Opera

The Barber of Seville: Modern take on the classic opera loses on atmosphere

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Photo: Nance Price

Photo: Nance Price

The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini, long proclaimed to be the opera buffa of all “opere buffe,” is one of the, if not the greatest masterpieces in its genre. It has been an audience favourite for almost 200 years (it was first premiered on February 20, 1816 in Rome) for a reason. Six years after its debut (in 1822), Ludwig van Beethoven said to Rossini (they were communicating in writing): “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. It will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but opera buffa; any other style would do violence to your nature.”

So, what is so great about this opera? Of course, it is the music (in operatic art it always comes first). Rossini gives the opera his own signature with his bubbling, melodic style, very often compared to champagne. The expression “Rossini crescendo” is coined after his famous musical crescendo, which culminates in a solo vocal cadenza. (more…)

The Barber of Seville : Extraordinary stage business challenges the singers.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Barb Gray.  Joshua Hopkiins (Figaro) and Marion Newman(Rosina).

Just as Brian MacDonald transformed Gilbert and Sullivan into light opera, just as Steven Sondheim’s musicals could often be considered light opera, why not do the reverse and transform Rossini’s Opera Buffa into musical theatre where all the spoken parts are sung in any case, and comedy dominates the whole event? This production, which originates in Vancouver is a treat for the eye and is clearly aimed at a general even non-opera going audience that just wants an evening of entertainment in the lush setting of the National Arts Centre. Why not? Opera is not the sole possession of specialists. If Opera Lyra has to seduce the audience by setting Count Almaviva’s attempts to declare his love to Rosina on the set of a 1940’s film of Carmen, (Bizet’s version I imagine) – a sort of mise en abyme musical, why not? It was all supported by conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia’s fine direction that emphasized the heightened comic drama of the artists and produced excellent moments of music. The chorus of extras who changed costumes, who ran around trying to get their  hair cut by Figaro, the cheeky foppish barber and stylist of the film crew, sung by Baritone Joshua Hopkins, created an amusing performance. Also film-like with gangster undertones were the two sinister body guards who kept close to Rosina so that her impatient lover Almaviva (Lindoro), could not get near her as Bartolo snorted with anger in the background. Director Dennis Garnhum created numerous stage dramas operating simultaneously and eventually he transformed the whole cast into excellent actors whose timing was impeccable, whose sense of fun worked beautifully. A comedy of near epic proportions!!

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THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE LOWERS THE FLAG IN HONOUR OF OPERA SINGER JON VICKERS

News from Capital Critics Circle

NEWS RELEASE  from the NAC.  OTTAWA (Canada) – The National Arts Centre, Canada’s home of the performing arts, lowered its flag in honour of Canadian opera great Jon Vickers today. Vickers was the winner of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts, and performed at the NAC on numerous occasions over the years. His portrait is in the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards hallway of the NAC in Ottawa.

“He was one of Canada’s greatest gifts to the world of opera,” said Peter Herrndorf the President and CEO of the NAC. “We were honoured to have Jon perform with the National Arts Centre Orchestra on many occasions over the years, his performances were always memorable.”jvmc

Photo from the collection of Sandy Steiglitz.Vickers with Maria Callas.

Vickers was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and made his Royal Opera debut in London in 1957. From 1960 onwards he performed regularly with New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Over his lengthy career critics described Vickers’ voice as “towering” and “achingly beautiful.”

The National Arts Centre extends its condolences to Vickers’ family and friend

Remembering renowned Canadian tenor Jon Vickers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Ottawa, ON – July 13, 2015

Opera Lyra joins the operatic world in mourning the passing of renowned Canadian heldentenor Jon Vickers.  Mr. Vickers was leading artist of his generation, singing major roles in the great opera houses of Europe and North America.  He blazed an artistic path for subsequent generations of Canadian artists to follow. 

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Timothy Vernon: New Artistic Director of Opera Lyra

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Renowned conductor begins immediately


"Timothy Vernon will bring a lifetime of opera success to audiences in the National Capital. His outstanding productions and innovations have won ovations across Canada and the world. What a musical coup for all of us!" – Victor Rabinovitch

Victor Rabinovitch, Chair of the Board of Opera Lyra, and John Peter Jeffries, General Director of Opera Lyra, announced today that Timothy Vernon has been appointed new Artistic Director of Opera Lyra, starting immediately with the 2015-2016 season. Maestro Vernon is one of the leading figures of the Canadian operatic scene and brings to Opera Lyra an exciting new artistic vision for the future of the art form in Ottawa.

"I am fully committed to Opera Lyra. As a conductor, I am very excited to work with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, that glorious orchestra.  As Artistic Director, I can’t wait to present opera with guts and imagination to Canada’s Capital." – Timothy Vernon

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Crossing:Wunderkind Matthew Aucoin’s Civil War Opera

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

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Photo: Gretien Helene. The actors are Rod Gilfry and Alexander Lewis.

Crossing, twenty-five year old Matthew Aucoin’s third opera, was commissioned by Cambridge’s American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the US Civil War. Aucoin’s opera is part of the Civil War Project, a multiple year partnership between professional theatres and universities whose purpose is to produce art works and support historical research. Crossing marks the A.R.T.’s fourth undertaking related to the project. Included were a sci-fi musical about a Union soldier, a devised piece dealing with a fugitive slave created by and for the A.R.T. Institute, and a new play by Suzan-Lorie Parks featuring a slave who fought for the Confederacy.

The multi-talented Aucoin, who has already made a reputation for himself as a composer, lyricist, and conductor, based his opera on Walt Whitman’s poetry and experience ministering to wounded Union soldiers. However, the work is more imaginative than factual, the story both sequential and disjointed.

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The Marriage of Figaro: Opera Lyra’s Near Perfect Operatic Event

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Wallis Giunta as Cherubino, John Brancy as Figaro. Photo Andrew Alexander.

Wagner’s vision of Opera was essentially the Gesamtkunstwerk, a dialogue of all the arts. There is no doubt that the public often perceives Opera as essentially a musical performance (instrumental and vocal) but I have always felt that a performance of “théâtre chanté” which is where Mozart found the purist expression of his dramatic genius, must include all elements of a staged production to do justice to the meanings imbedded in that wonderful music.

Take the overture to the Marriage of Figaro . Last night, it t burst upon us at a most furious clip, under the impeccable playing of the musicians and the magical direction of Kevin Mallon. It left me out of breath and perfectly in the mood to receive what was coming: a light hearted, deliciously playful outpouring of “théâtre comique”. I was not disappointed….for the most part. The voices were excellent expressions of that dramatic genius as they transformed their recitatives and their arias into truly theatrical moments of comic acting, Opera buffa met Opéra comique in one of the most enjoyable evenings I have spent at Opera Lyra in a long while.

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The Marriage of Figaro: Stunning, clever production with wit and class

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

FIGARO

Photo: Andrew Alexander

When The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart’s comic opera in four acts, premiered in Vienna at the Burgtheater on May 1, 1786, it was an instant success. Its lively overture and its brilliantly crafted arias, coupled with comical and lovable characters, thrilled the audience. The demand for encores became so numerous that even the emperor had to interfere in order to keep the performance at a reasonable length (he ruled that only parts written for a single voice could be repeated in any opera, although this edict may not have been enforced). The first reviewer wrote that the opera “contains so many beauties, and such a richness of thought as can proceed only from the born genius.”

Opera Lyra’s production of The Marriage of Figaro is not set in 18th-century Spain (as the original), but in turn of the 20th century England. This change in historical period is noticeable mostly in costumes, but as the libretto is suited to any era (with a few small tweaks), it does not hurt the production.

For the last three years, Opera Lyra has been finding its way with more or less success and we waited for 30 months to witness a performance as good and as exciting as La Bohème (September 2012). This time, the task was even harder because of the very characteristic plot in comedic opera (opera buffa) which centers on two groups of characters: a comic group of male and female personages and a pair (or more) of lovers, without much complexity in characters. (more…)

The Marriage of Figaro. This Opera Lyra Production Ranks High!

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: Barb Gray. John Brancy and Sacha Djihanian

It’s pretty obvious that Opera Lyra is making a pitch to the Downton Abbey fan club by attempting an early 20th Century take on The Marriage Of Figaro.

Halfway through the overture, we get a glimpse of servants being assembled in front of the stately English exterior of “Highclere Castle” and inspected by a dignified butler. The scene is a somewhat tiresome contrivance, and not really in synch with Mozart’s music. And, let’s face it — the the music is what counts in this production, and, happily, the playing of the overture already has us appreciating the silken elegance of the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s contribution to the evening under conductor Kevin Mallon.

So when it comes to honouring the Mozartian soundscape, the delights the production provides are manifest. For the most part, this is a beautifully sung Figaro, featuring some stellar work from the principals, and in particular a notably engaging performance on all fronts from Wallis Giunta in the trouser role of the lovelorn pageboy, Cherubino.

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Opera Lyra’s bold, new expanded season for 2015-2016

News from Capital Critics Circle

General Director Jeep Jeffries and Interim Artistic Director Kevin Mallon proudly introduce Opera Lyra’s bold, new expanded season of classic and contemporary works for 2015-2016.

Opera Lyra’s 2015-2016 season includes two updated classic operas at the National Arts Centre (NAC) in Southam Hall and two new partnerships to bring Ottawa additional contemporary and classic productions in smaller venues. In addition, Opera Lyra’s fall show for families and students tackles bullying through song and audience participation.  This new, enhanced season includes four subscription packages and all four operas can be seen for as little as $162.  The 2015-2106 season brochure, highlight video, calendar of special events and subscription and ticket information are online at operalyra.ca.

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Tosca: A Captivating Performance

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Photo credit: Opera Lyra/Andrew Alexander

Photo credit: Opera Lyra/Andrew Alexander

Though Puccini’s Tosca,  an opera based on Victorien Sardou’s 1887 play, La Tosca,  was first performed at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900, it holds a timeless relevance. The opera lays bare themes of abuse of power, questions religious institution, and effectively explores the reaches human passion. Here, under the stage direction of Guy Montavon and with a powerful operatic trio at its helm, Tosca is highly dramatic, visually stunning, and a thoroughly beautiful showcase of this classic opera. It is playing at the NAC until September 13.

Tosca is set in Rome, against the turbulent political backdrop of the French Revolutionary Wars. Opera singer Tosca and her lover Mario Cavaradossi, an artist, are caught in the web of the cruel chief of secret police, Baron Scarpia. Driven by insatiable lust and want of power, Scarpia locks his sights on Tosca and begins a ruthless game of manipulation. (more…)

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