it in.  However, the more I learned about the production the more intrigued I became and I decided to get a ticket.  Last night I interrupted my Sundance screenings to see it and I am so glad that I did because it is brilliant!  Surprisingly, I found the condensed version of the novel performed on the Capitol Theatre stage to be anything but dull.  I was completely captivated by the story of an obsession for vengeance.  When the Pequod sets sail from Nantucket, the crew is excited about the riches they will earn, Greenhorn (Joshua Dennis), a newcomer to whaling, is eager for the adventure of seeing the world, Queegueg (Musa Ngqungwana) longs to see his island in the South Pacific again, and Starbuck (David Adam Moore) laments the dangers of whaling and fears that he will never see his wife and son again.  Soon Captain Ahab (Roger Honeywell) tells them that the real mission is to find the white whale that took his leg and offers a gold doubloon to the sailor who spots Moby Dick first.  When the crew is about to harpoon a whale, Ahab orders them to stop because it isn’t his whale.  Three months later the crew is bored and prone to fighting so Starbuck demands that Ahab let them hunt.  After spearing a whale, Starbuck pleads with Ahab to return to Nantucket to repair the leaking oil barrels and to seek medical attention for the cabin boy Pip (Jasmine Habersham) who was thrown overboard.  Ahab refuses and Starbuck contemplates killing him before his obsession dooms them all.  Ahab descends further into madness and, when the whale is finally spotted, deems it his destiny to kill it himself in an epic battle which kills everyone on board except Greenhorn who utters these immortal words when he is rescued: "Call me Ishmael."  The music is beautiful and haunting and I especially loved it when the chorus chants "Death to Moby Dick."  All of the principals sing their roles brilliantly and I was struck by the pathos in every performance, particularly by Moore!  The men's chorus not only sings but does an outstanding job with the choreography to convey the movement on a ship, whether it is raising the sails, harpooning a whale, rendering the blubber into oil, or riding out a storm.  The sets and costumes were constructed by Utah Opera and they are fantastic.  Finally, the build up to the battle between the whale and Ahab is intense and I was not disappointed with the special effects (which I will not spoil for those still planning to see it) in this scene.  I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this opera and I highly recommend getting a ticket to the final performance on Sunday.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Utah Opera's La Boheme

In honor of its 40th Anniversary, Utah Opera began the 2017-2018 season with the same opera chosen for the inaugural season, Puccini's La Boheme.  It is one of my favorite operas so it was a treat to be able to see it for the second time this year!  It was a marvelous production of a magnificent opera and I loved every minute of it.  The libretto is about a group of artists living in a garret apartment in Paris in the nineteenth century.  Marcellus (Michael Adams), a painter, is in love with Musetta (Utah native Celena Shafer) but their relationship ends because Musetta is a flirt and Marcellus is jealous.  Rudolpho (Scott Quinn), a poet, is in love with Mimi (Jennifer Black) but their relationship ends because Mimi is dying of consumption and Rudolpho feels guilty that he can't take care of her.  Marcellus and Musetta have a volatile relationship that is really fun to watch, especially in the amusing aria "Quando m'en vo" or "Musetta's Waltz" which is staged very well in this production.  But Rudolpho and Mimi are ill-fated lovers who are heartbreaking to watch and their beautiful duet at the end of Act I, "O soave fanciulla," brought spontaneous tears to my eyes!  Quinn and Black have beautiful voices and great chemistry with each other.  I always enjoy Shafer, a perennial favorite with Utah audiences, and she gives a great performance.  Adams, who has been diagnosed with bronchitis, began Act I but couldn't continue so John Nelson sang from the side of the stage as Adams continued to act the role.  At first it seemed strange but, after a while, I didn't notice any more and Nelson has a great voice.  I also enjoyed Ao Li and Samuel Schultz as the other bohemians.  The costumes and the set are fantastic (San Francisco Opera had larger and more elaborate sets in their production but Utah Opera's set worked well for the size of the stage at Capitol Theatre).  I loved this production and I highly recommend getting a ticket!  It runs at Capitol Theatre through Oct. 15 and tickets may be purchased here.

Note:  I was sitting on an aisle and a very distinguished older gentleman stopped near me saying that he was dizzy.  I smiled at him and suggested that the cause of his dizziness was the loud pattern in the carpet whereupon he answered, "No.  I'm just old."  I laughed so he stayed and flirted with me outrageously until the curtain rose!  During the intermission he came back to talk to me which was fun because he was charm personified!  Opera lovers are great!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

La Boheme in San Francisco

The main reason I wanted to go to San Francisco was so that I could see La Boheme, one of my very favorite operas, performed by one of the best opera companies in the world.  It has been on my bucket list for a long time and I've been looking forward to it for weeks.  It was a magnificent production!  I really enjoyed the performances and the doomed love story was very affecting.  Marcello (Audin Iverson), a painter, and Rodolfo (Arturo Chacon-Cruz), a poet, are penniless and live a hand-to-mouth existence in a Parisian garret.  One evening their neighbor Mimi (Erika Grimaldi) knocks on the door looking for a light for her candle.  She faints from breathlessness (she is suffering from consumption) and Rodolfo catches her in his arms. They soon fall madly in love.  Marcello, Rodolfo, and Mimi meet friends at Cafe Momus in the Latin Quarter on Christmas Eve.  Marcello sees an old lover, Musetta (Ellie Dehn), with her new suitor Alcindoro (Dale Travis), a rich old man, and she tries desperately to get Marcello's attention.  Musetta eventually leaves with Marcello, leaving the bill for Alcindoro!  After a few months, Marcello is jealous of Musetta's flirtation with other men and Rodolfo is guilty because he feels he is endangering Mimi's life with his poverty so the couples separate.  Later Musetta brings a dying Mimi to the garret because she is desperate to see Rodolfo.  Marcello, Musetta, and their friends go for the doctor but Mimi eventually dies in Rodolfo's arms.  What could be more romantic?  I loved every one of the actors who all sung their roles beautifully.  I had tears in my eyes after almost every duet and aria (except when I was laughing).  I loved the staging, especially the scene where Musetta is flirting with Marcello as she is having dinner with Alcindoro at the same time.  The costumes and scenery were all amazing.  The Cafe Momus was a lot of fun with hanging lights and I loved Musetta's pink dresses, especially against the dark tones of the rest of the costumes.  By the end of the opera I was completely overcome and the gentleman sitting next to me leaned over and said, "It was good, wasn't it?"  Yes, it was!  I am so glad I had the opportunity to see such a wonderful production!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Utah Opera's Don Giovanni

Mozart's Don Giovanni is my very favorite opera.  I've seen it several times and I had the opportunity to see Utah Opera's production last night.  Don Giovanni (Joshua Hopkins) is a rake who spends most of his time trying to add to his considerable list of conquests with the help of his loyal servant, Leporello (Matthew Burns).  The opera opens with the attempted rape of Donna Anna (Melinda Whittington) by Giovanni.  Her father, the Commentadore (Richard Wiegold), challenges him and, in a struggle, Giovanni kills him.  Anna begs her fiancĂ©, Don Ottavio (Aaron Blake) to avenge her honor and her father's death.  Next, Giovanni and Leporello observe Donna Elvira (Caitlin Lynch) lamenting the fact that her lover has abandoned her and, realizing that she is talking about him, Giovanni mocks her mercilessly.  She vows revenge.  Finally, Giovanni openly attempts to seduce Zerlina (Sarah Coit) during her wedding, enraging the groom Masetto (Markel Reed) who also vows revenge.  As all of these characters attempt to exact justice, Giovanni is somehow able to elude them, most notably by having Leporello impersonate him while he attempts to seduce Elvira's maid.  Giovanni can't hide forever as the ghost of the Commentadore returns from the dead to accuse him and send him to hell.  The music of this opera is absolutely beautiful (Oh, how I love Mozart) and the Utah Symphony performs it brilliantly, from the dramatic opening notes of the Overture to the shattering conclusion.  All of the actors sing their roles with so much passion and I was especially impressed with Wiegold, who is quite terrifying in the final scene.  Director Kristine McIntyre, in an attempt to make this opera more accessible to audiences, modernized the setting and gave the production a film noir treatment.  The color palette is entirely black and white with very low lighting.  The action takes place on the streets of a big city and the men are portrayed as gangsters in dark suits, trench coats, and fedoras and the women are either victims or femme fatales in elegant dresses with full skirts.  Without a doubt, this is an amazing production which I highly recommend (there is only one performance left!) but, to be honest, I missed the grandeur of the original setting and I found the alternate ending to be a bit anticlimactic.  I sometimes think that directors underestimate their audience.  We don't necessarily need to have the material  dumbed down made more accessible to understand and enjoy the libretto.  But, what do I know?  My favorite staging of this opera is the Twyla Tharp version in the movie Amadeus.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Utah Opera's Lucia di Lammermoor

Last night I went to see Utah Opera's production of Lucia di Lammermoor.  The libretto is based on The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott and the incredible music is composed by Gaetano Donizetti.  I loved it!  In fact, I loved it so much that I wondered why I had never seen it before!  In seventeenth century Scotland, Enrico (James Westman) is in financial ruin and the only way to save his honor is to have is sister Lucia (Abigail Rethwisch) marry Arturo (Tyson Miller).  However, Lucia is in love with Edgardo (Mackenzie Whitney), a man who is her brother's mortal enemy.  During a secret rendezvous, Edgardo tells Lucia that he must leave for France but they make solemn vows to each other and he gives her a ring.  They end this touching scene with Edgardo promising to write.  Enrico discovers this relationship and intercepts all of Edgardo's letters.  In his desperation he begs to Lucia to marry Arturo for the good of the family and she finally consents, thinking that Edgardo has forsaken her.  As she signs the marriage contract, Edgardo returns and, in a rage, violently removes the ring from Lucia's finger.  As guests celebrate at the wedding, it is discovered that Lucia has killed Arturo and has descended into madness.  As she lays dying, Enrico is filled with remorse and pity.  When Edgardo learns of Lucia's death, he stabs himself in order to be reunited with her in Heaven.  What could be better than murder, betrayal, insanity, and death?  I really loved every single number, especially Lucia's aria before meeting Edgardo (there is a ghost!), the beautiful duet between Lucia and Edgardo where they declare their vows to each other, and Edgardo's emotional final aria.  However, nothing compares to the famous "mad scene" where Lucia, wearing a white nightgown covered in Arturo's blood, sings of her love for Edgardo while her horrified wedding guests look on.  This aria is in the Bel Canto style and is filled with a dazzling vocal display.  Rethwisch's performance is absolutely visceral and her collapse at the end of it was met with thunderous applause!   I could hardly breathe!  The entire cast is amazing and, in addition to Rethwisch, I was also particularly impressed with Derrick Parker (who recently performed Mozart's Requiem with the Utah Symphony) as a cleric who tries to defend Lucia.  The production is visually stunning with a set that includes a Gothic castle, a haunted fountain, and a snow-filled graveyard as well as beautiful period costumes.  I loved everything about this opera and I highly recommend getting a ticket (go here) to a remaining performance.

Note:  Lucia di Lammermoor would be perfect for those who have never been to an opera before.  It is easy to follow and my attention never wavered once during the three-hour run time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Utah Opera's Carmen

I have seen the opera Carmen, Bizet's classic tale of love and betrayal, several times and let me tell you that Utah Opera's current production is magnificent!  I had a chance to see it Monday night and I loved it!  As soldiers guard a factory in Seville, a peasant girl named Micaela (Sarah Tucker) comes looking for her childhood sweetheart, a new recruit named Don Jose (Dominick Chenes), with a letter from his mother begging him to come home.  After reminiscing about their home, she leaves.  The women who work in the factory come out for a break and one of them, a gypsy named Carmen (Elise Quagliata), flirts with the soldiers.  Jose ignores her but he secretly keeps the flower she tosses to him.  Carmen and another worker get in a fight and she is eventually sent to prison.  Jose is ordered to escort her there but she convinces him to let her escape with the promise of her love.  Jose is sent to jail for letting her go.  Meanwhile, the bullfighter Escamillo (Christian Bowers) comes to town and declares his love to Carmen but she refuses him because she loves Jose.  When Jose is released from prison, Carmen dances for him but he tells her he must return to the barracks when he hears the bugle sound.  Carmen is furious and Jose eventually deserts the army to be with her.  After a while, Carmen grows weary of Jose and, when Micaela comes to tell him that his mother is dying, she urges him to go to her.  Escamillo invites Carmen to watch him in a bullfight and she joins him in Seville.  Jose, still desperately in love with Carmen, follows her and, when she declares her love for Escamillo, he kills her.  It is so dramatic and the music is absolutely incredible, with some of the most recognizable melodies in the classical canon: the "Habanera" and the "Toreador Song."  Quagliata is an absolutely beguiling Carmen and she sings the role beautifully but I was also very impressed with her dancing.  Chenes is also excellent as Don Jose and I had goosebumps as he sang of his love for Carmen in Act 2 and Bowers is a lot of fun in the "Toreador Song."  I loved the vibrant costumes and the set design actually reminded me of the arena where I saw a bull fight in Spain!  I highly recommend this thrilling production!  It runs through Oct. 16 and tickets may be purchased here.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Utah Opera's The Marriage of Figaro

Ever since I saw the movie Amadeus for the first time, I have wanted to see the opera The Marriage of Figaro and I finally got my wish last night when I attended Utah Opera's wonderful production.  After wanting to see it for so long (not to mention the fact that I have been eagerly anticipating it since the Utah Opera 2015-2016 season was announced last spring), I was a bit worried that Mozart's tale about a licentious nobleman and his scheming servants might not live up to my expectations.  It exceeded them in every way!  The opera is hilariously funny, with audience members frequently laughing out loud, but the music is so incredibly beautiful and displays a depth of emotion that is unexpected in a comedy.  To be sure it is a farce but, ultimately, it is a powerful story about love and reconciliation and I loved it!  The entire cast sang their roles beautifully and I especially enjoyed the more evocative arias such as "Grant, love, some comfort" and "Where are they, the beautiful moments" by the Countess (Nicole Heaston) and the passionate rendition of  "Countess, forgive me" by the Count (Craig Irvin), Countess, and company at the end of Act 4 brought tears to my eyes.  However, I also, rather surprisingly, enjoyed the physical comedy found in this opera (I think that comedic elements can be overdone but director Tara Faircloth found just the right balance). With Figaro (Seth Carico) and Susanna (Zulimar Lopez-Hernandez) plotting to get back at the Count, chaos ensued with some characters hiding, seemingly in plain sight, and others impersonating each other.  It was a lot of fun to watch.  Susan Memmott Allred's original costumes had a sort of Downton Abbey feel to them, which is understandable with a libretto about class divisions in society, and I thought they were all beautiful, especially Susanna's wedding dress which was so demure.  Even though this opera is over three hours long, it seemed to go by very quickly because it was so much fun to watch!  I absolutely loved The Marriage of Figaro and it was definitely worth the wait!  I recommend that you get a ticket (go here) to one of the performances through May 15 at Capitol Theatre.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Utah Opera's Aida

There is nothing quite like the experience of watching an opera.  In my opinion, a great opera combines everything I love about the performing arts: a dramatic and tragic love story, powerful and passionate vocal performances, a beautiful symphonic score, innovative staging, dazzling choreography, and elaborate costumes and sets.  Last night Utah Opera's production of Aida ticked every one of those boxes!  Aida, an Ethiopian princess captured as a slave by the Egyptians, is torn between her burning love for Radames, the general of the Egyptian army charged with defeating the Ethiopians, and loyalty to her father, the king, and her country.  The story is definitely full of enough pathos to satisfy even my romantic heart.  What could be more dramatic than choosing to die for love?  The performances are amazing!  Marc Heller (Radames), Jennifer Check (Aida), and Katharine Goeldner (Amneris) all sing their roles beautifully.  I particularly loved Check's rendition of the aria "O patria mia" where Aida laments the fact that she will never see her country again and Goeldner's rendition of "Ahime!...morir me sento," where Amneris curses the priests for condemning Radames, gave me goosebumps!  I had tears in my eyes when Check and Heller sang "Morir! Si pura e bella" as Radames and Aida die in each other's arms inside a tomb.  Verdi's score is absolutely spectacular and I particularly enjoyed the instantly recognizable fanfare played inside the Temple of Vulcan, which sent tingles up and down my spine! The staging is also quite spectacular, especially the pageantry involved in sending Radames off to war and I loved the choreography in that scene.  I also loved the staging of the Judgement scene, most of which takes place off stage.  Alice Bristow's costumes, in various shades of turquoise and gold, are exquisite.  The set, created by Tony Award-winner Michael Yeargan, is bold with Egyptian columns and monuments and I was particularly struck by the use of multiple levels.  To say that I enjoyed this production would be an understatement; in fact, I think it is one of Utah Opera's best!  I would highly recommend getting a ticket (go here) to one of the remaining performances through March 20.  Bravo, Utah Opera!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Merry Widow

Last night I attended opening night of Utah Opera's production of The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar and it was so much fun!  I normally do not like operas with an English libretto and I usually prefer tragedies to comedies, but I must admit that I enjoyed every minute of this delightful romp through Paris at the turn of the 20th century.  The Pontevedrian Ambassador to Paris , Baron Zeta (Michael Wanko), is concerned that a wealthy widow from his country, Hanna Glawari (Caroline Worra), has become the toast of Paris and may marry one of her Parisian suitors.  Zeta seeks to prevent such a marriage because all of the widow's 20 million francs would then leave the almost bankrupt Pontevedro.  He instructs Count Danilo Danilovich (Daniel Belcher), the Embassy Secretary who spends more time at Maxim's than at the embassy, to marry her.  The only problem is that they have a past, and while they clearly love each other (demonstrated in the "Ladies' Choice" dance), Danilo refuses and complications abound.  Will Danilo and Hanna realize that they love each other?  It was so much fun to watch.  Sometimes I think that the comedic elements are overdone in Utah Opera productions but this was really funny and I actually laughed out loud many times (as did the entire audience).   My favorite moment was when the Pontevedrian diplomats performed their own version of the can-can as they lament their inability to understand women (It brought the house down).  The cast sang (and, rather unusually, spoke) their roles beautifully, including Belcher who, it was announced, was suffering from a cold and wore a microphone.  I loved the Belle Epoque costumes (especially the black and white costumes at the embassy in juxtaposition with Hanna's red gown), the opulent sets (especially Maxim's), Lehar's glorious music (conducted by Utah favorite Jerry Steichen) and the lively choreography (all of that waltzing and a wildly entertaining performance of the can-can!).  I certainly had a lovely time at this opera and I highly recommend it!  Go here for information and tickets.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Last night I went to opening night for Utah Opera's Tosca with my cousin John.  Not only is Tosca one of my favorite operas but this is a marvelous production so it was an incredible evening!  Floria Tosca (Kara Shay Thomson) is a fiery and passionate singer with two men in love with her:  her lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi (Dinyar Vania), and the Police Chief, Baron Scarpia (Michael Chioldi), who wants to possess her at any cost.  Scarpia arrests Caravadossi for aiding a political prisoner and sentences him to death.  He tells Tosca that he will release him if she submits to him, promising her that the firing squad will be a ruse.  She agrees but when he embraces her, she stabs him with a knife.  She visits Caravadossi in the Castel Sant'Angelo to tell him that he must pretend to die and then they will run away when the guards leave.  However, Scarpia has betrayed her so Caravadossi is actually killed by the firing squad.  Knowing that she will be accused of Scarpia's murder and unwilling to live without Caravadossi, Tosca leaps to her death from the parapet of the Castel Sant'Angelo.  The music is so beautiful and the three main actors give wonderful performances.  A scene in the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle at the end of Act 1 where Scarpia reveals his plan to execute Caravadossi and possess Tosca while a procession sings the Te Deum is absolutely breathtaking.  I also loved Tosca's aria "Vissi d'arte" at the end of Act 2 where she asks God to help her.  But my favorite moment of the entire opera is in Act 3 when Caravadossi sings the aria "E lucevan le stelle" reminiscing about his love for Tosca as he awaits execution.  Vania sings it so beautifully (and there is an amazing theme played by the clarinets) that I had tears in my eyes!  I really enjoyed the addition of the Choristers of The Madeleine Choir School singing the Te Deum as well.  The sets of the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, Scarpia's study in the Palazzo Farnese. and the Castel Sant'Angelo are very elaborate and added to the overall dramatic feeling of the opera.  I thoroughly enjoyed this production (I love the tragic operas where desperate lovers die for love) and I would highly recommend it.  Tosca runs at the Capitol Theatre until Oct. 18.  Go here for tickets and more information.

Note:  It now takes me less than 15 minutes to drive to the Capitol Theatre (instead of the usual 45 minutes it used to take me from South Jordan)!  Moving into my new house was the best decision I have ever made!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Rake's Progress

I am certainly glad that I took a chance and saw the opera The Rake's Progress Friday night.  It was a bold and innovative production unlike anything I've ever seen before and the music by Stravinsky was exquisite!  In the English countryside during the 18th century Tom Rakewell (Norman Reinhardt) laments the fact that he doesn't have any money but turns down an opportunity offered by Trulove (Branch Fields), the father of his fiancee Anne (Joelle Harvey), because he doesn't want the same monotonous job for the rest of his life.  A strange figure named Nick Shadow (Mark Schnaible) appears and informs him that he is heir to his, heretofore unknown, uncle's fortune.  Nick offers his "services" to manage Tom's fortune telling him that they will have a reckoning in one year.  Tom agrees and Nick whisks him off to London where he leads him down a path of debauchery.  Nick even convinces Tom to marry Baba the Turk (Jill Grove).  Anne, worried that she hasn't heard from Tom, comes to London in search of him but is in despair when she learns of his marriage. Tom, miserable in his new life, sinks all of his fortune into a dubious business deal proposed by Nick and loses everything.  While all of Tom's possessions are being sold at auction, Baba the Turk leaves him but Anne vows to remain true.  Nick the Shadow leads Tom to a graveyard where their reckoning must be made and demands Tom's soul as payment.  As Tom begs for his life, Nick offers a wager on a game of cards.  When Tom wins, Nick curses him with madness.  The story ends with Tom in an insane asylum while Anne sings him to sleep.  During the Epilogue, the cast warns that the Devil will find work for idle hands. The staging is based on a series of original etchings by William Hogarth which were Stravinsky's inspiration for the creation of the opera.  It is incredibly stylized and dramatic, almost as if the actors are inside of a drawing.  I thought it was highly effective. The costumes, also based on Hogarth's etchings, are superb.  I particularly loved the black and white costumes during the auction scene.  All of the actors sing their roles beautifully and I especially loved Anne's aria, "No word from Tom."  The orchestral music by Stravinsky is very dramatic (I love the Russians) and this opera featured the conducting debut of Thierry Fischer, the Music Director of the Utah Symphony, and I thought he did a magnificent job.  I loved the harpsichord throughout the piece!  This opera was over three hours long but, much to my surprise, I enjoyed every second of it!  Bravo to Utah Opera for bringing such a stellar production to Capitol Theatre!

Note:  I am beyond excited for the 2015-2016 Utah Opera season!  Go here for information because you won't want to miss a single production!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cosi Fan Tutte

Monday night I went to the opera Cosi fan Tutte by my favorite composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, at the Capitol Theatre.  Two soldiers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, are betrothed to a pair of sisters, Dorabella and Fiordiligi, respectively.  When they brag about the fidelity of their fiancees, Don Alfonso scoffs and devises a plan to test their loyalty.  He tells the women that the men have been called to war and then has the men, posing as Albanians (with elaborate mustaches which are, of course, the true symbol of manhood), try to woo them.  Don Alfonso enlists the help of Dorabella and Fiordiligi's maid, Despina, to aid the Albanians in their pursuit and thus ensues some hilarious physical comedy.  Even though the women eventually succumb to the Albanians' charms, Ferrando and Guglielmo decide to marry them anyway, because "women are like that."  The entire cast is outstanding, particularly Aaron Blake as Ferrando.  Some of his comedic elements were a bit over the top but his aria, "A Loving Breath," was the highlight of the production for me.  I thought the sparse set was very effective and I loved the beautiful costumes.  Susan Memmott-Allred dressed the cast in clothing from the 1920s and I especially loved the spats worn by the men.  This production is exceptionally well done but I definitely prefer the tragedies over the comedies.  I want a grand passion with desperation and betrayal, not mere flirtation, and I need someone to die in the arms of their lover!  However, the assembled audience at the Capitol Theatre seemed to enjoy this opera immensely (hoots of laughter greeted many of the antics on stage) so I suspect you will, too!  There are performances tonight and Friday night at 8:00 pm and a matinee on Sunday at 2:00 pm.  Go here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Note:  Hockey one night and opera the next!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Pearl Fishers

Last year on MLK Day, I attended Utah Opera's wonderful production of La Traviata.  I loved the opera and it ended up being such a lovely evening.  This year on MLK Day I did the same thing with the same person, but this time the opera was The Pearl Fishers.  It was also amazing and, once again, I had a lovely time.  Ironically, I didn't know much about this opera and I was really on the fence about seeing it.  However, I was convinced otherwise and I am certainly glad that I was because I would have hated to miss this!  Zurga is the leader of a village in Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka) and his childhood friend, Nadir, has come to visit.  They were both once in love with the same woman, Leila, but they gave her up for the sake of their friendship.  A veiled priestess comes to the village to pray for the superstitious fisherman who are diving for pearls.  When she sings to banish the evil spirits, Nadir recognizes her voice and knows it is Leila.  They declare their love for each other but the villagers are afraid because this means that Leila has broken her vows.  When Zurga realizes that the priestess is Leila, he sentences them both to death.  Will Zurga be ruled by vengeance or friendship?  Georges Bizet (you may be more familiar with his other opera, Carmen) is the composer and the music is incredibly beautiful!  The duet "a fond du temple saint" sung by Zurga (Craig Irvin) and Nadir (Brian Stucki) where they renounce their love of Leila for the sake of their friendship is nothing short of exquisite and I had goosebumps through the whole thing.  Their voices (Irvin's baritone and Stucki's tenor) complimented each other so well.  (I realized during the opening notes that this duet is actually featured in the movie Gallipoli which is one of my very favorites).  The passionate duet between Leila (Andrea Carroll) and Nadir is also absolutely incredible.  There was quite a bit of choreography in this opera and I thought it was quite dramatic, especially when they danced with fire.  The costumes were beautiful and exotic.  I loved everything about this production and I am so glad I didn't miss it!  The Pearl Fishers will run until Jan. 25.  Go here for more information and tickets.

Note:  I frequently attend the opera with one or more of my cousins and we always have such a good time.  Over the years we have seen Fidelio, Rigoletto, The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, La Traviata, Madame Butterfly, and now, The Pearl Fishers.  A while back I was talking about our experiences at a family gathering and I referred to our group as a sort of "Opera Club."  My aunt thought that I said "Awkward Club" and agreed with me! What?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Madame Butterfly

I fell in love with opera when I was a teenager so, after I graduated from college and started making decent money, I decided to get season tickets to Utah Opera.  I had them for years.  During that time I refined my taste a bit.  I don't particularly care for operas sung in English;  I prefer Italian or German (and occasionally French).  I'm not a big fan of modern libretti (Cold Sassy Tree just about did me in); I like the classics.  Finally, while there are a few exceptions (The Marriage of Figaro), I would rather see a tragic opera over a comedic one.  Now I pick and choose which ones I want to see and Puccini's Madame Butterfly ticks all of the boxes for me.  I had the opportunity to see Utah Opera's production last night and it was simply amazing, giving me chills and moving me to tears.  Yunah Lee gave a passionate performance as Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly), a woman who gives up everything to be with an American naval officer stationed in Japan.  The love duet she sings with Pinkerton (Eric Fennell) after their wedding was so beautiful I was almost overcome.  The aria she sang while waiting for Pinkerton to return to her ("One beautiful day") was so affecting that it gave me chills (and the audience burst into spontaneous applause).  The final scene with Pinkerton was so powerful I know I won't soon forget it.  I literally had tears in my eyes!  Fennell was excellent as Pinkerton, a character I wanted to hate for his cavalier attitude towards his marriage to Butterfly.  However, he redeemed himself a bit in the final scene.  Another powerful performance was that of Gregory Pearson (a Utah Opera favorite) as the bonze, Butterfly's uncle.  The scene where he renounces Butterfly also gave me chills.  The set was a beautiful traditional house with moving shoji screens on a hill overlooking the ocean.  The costumes, especially all of the kimonos, were incredibly opulent.  I did find the end of Act 2 Scene 1 to be a bit tedious because nothing happened on stage for quite a while as Butterfly waited all night for Pinkerton (that is rather the point) but it was worth sitting through to get to the stunning conclusion!  It was a magical evening of music and I highly recommend getting a ticket to this outstanding production.  Remaining performances are Oct. 15, 17, and 19.  Go here for tickets.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Abduction from the Seraglio

Last night I went to see the opera The Abduction from the Seraglio by Mozart at the Capitol Theatre.  I have really enjoyed Utah Opera's 2013-2014 season (I had to see Turandot twice because the production was so magnificent) but I was particularly eager to see this opera.  It is prominently featured in Amadeus and I credit this movie with turning me into a fan of classical music.  I bought the soundtrack and played it constantly.  To this day, Mozart remains one of my favorite composers and I try to see any performance which features his music.  While I was very familiar with the music and scenes featured in Amadeus, I didn't expect this opera to be so funny.  There is a lot of physical comedy, especially with the character Pedrillo, and I really enjoyed it.  Konstanze, her maid Blonde, and her servant Pedrillo, are captured by pirates and sold to Pasha Selim.  Belmonte, Konstanze's fiance, tries to rescue them with a little help from Pedrillo and chaos ensues.  The scenes where Pedrillo tries to distract Osmin, the Pasha's overseer, are hilarious.  Of course, the music is incredibly beautiful.  While this is a comic opera, to be sure, the aria performed by Konstanze (sung by Utah native, and frequent Utah Opera soprano, Celena Shafer) describing her despair at being separated from Belmonte is absolutely beautiful and most affecting.  I also really loved the scene where Konstanze and Belmonte, who have been condemned to death, sing about dying together.  It gave me goosebumps!  All of the performances are wonderful, but as I mentioned, I really enjoyed Tyson Miller's portrayal of Pedrillo.  When he serenades the women, their cue that they are about to be rescued, I couldn't stop laughing.  I liked the set featuring a Turkish palace and garden but I was not impressed by the costumes.  I thought the Pasha's guard looked absolutely ridiculous with strange tunics and over-sized  handle-bar mustaches.  Speaking of over-sized, I was definitely not a fan of the Pasha's absurd codpiece.  It was very distracting, to say the least, from his beautiful jewel-encrusted robe.  I think comedic elements can sometimes be taken too far.  I did really enjoy this opera, especially when the scenes featured in Amadeus were performed, and I would definitely recommend it;  however, when all is said and done, my favorite opera by Mozart is still Don Giovanni.  I guess I prefer tragedy to comedy!

Note:  I think I will watch Amadeus this weekend!
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