inauguration of summer festival 2016
Perhaps it was only a
coincidence, but Portland Opera’s general/artistic director, Chrisopher
Mattaliano chose Italiana in Algeri
and Eugene Onegin as the two operas
to inaugurate their new opera summer festival format, complementing their
two-opera spring season, the same two operas that the Garrison country house
opera circuit in England successfully staged albeit in different productions
But I’m getting ahead of
myself. Two years ago I attended Portland Opera’s sparkling Fledermaus, celebrating their 50th
anniversary season, around the same time Mattaliano told me about the company’s
change to a spring/summer festival format in 2016, performing two lesser known
operas in repertory in non-traditional productions to attract new audiences
outside the Portland area, thereby making Portland an opera destination. This
has been a popular move among small- and medium-sized US companies not only for
survival, but to expand and grow the companies in this difficult financial
climate. The company staged Italiana in Algeri and Eugene Onegin in repertory in updated, non-traditional
productions in the cozy, 880-seat Newmark Theater, their summer festival’s new home.
Eugene Onegin was
cleverly updated to 1980s Russia by director Kevin Newbury who reset the work predominately
in a public neighborhood park filled with playground equipment. Bright colored striped and plaid clothing and
electronic gadgets of that era were much in evidence among the younger
generation. Although a clever idea and
visually stimulating, Newbury took the concept too far introducing too much
visual stimulation by having his lead singers climb on the monkey bars, spin on
a merry go-round, and ride a bicycle while assaying their beautiful melodies that
both distracted and detracted from the opera’s essence, Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous
music and vocal lines.
Nevertheless, a praiseworthy
cast of young singers, especially Alexander Elliott’s Onegin whose transformation
was effective both vocally and physically from a pompous, bored aristocrat who
lectured Tatiana (Jennifer Forni) about her “letter”, (in this production an
audiotape) to a haunted man after having killed his best friend Alexander
Elliott in a senseless duel, to an excruciatingly desperate lover when Tatiana
refused his pleas to run away. Forni showed equally commendable character development
and vocal competence, metamorphosing from an innocent, love-sick girl pouring
out her heart to Onegin in the “audiotape” to her steely determination at the
conclusion to not compromise her noble position as the wife of Prince Gremin (Konstantin
Kvach). Kvach with his harsh, grating sound, and not always in tune was the only
disappointment in the cast. Abigal Dock (Olga) whose soaring singing and Aaron
Short (Lensky) whose heartfelt yearning were also commendable. Maestro Fox drew the best sound possible given
the reduced orchestra size, which at times sounded thin.
Rossini’s amusing Italiana
in Algeri contrasted with the somberness of Eugene Onegin. The work is inherently funny so director Christian
Rath’s slapstick approach came across as overkill. Unfolding on a uniset formed
by a gigantic carpet, the updated opera opened with the chorus dressed as a group
of tourists in Bermuda shorts taking selfies. But by the end, the choristers
were having a pillow fight with feathers flying all over the stage. Nevertheless, the uniformly outstanding
singing from the cast and chorus made it an entertaining evening.
Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House
The concept looked good on paper: make Lucia a
strong-willed woman, one that fits with the role of women in today’s society,
instead of a weak girl going mad in succumbing to her brother’s wishes. But it
lost something in the transition to the stage. Despite moments of brilliance
and genius in director Katie Mitchell’s concept, the production suffered from
excesses and fussy contrivances: too many pails of water washing blood from the
stage; too much dressing and undressing; too many appearances of ghosts of dead
characters; too literal a reading of the script; and too many simultaneous
activities on different parts of the stage. In sum, the plethora of superfluous
activities distracted from the emotional power and beauty of Donizetti’s music.
If Mitchell’s ideas were streamlined, it could have been a unique and gripping
With themes of love, betrayal, deception, and power, Lucia di Lammermoor unfolded in
different areas of a recreated 1800s house. Almost immediately we saw Lucia
dressing, disguised as a man, to meet Edgardo. In addition to exchanging rings,
they ripped off each other’s clothes, had sex (in rhythm with Donizetti’s
music) while singing exquisitely. We witnessed Lucia throwing up (she’s
pregnant) and Alicia cleaning the toilet afterwards; Lucia climbing all over a
pool table while assaying the mad scene; Lucia seemingly forever suffocating
and stabbing Arturo in an act of pre-mediated murder (not madness) as afterwards,
Lucia and Alisa methodically cleaned up the bloody mess. Finally, Edgardo slit
his throat sitting next to Lucia who took poison while sitting in a bathtub.
Aleksandra Kurzak (Lucia) made up in acting ability what
she lacked in high notes, which by the end of the evening were reduced to
screeches. Nevertheless, she possessed fine tone, nuance, and inflection in executing
in the middle and lower registers. Stephen Costello (Edgardo) assayed with an
ideal Italianate sound, showing a beautiful timbre. Despite that fact that at
times the singers and orchestra were not always on the same page, Daniel Oren
drew solid playing from the ROH orchestra.
Delaware Opera Inaugural
Grand Opera Festival, Wilmington
Faccio’s Amleto, Verdi’s Falstaff
The global recession during
the past several years has forced many opera companies to permanently close or retrench
to survive. Opera Delaware was very close to joining the ranks of USA’s defunct
opera companies when Brendan Cooke took the helm in 2012. He took the path that
other regional opera companies have taken, both large and small, that of metamorphosing into a
festival format from a fall/spring season to survive. The advent of HD
Met broadcasts has also played a role in the financial problems of the regional
companies, decimating their audiences. One goal of an opera festival is to be regarded
as a destination, attracting audiences from outside their region. To succeed, they
must offer new, rarely performed or forgotten operas to make it worthwhile for patrons
to travel. Opera Delaware in their inaugural festival format season offered the “forgotten”
Faccio’s Amleto and Falstaff to commemorate the 400th
anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
Amleto had not been heard for almost 150
years when the conductor Antony Barrese unearthed it and painstakingly
reconstructed the opera, revealing a work that didn’t deserve the neglect it
had been accorded. It also appeared to play a role in the evolving of Italian
opera from Verdi to verissimo.
Unfolding on a stark set with multi-level metal scaffolding (essential to
fit the dozen principals, almost three dozen choristers, and four dancers on
the tiny stage) with changing projections including a huge flag of Denmark,
ghost of murdered king, and copious amounts of blood, this tragic Shakespearean
story’s quest for revenge and justice explored themes of madness, corruption, unrequited
love, and appearances and reality, taking place on different levels, both
physically and psychologically.
Filled with animated melodic music with majestic chords and lush orchestral
interludes, maestro Barrese kept a brisk tempo and ideal pacing so the action flowed
seamlessly. The theater’s lively acoustics and ideal-sized-for-opera auditorium
made it easy for the outstanding cast of young singers to make a dynamic
statement, filling the space with their lovely voices. Especially noteworthy
were Joshua Kohl assaying Hamlet with heartfelt
and beautifully wrenching Italianate sound, expressing his indecision and
conflict. Sarah Asmar’s was a devastatingly beautiful and tragic Ofelia. But the precision
of execution and quality of the production was amazing for such a small
company, even amazing for one ten times its size.
One heard both Verdian
influences including the funeral march from Nabucco and some middle Verdi
melodies along with precursors to verismo in Faccio’s music, especially in the
famous “to be or not to be” aria” which had a distinctly verismo quality. There
were beautiful solo instrumental line introducing character’s monologues,
especially the arias of Claudio and Gertrude where they expressed guilt. Flute
and strings accompanied Ofelia’s mad scene, but the coloratura was not at Donizetti’s
Despite the inherent risk
in performing unknown works, it is clearly the better road to follow than
offering another Boheme or Traviata, that couldn’t possibly
measure-up to the Met’s extravagant productions of the same operas.
Il Volo – Italian Opera Pop – Kennedy Center, Washington DC
For those not familiar with the singing group Il Volo (The
Flight), it is a trio of young Italian men, Piero Barone (tenor), Ignazio
Boschetto (tenor), and Gianluca Ginoble (baritone), with beautiful voices that harmonize
magnificently who have taken the pop music world by storm, not unlike the
Beatle-mania more than half a century ago. But unlike the Beatles whose
following were predominately screaming young women, Il Volo appeals to a very different
and unusual audience, at least in the USA, the kind that attend opera-- baby boomers and senior citizens--who are
just as enraptured, although their screams are not as loud or piercing. You might ask, “Why would an opera crowd be
attracted to an Italian opera pop group.”
The answer lies in their repertoire, songs made popular by Perry Como,
Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, mixed with classic Neapolitan songs like O
Sole Mio and Torna a Surriento sprinkled with famous opera arias like E lucevan
le stelle, but with 21st century trappings: changing colors of piercing beams
of lights and almost unbearably loud playing accompanied by their quartet and a
mini-orchestra, which often almost drown out their singing, despite ample
amplification of their voices. Adding to the operatic touch, each received a
bouquet of roses after a moving solo piece, and to spice up the pop aspect, they
added some hip and pelvic gyrations, ala Elvis Presley which in the 1950s was
shocking, but today was just amusing and appeared to thrill the elderly ladies.
They also broke that invisible barrier between stage and spectators by going
into the audience, taking selfies with some very happy spectators, sitting down
next to others, and even singing while standing on the back of a seat.
This group has sold-out the 15,000-seat Arena in Verona,
Italy and 18,000-seat Madison Square Garden, in New York, but in Washington DC,
they performed in the Concert Hall in Kennedy Center. And that was the only
negative aspect of their show. With a little more than 2,000 seats, it was
essential that the volume of the music and quartet be modified, but it wasn’t
leading to sounds that at times were deafening and often covering this groups
amazing harmonizing. They could be the answer to the dearth of
young Italian opera singers, none of whom were finalists in three of the opera
world’s most prestigious singing competitions for emerging opera stars: Cardiff
Singer of the World, Operalia, and Jette Parker Young Artists. It used to be
that American and British groups dominated the pop music world and Italians the
opera world. It looks like the tables have turned, with Il volo dominating the
pop world, and American and British singers (along with Eastern Europeans,
Russians, and Asians) dominating the opera world.
Better Gods, Luna Pearl Woolf and Caitlin Vincent
World Premiere, Washington National Opera
The world premiere of Better
Gods was part of the company’s American Opera Initiative, whose goal it is
to give rising young American artists a platform for their work. The opera is
creatively original, fusing traditional Hawaiian music and language into a
grand opera format to tell the historically-based story of the last queen of
Hawaii, Queen Lili’uokalani, who was overthrown by greedy white American
businessmen, who wanted to preserve their business interests and wealth. They staged
a coup d’état against the queen when she proposed a new constitution to limit
voting rights to native Hawaiians. An AP reporter sent to write about the
situation, was duped by the business men to write a positive report of the coup
and provisional government. When the native Hawaiians staged an unsuccessful
coup to regain power, the queen was convicted of treason on circumstantial evidence,
despite her innocence, forcing her to abdicate and sentencing her to 5 years in
prison rather than watch those loyal to her be executed. This paved the way, a
half a century later, for Hawaii to become the 50th state of the
Unfolding against a backdrop of a gorgeous Hawaiian sunset with
Hawaiian instruments played on either side of the stage and relevant props appearing
and disappearing denoting changing locations including the queen’s palace and
the trial, Better Gods was a heroic effort
and definitive statement about yet another injustice white Americans caused a
native population. (WNO had just performed Appomattox
about racial injustice in America.) Woolf fused classical genre with authentic
Hawaiian music that resulted in dissonant and strident music that carried a harshly
surreal sound. Atonal recitatives (parlando) infused with Baroque’s endless
word and phrase repetition were sprinkled with a modern take on coloratura. Perhaps the music reflected the injustice and
desperation felt by the Hawaiian people but the result was so grating, harsh, and
discordant, especially the sextet near the conclusion, it sounded more like
excruciatingly painful noise. Nevertheless, the vocal executions, especially
Daryl Freedman as Queen Lili’uokalami, were commendable, especially considering
the difficulties inherent in the vocal line.
There is no question that this young composer has talent and
originality, and has tackled a significant topic in a unique manor. But for
this historical event to warrant being an opera, some degree of lyricism is
essential, especially when borrowing from Baroque and bel canto, particularly with
the sextet because at only 75 minutes, it felt too long. Otherwise, this story is
be better told as a play.
Glass/Hampton’s Appomattox (revised world premiere)
Washington National Opera, Kennedy Center
In the Penal Colony (new
production) Boston Lyric Opera, Cyclorama, Boston Center for the Arts
To commemorate the 150th
anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the 50th anniversary of
the Voting Rights Act, the Washington National Opera, in its justification to
being the “national opera” of the USA, presented a “revised world premiere” of Appomattox. First premiered eight years
ago by the San Francisco Opera, it told the story from the fall of Richmond and
Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, which ended the Civil War, to the murder of three
civil rights workers in Tennessee. In
the revised version, the first act ends with the 1865 Confederacy’s surrender,
and Act II deals with President Lyndon Johnson and his groundbreaking Voting
Rights Act legislation, with a chilling
postscript, the jailed murderer of the civil rights works spewing racial epitaphs
and boasting of his crime. The real subject, however, is racial inequality in
America, and the topic couldn’t be more germane with the continuing storm over
the Voting Rights Act, and the current unrest with Black Lives Matters movement.
works relevance to today’s society, for an opera to succeed, it must be dramatically
intense, emotionally forceful, and musically strong, all of which, with a few
exceptions, were missing. Glass’s trademark surging arpeggios and rolling
variations never went anywhere, and at crucial moments were MIA. The only
memorable music from the first act was the musical expression of Ulysses Grant
suffering a migraine with piercing chords and explosive harshness. Although the
second act fared better musically, Appomattox
was much better suited as the theatrical piece into which Hampton had already
turned this historical narration.
recreations of these historic encounters,
including diplomatic wrangling, stylized dancing, and rousing orations,
with a comic interlude of President Johnson’s bodily crudeness unfolded on a
functional sets with props and scenery suggestive of the ever changing
locations. The opera featured an extensive cast of historical figures: from
Lincoln, Grant, Lee, Douglass, Chester to Johnson, King, Hoover, Wallace,
Killen, and many of their wives, all of which sang with conviction.
earlier I attended Glass’chamber opera, In
the Penal Colony, based on Kafka’s short story written in October 1914, only a few months after the
onset on WWI. It was uncannily prophetic of the tyrannical dictators and
mechanization of death that followed with the horrors of the two world wars.
Based on the premise that guilt is always beyond doubt and the only punishment is
torturous death, the opera’s themes of abuse of power and moving
on from the old order are still relevant topics. Kafka’s tale is simple: a
Visitor arrives at a penal colony to witness the gruesome execution by a
torture machine of a Prisoner who is never informed of his crime. The Officer
is obsessed with the virtues of the torture machine and wants the Visitor’s
affirmation of its benefits. But the Visitor is appalled and leaves. The
Officer takes the Prisoner’s place and experiences a gruesome death by this
machine. Kafka himself, as an onlooker and narrator, was added to this
Director R.B. Schlather minimalistic,
abstract approach meshed with an excruciating stylized performance, fitting the
unbearable punishment awaiting the Prisoner and the relentless repetition of Glass
signature arpeggios. But his heavy directorial hand mitigated the impact of
Kafka’s chilling allegory. The Prisoner (Yury Yanowsky) is a bare-chested muscular
ballet dancer, performing endless grotesque acrobatic pantomime, joined by the Visitor
(Neal Ferreira), who is equally athletic, leaping, spinning, writhing around
the stage, dressed in a T-shirt and jogging pants . Only the Officer (David
McFerrin), in a red, hazmat-like suit seems Kafka-esque, firm in his belief in
the torture machine. Both Ferreira and McFerrin sang with conviction, despite
the disturbing homoerotic overtures of the Officer to the Visitor. The Prisoner
is a silent role. The string quintet was
thoughtfully led by Ryan Turner.
Sibelius Festival 150th anniversary
celebration of Sibelius’s Birth
My first visit to Lahti was in the dead of winter, when
everything was white, covered with a foot of snow. Vesijarvi Lake was frozen
solid and it was impossible to see where land ended and water began. It is there,
on the shores of Vesijarvi Lake in Lahti that an annual summer festival devoted
to Finland’s most famous composer, Jean Sibelius, takes place in a magnificent
concert hall, Sibelius Hall. So when I arrived for the festival, it was amazing
to see this frozen tundra now lushly green, teeming with people and activities
on a vibrant waterfront.
In the 16 seasons since the festival’s inception, Lahti has
become to Sibelius what Bayreuth is to Wagner, renown as a festival devoted exclusively
to the music of its namesake, showcasing the range of his work. The previous 15 festivals had taken place over
a long week-end, but the 16th festival, coinciding with the 150th
anniversary of Sibelius’ birth, was turned into a weeklong celebration of his
music with all seven of his symphonies performed, along with his symphonic
poems and fantasies, his violin concerto, ballet for orchestra, and an
assortment of his chamber music, and works for piano, voice, and stage. One of
his early master works, Kullervo, called
the “window into the Finnish soul” mirrored the eruptive nature of its then
young composer: ferocious, expressive, and tormented, a reflection of his
emotional state. The week-long festival was a complete immersion into his works,
and both an education and delight for me whose familiarity of Sibelius’s music
was limited to his best known work and the “calling card” of Finnish culture, Finlandia.
To find out what was next for the Sibelius Festival and
Lahti Symphony Orchestra, I had lunch with Teemu Kirjonen, the general manager
of the orchestra. There will be a changing of the guard, so to speak, as Russian
born Dima Slobodeniouk will take over next season as the festival’s artistic
director and orchestra’s chief conductor. Unlike the previous artistic
directors and chief conductors, Slobodeniouk is not a Sibelius expert. But as
Kirjonen explained, “We feel he is right person at this time for the festival’s
and the orchestra’s development. Our goal is to make the festival and orchestra
more international in scope. Although Slobodeniouk knows Sibelius, he is not a
Sibelius expert, but an expert in other composers. This will help increase the
profile of the orchestra and festival. We play 18 concerts in Lahti and 18 concerts
in Sibelius birthplace, Hämmeliana, during the regular season. 90% of our
funding comes from the city.” The 2016 Sibelius Festival will feature a trio of
concerts by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, taking place September 8-11 . www.sinfonialahti.fi
I found the range of Sibelius’ music astounding, from barely
audible to explosive, daunting yet familiar, riveting but also at times puzzling.
So for additional insight I visited Hämeelinna Historical Museum and birthplace
of Sibelius, only an hour drive from Lahti. www.hameenlinna.fi/historiallinenmuseo.
There I learned about the driving forces and emotions, conflicts, hardships and
successes in the composer’s life and how they influenced his music. Also to
know more about Sibelius’s life and music, I visited Ainola, his family home
near Lake Tuusula, a few-hour drive from Lahti. He lived at Ainola for more
than half a century and composed many of his works there. www.ainola.fi.
Read more about Lahti and Sibelius Hall below, after my article on Helsinki and Russian era architecture.
L’amour de Loin by Kaija Saariaho and Amin Maalouf
Quebec Opera Festival
Director Robert Lepage created a mesmerizing
visualization and symbolization of this story of idealized love, death and
redemption, inspired by the 12th century historical figure of Jaufré
Rudel, troubadour and Prince of Blaye, France and his idealized love for
Clémence, countess of Tripoli, Libya, whom he heard about from a pilgrim who
frequently crossed the sea that separated them physically and symbolically --
West from East. LaPage’s concept was an ingenious solution for translating a
psychological drama into a meaningful opera. The set transformed the stage into
a sea of changing passions which propelled them towards their unreachable
The work is internalized and reflective with Lepage
creating an ethereal world of air and water to reflect the simmering passions
of Rudel and Clémence which broke through as giant waves both on the
continuously changing colors of a sea of 28,000 LED lamps and a moving, rotating,
tower-like contraption, rising high above the sea that held the prince and
countess, at first separately and then together as their desires and passions
overwhelmed, compelling the prince to cross the sea to meet her. The pilgrim traveled
between them in a tiny gondola-boat. The chorus appeared as floating heads on
the sea, their bodies beneath the surface. But the prince fell ill during the voyage
and died in the countess’s arms with Clémence then realizing that the only
“love from afar” was that of God.
This psychological work of repressed passions and
feelings was accompanied by controlled, structured music which only
occasionally erupted into stirring passages of voluptuous sounds mirroring the
characters’ emotional states. There was an unearthly fusion of sounds: jarring
electronic tones, medieval modal harmonies, troubadour songs, melancholic
tunes, a sprinkling of dissonance and piecing overtones. The chorus ranged from
conversational to melancholic spiked with shouts and handclaps.
Although the opera was composed as five continuous acts
(and so performed at its world premiere at the Salzburg Festival in 2000) this production
had an intermission after the third act.
Addis’s Jaufré Rudel was sung with a heartfelt dynamism and reflective
tonality, Tamara Mumford made a contemplative pilgrim, but it was Erin Wall’s
transcendent vocal expressiveness and touching vulnerability that “stole the
show.” Maestro Ernest Martinez Izquierdo drew stunning sounds from the
Orchestre symphonique de Quebec.
Halka - New Production, Teatr Wielki, Poznan, Poland
Halka, considered the national opera of Poland, could be called a polish-version of Lucia di Lammermoor. Although I would not view it as a masterpiece, Halka, with its lushly Romantic score and tightly knit libretto has been unjustly neglected, deserving a place in international opera houses' repertory.
Based on Wolski's narrative poem of the same name, inspired by the 1846 Peasant Rebellion and focusing on the poisonous tension between the mountain peasants and land-owning nobility, the opera dealt with class structure and conflicts, noble privilege, national identity rooted in folk tradition, and unrequited love. Set in the Tatra mountains, this story of a naïve young girl's love, which ignored the era's rigid social order and convention, led to her madness and suicide. Initially one could equate Halka to Donna Elivra, pursuing a man (Janusz, a nobleman) who seduced her and left. But when Janusz married a wealthy noble lady Zofia, despite Jontek, a fellow Highlander's efforts to save her, she metamorphosed into Lucia with a superb mad scene, as she went insane and died, singing exquisite music.
Due to its iconic status in Polish culture (first Polish opera to include folk motifs) Halka has been resistant to non-traditional productions. Director Pawel Passini, however, brought cutting edge concept. The delineation between the two cultures--nobility and peasants--was razor sharp. Act I opened not on stage, but with all nobility, male and female, identically attired in white tie and tails sitting in the audience, only standing to sing. A grotesquely-stylized Polonaise was danced in the aisles. The implication was unsettling but immediacy was involving, although it caused some stiff necks. The remaining three acts were on stage, unfolding against an abstract depiction of mountains with crisscrossed, randomly placed logs and beams in the background suggesting a church. Symbolic, subliminal videos were intermittently projected on the proscenium sides. The contrast of the noble's formal attire (symbolic of industrialized society) to the voodoo-inspired peasant attire (symbolic of the third world) was striking: Halka's white (wedding?) dress was a series of long paper tubes, Jonek's primitive attire was decorated with Rams' horns, and mountain villagers were dressed like savages wearing masks and horns. Although the libretto is steeped in Polish history, its themes are universal. And Passini added a message of his own: nobles raping peasant women was akin to the industrial world raping the third world.
The score drew operatic elements and idioms from Italian, German, and Russian sources, specifically Donizetti, Mussorgsky, and Shubert, which were interspersed with folk tunes, hymns, and dances--polonaise, godak, and mazurka--along with magnificent chorus pieces. The music was heartfelt, tightly-knit, filled with leit-motifs and thematic sounds. The Polish cast sang with aplomb. Although conductor Gabrial Chmura kept good pacing, the orchestral music lacked shading, nuance, and needed a finer distillation of sounds.
Space Opera – World Premiere by Aleksander Nowak and Georgi Gospodinov
Poznan Opera, Teatr Wielki, Poland
Space Opera was a visually striking, philosophically provocative, and musically challenging work infused with satire, irony, and symbolism. There were a diverse potpourri of themes ranging from endless tributes to the flies, dogs, and chimpanzees sacrificed for man’s dream of conquering space to the relationship crisis of the first (middle-aged) space couple (aptly named Adam and Eve) caused by their inability to communicate, realizing they had different dreams; from the consequences of lies and deception of a producer in a snake-skin suit from the (ostensibly American) media company sponsoring the expedition as the greatest reality show ever to the unanticipated consequences of “progress”(advanced technology) making earth a prison as claustrophobic as the space capsule in which Adam and Eve were confined for interplanetary travel. The opera’s conclusion: the only hope for the human race to survive is to find a new home on another planet and revert to a simpler life.
The opera took place against a backdrop of extraordinary video projections of outer space and a Mars landing with various sets and props appearing and disappearing, indicating location changes. The most impressive set was the space module supplemented by trip-simulating video suspended above the reality show’s producer and audience.
Composer Aleksander Nowak amalgamated music from a wide array of styles and eras, ranging from the Greek chorus to a Hollywood soundtrack similar to the space movie Interstellar I watched flying back to the USA. There were Gregorian-like chants in memory of the sacrificed creatures with visuals of their encapsulation hurling across the stage; Philip Glass mantra-like chords and notes with names and pictures of sacrificed dogs recited; opening chords from Das Rheingold along with other Wagnerian references, American swing, jazz, and lots of drum percussion. Adam (Bartlomiej Misiuda) and Eve (Magdalena Wachowska) communicated predominately in recitative. A pair of flies, soprano (Martyna Cymerman) and cross-dressed counter-tenor (Tomasz Raczkiewicz) in identical long evening dresses, commanded the best vocal lines with elaborate bel canto and pseudo coloratura, the only music with any emotional heft; and the producer (Andrzej Ogorkiewicz) barked in Sprechstimme. The vocal lines often ended as a cacophony of sound and the music as noise, perhaps as opera in space might be perceived. Maestro Marek Mos expertly coordinated these diverse and complex sound-threads with formidable results.
To take an art form born at the end of the 16th century and create a work anchored in future space exploration, making it appealing to a 21st century audience accustomed to instant gratification and visual overload is a difficult task. Space Opera succeeded on an entertainment level, but miscarried in the opera-music-driven emotional experience level, partially hampered by Georgi Gospodinov cerebrally complex libretto.
See more on Lahti and Sibelius Hall below, from my previous winter visit. It is after article on Helsinki and Russian era architecture
Ariadne auf Naxos – Virginia Opera
George Mason’s Center for the Arts, Fairfax, Virginia
From its birth, opera has always been dependent upon wealthy patrons for support, making Strauss’ opera which deftly and seamlessly fuses hilarious comedy with larger-than-life emotions and achingly beautiful music as germane today as it was at its premiere, around a century ago. A wealthy patron has hired an opera company and a commedia dell’arte troupe to entertain his guests, forcing them at the last minute, to perform simultaneously to the horror of the opera company but the delight of the comedy troupe, who cleverly insert themselves into the opera, spoofing the stereotypical overblown operatic singing and acting.
Director Sam Helfrich’s moved the opera to an American city and updated the commedia dell’arte troupe to an American burlesque led by the saucy comedienne Zerbinetta dressed in a black and green lacy bodice, and surrounded by four quintessential American characters, including the Lone Ranger. The troupe inserted uproarious stunts, such as a shark’s fin moving around the island (a green couch) where Ariadne lie as the three Nymphs (dead ringers for the Rhinemaidens) bemoaned her sad fate, causing the Nymphs to lose their solemn composure and climb on the couch. When the four comedienne try to seduce Zerbinetta, the island-couch opens into a bed, and when Zerbinetta surrendered to Harlekin, explicit sexual acts take place. Backstage during the prologue, the contrast between the two troupes is sharply delineated, perhaps reflecting the division in society regarding the arts. The burlesque troupe are dressed as punks, in black leather, spiked hair, and lots of tattoos. The properly-attired, impassioned composer vehemently resists performing with the comedy troupe and cutting his work, until reminded he must accept it to get paid with the tenor and soprano each try to have the others’ role diminished.
This crisp, clean production was wonderfully accessible and delightfully sung. Of special note were Christina Pier (Ariadne) with her soaring voice, Audrey Luna (Zerbinetta) with her acrobatic and comic appeal, but the entire cast executed their roles with aplomb with maestro Garrett Keast keeping excellent pacing.
This wealthy man throwing a party for friends pointedly demonstrated the culture clashes present in society and how art and artists are beholden to the wealthy patrons. The questions about funding for the arts that the opera raises are as relevant today as they were when the piece was composed: one is always at the mercy of the patrons who pay the bills.
Cyberiada (The Cyberiad) by Krzysztof Meyer – Premiere
Teatr Wielki, Poznan, Poland
Based on short stories by Stanislaw Lem, Cyberiada is an allegorical dark comedy
with serious overtones, dealing with the evils of totalitarianism, oppression,
greed, deception, sexual addiction and the mysteries of life. Using a story
within a story format, the opera fuses the science fiction world of flying
through space, a brilliant fiery red-haired constructor Trull who journeys from
planet to planet and builds machines which narrate three different allegorical
tales symbolized by huge suspended masks, and a pseudo-Medieval world populated
by kings, queens, witches, knights, and obedient subjects encased in identical
multi-colored boxes. This strange variety of characters re-enacted the stories
with visually compelling images and entertaining acting that captured its essence.
Conceived as a Theater of the Absurd by director Ran
Arthur Braun and set/costume designer Justin Arienti, the precisely-executed production
unfolded on a stage dominated by five huge percussions located on two levels.
Each instrument incorporated 12 different percussions which produced 60
different types of sounds and noises, (noise being as integral a part of the
opera as the musical tones). The percussionists were clad as astronaut. A
parade of characters in “over-the-top” costumes, (including “advisors” who were
gray featureless, blown-up balloon-men) acted with exaggerated and stilted mannerisms,
parodying societal roles. From breath-taking acrobatics, including two red-clad
ballerinas pantomiming erotic dreams for King Zipperupus, to the conniving King
Mandrillion to the finale of constructor Trull killing a clone of himself as he
had been granted eternal life by Queen Genius as payment for his three story
telling machine, the opera was simultaneously amusing and thought provoking. Although
composed during the 1960s, the final message touched on 21st century
technology, nothing is eternal, not even machines.
The music included twelve-tone, sonorism, and
aleatoric techniques, resulting in a work with unconventional sounds and vocal
lines almost devoid of melody, harmony or rhythm in the traditional sense. Instead
it generated its own by combining serial and electronic music, jazz, repeated
chords, sound clusters, and the grotesque to reflect the action and feelings of
the characters. The extensive spoken dialogue was delivered melodically,
ranging from rhythmical recitation to story-telling. The singers, acrobats,
dancers, chorus and orchestra of Teatr Wielki of Poznan, under maestro Krzysztof
Stowinski did a superb job in keeping
the complex elements of the work together to offer a worthwhile and
admirable execution of the multi-faceted opera
Savolinna Opera Festival July 1-27, 2011
Olavinlinna Castle, Savollina, Finland
Karyl Charna Lynn
Only reachable by crossing two bridges, one of which opens occasionally to allow ships to pass through, the 15th century Olavinlinna Castle, built by the Swedes as a defense against the Russians, is a unique and magical setting for opera, which takes place in the Castle’s courtyard, filled with 2,260 seats and covered by a wave-like plastic roof during the festival. The surrounding stone walls offer ideal acoustics and as a launching pad for the stars of tomorrow, it’s idyllic by adding a natural resonance to their young voices. However, the very wide and shallow stage, with steep stone side staircases, is a challenge for directors, producers, and designers, but for those with a creative bent, there is a world of opportunities. I attended five productions, two of which were from the visiting opera company, Hungarian State Opera.
Before the first chords of Lohengrin were played, “Gottfried” appeared, playing with a toy swan in a (stage) pond. The opera ended in a similar fashion. In between, director Roman Hovenbitzer created a multifaceted, multi-leveled, symbolically laden production that kept for the most part true to Wagner’s intent: Lohengrin as the misunderstood, lonely artist--he’s painting and making videos in this production--made superhuman (artist worship), dressed as the “knight in shining armor,” who becomes very human after his marriage to Elsa, dressed in painter’s work clothes, taking “wedding night” videos of his bride and painting a stylized red and white z-like shaped swan figure on her white gown.
Mirroring today’s politics, Telramund was a contemporary military dictator symbolizing the evil of Totalitarian governments, and Lohengrin, leader and founder of the “Swan party,” with its stick-like swan symbol of his party and power, was possibly inspired by the swans painted 3,000-7,000 years ago on prehistoric rocks around Savolinna. But like many directors with creative ideas, Hovenbitzer carried the symbolism too far. There were hundreds of swans, swimming, floating, flying, on jackets, armbands, shields, paper airplanes, and in videos and paintings. Even some chorus members were dressed and moved like ballerinas from Swan Lake. But the quintessential swan (and only real misstep) was a gigantic one carried in by soldiers before Lohengrin’s entrance, and de-winged and set on fire by Lohengrin when, his identity revealed, was forced to depart. (Although his power and party were gone and therefore burning its symbol seemed logical, the swan is a messenger from the realm of the dead in Finnish Mythology.) Lohengrin then climbed up a high aluminum scaffold, fastened the swan’s wings to his arms and spread them. No swan was left to pull a boat for his departure!
Nevertheless, Hovenbitzer succeeded in making the long opera dramatically riveting and grippingly effective. And dividing the stage for the different locations and scenes, designer Hermann Feuchter gave an intimacy to the action. Set simultaneously in three different time periods (Medieval, late 1800s, and contemporary) the production had some jarring juxtapositions and anachronistic actions.
Richard Crawley’s Lohengrin was a narcissistic and charismatic leader with divine deportment, who also displayed humanizing characteristics after his wedding. He sang with a clear and supple voice. Amber Wagner as Elsa displayed a voice of ethereal beauty, commanding the role with her powerful instrument, filled with feeling and sensibility. Jordanka Milkova exuded piercing evil and wickedness as Ortrud while Telramund’s transition from absolute dictator to henpecked husband was credible. Although his sound was harsh, it was, perhaps, suitable for his character. Maestro Philippe Auguin had Wagner in his blood, coaxing thrilling playing and spine-chilling power from the Savolinna Opera Festival Orchestra, making the long evening fly by.
I’ve seen Don Giovanni where sex (Festival de Mexico) or death wish (Teatro Colon) or fear to commit (Washington National Opera) were the overriding themes. Here director Paul-Emile Fourny kept more to Mozart and Da Ponte’s concept that Don Giovanni is about the disintegration of the class society, and Fourny made the tensions between the classes the theme that Mozart brilliantly demonstrated with his minuet for Donna Anna and Don Ottavio, a folksy German tune for Leporello and Masetto, and a contradance for Giovanni and Zerlinda, along with the rebellion against the droit du seigneur (or droit de cuissage) at the wedding celebration.
Set against the backdrop of the castle’s ancient stone wall with steep stone stairs at either end of the very long but narrow stage, the opera unfolded amidst three moveable fragments of palatial facades that were twisted, turned and occasionally joined to suggest the different locations. The production was straight forward with a couple of exceptions. At the final supper, a defiant Giovannni instead of eating at the dining table had intercourse with a nude woman on the table in response to Donna Elvira’s pleas, and the Commendatore did not become a stone statue but instead was dressed in a white suit, appearing at the top of the stairs amidst a smoky background. Giovanni’s hell is the “ghosts” of his conquests (women in diaphanous black dresses) chasing him up the stairs.
Carlo Colombara made a defiant and dissolute Don Giovanni, capturing the opposing aspects of his character while properly nuancing his expansive voice, from powerful to smooth to cunning allowing him to deceive, command, persuade, and seduce with equal believability. Carlo Lepore’s Leporello was the ideal counter-balance to Colombara singing with well-balanced intensity. Jennifer Rowley captured Donna Anna’s anguish and conflicting emotions with a magnificently vibrant voice. Alyson Cambridge as Donna Elvira was convincing as wronged woman, singing with ardent concentration. Michele Angelini’s Don Ottavio displayed some forceful singing and good high notes, though occasionally strained. Will Humburg drew admirable playing from the orchestra.
The high point of Tosca was the mesmerizing singing that kept one completely engaged, despite an unusual heatwave plaguing Savolinna. Keith Warner’s “literal” production (opening with Angelotti’s shimmying down the side of the castle wall on a rope and ending with
Tosca jumping into the water (video) surrounding the castle), had, however, some bizarre and incongruous moments. A couple of examples, Scarpia’s dining table opened to be his casket, and Mario climbed a steep staircase to exit after being tortured. Tiffany Abban showed depth and breadth as Tosca, beautifully floating her high notes. Massimo Giordano possessed the role of Cavaradossi, fervently singing with a voice of pure Italianate lyrical sound. Juha Uusitalo was convincingly evil as Scarpia and under the baton of Srboljub Dinic, there was finely nuanced orchestral playing.
The Hungarian State Opera’s Don Carlo was a conventional production, the stage set with only a large iron gate and basic props. After Attila Fekete in the title role overcame some initial nervousness and note fishing, he was a very intense and believable Don Carlo. Eszter Sümegi assayed Elisabeth with a regal voice and deportment. Although Bluebeard’s Castle was presented in concert form, the psychological implications of dark gloom and horror were painted in the music and hauntingly melodic vocal line of Judith, which Andrea Meláth captured with her soaring voice. Changing colored lights reflected the horrors behind the different doors.
2012 Savolinna Opera Festival will run from July 5-August 4, 2012. There are two world premieres: Kimmo Hakola’s La Fenice and Vapaa Tahto’s Free Will, along with Aida, Magic Flute, Flying Dutchman. The visiting opera company, Den Norske Opera, presents Gisle Kvernokk’s Den Fjerde Nattevakt (The Fourth Night Watch) and Peter Grimes
Guide to Helsinki: World Design Capital 2012
With Helsinki celebrating its designation as World Design Capital in 2012, the city and its surrounding area should be on the must-visit calendar of every design-, architecture-, and opera-lover. From the legendary Finnish designs to its architectural treasures, especially the new Musiikkitalo (Helsinki Music Center) and the Opera House (Oopperatalo) you will find here all you need to best experience and enjoy Finland’s architecture and design either in person or from the comforts of home.
Architecture and Design in Helsinki and Lahti
Helsinki’s Modern Architecture
Musiikkitalo (Helsinki Music Center) Mannerheimintie 13a, (http://www.musiikkitalo.fi/web/en)
The newest addition to Helsinki’s modern architecture along Mannerheimintie is the Music Center which held opening ceremonies on August 31, 2011. An enormous, imposing glass rectangular structure housing a 1,708 seat concert hall and five smaller venues, the center includes one venue suitable for chamber opera. At the center of the building, the concert hall is approached via glazed foyers. Encased in sound-insulating glass, it is visible from the foyer and lobby areas. The architecture and overall design was by LPR-Arkkitehdit Oy (www.ark-lpr.fi) with acoustic design by Yasuhisa Toyota and Keiji Oguchi from Nagata Acoustics, Inc. (www.nagata.co.jp). It is a joint project of the Sibelius Academy (www.siba.fi), Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (www.hel.fi/filharmonia), and Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (www.yle.fi/rso), the three resident companies.
Oopperatalo (The Opera House) Mannerheimintie and Helsinginkatu; www.opera.fi sits on a site once occupied by a sugar mill. Opening in 1993 at a cost of $190 million, and designed by Eero Hyvämäki, Jukka Karhunen, and Risto Parkkinen, the Oopperatalo is an imposing white concrete structure faced with white square ceramic tiles, granite slabs, and brickwork fused into a variety of geometric shapes and forms. Large expanses of glass windows and walls allow commanding views of Töölö Bay, Hesperia Park, and the "green-heart" of Helsinki . On the Mannerheimintie plaza main entrance, a large sculpture Alkunäytöksi (First Act) by Kain Tapper welcomes visitors. Inside, hanging on the walls of the entrance foyer is Alla Marcia (In the Style of the March) by Juhana Blomstedt, a four part work of art in terrazzo concrete that weights more than two metric tons. On the foyer’s end walls, textile artist Kirsti Rantanen created a two part rope sculpture: the red hued one is called Carmen and blue-hued Juha. The foyer’s spaces are defined by stark white walls reflecting natural light from the skylights and muted blue-grey Carrara marble floors. In contrast to the cool outdoor feel of the foyer, warm reddish-yellow beechwood wall surfaces, cherry wood floors, three sparkling white parapets topped by chrome railings that contrast with rows of black cloth seats, and an unadorned black proscenium arch crowned by two acoustic panels define the intimate feel of the horseshoe-shaped 1,365-seat auditorium. Of special note is the abstract fire curtain on which Kohta, by Kristiina Wiherheimo is painted. The building also holds a self-contained performing arts factory with large rehearsal spaces, production facilities for scenery- and costume-making, and a black box for experimental works. If there are no performances, tours of the Opera House are available.
Finlandia Talo (Finlandia Hall) Mannerheimintie 13, www.finlandiatalo.fi. Opened in 1975, it is a striking geometrically shaped structure, designed by Alvar Aalto. It was the former home of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra but since the opening of the Musiikkitalo is used exclusively for conventions.
Museums of design, architecture and famous architect-designed houses: in/around Helsinki:
Designmuseo (Design Museum) Korkeavuorenkatu 23, www.designmuseum.fi. Suomen rakennustaiteen museo (Museum of Finnish Architecture), Kasarmikatu 24, www.mfa.fi. The two museums are only a block apart and part of Design District Helsinki www.designdistrict.fi. Villa Didrichsen, Kuusilahdenkuja 1, www.didrichsenmuseum.fi designed by Viljo Revell in 1957, with a museum wing added in 1965 which houses Didrichsen Museum of Art. Aalto House, Riihtie 20, www.alvaraalto.fi . The house and adjoining studio Alvar Aalto designed for himself, opening in 1936. Hvitträskintie, Hvitträskvägen 166, Luoma (on the shores of Lake Vitträsk, 30 minute drive west of Helsinki), www.hvittrask.fi. was build between 1901-1903. It is a collection of three houses designed, built, and lived in by architects Eliel Saarinen, Armas Lindgren, and Herman Gesellius. A bit of a soap opera also took place here: Gesellius’ sister married Eliel after Eliel divorced his wife who, in turn married Gesellius, who was a bachelor.
Helsinki’s Russian era architecture (1808-1917)
Around the Senate Square are elegant Empire Style buildings. Examples of Carl Engel’s most important works are Cathedral (1852), Council of State Palace, main University building, and University library. At the turn of last century, National Romantic style came into favor. Examples of this style are seen in the National Museum by Saarinen, Gesellius, and Lindgren, the Central Railroad Station by Saarinen, and the National Theater by Onni Tarjanne.
Only 60 miles north of Helsinki, there is direct train service between the two cities which takes less than an hour. Lahti is the home of Sibelius Hall, Ankkurikatu 7, http://www.sinfonialahti.fi, an architectural marvel in wood, and the Wood Architecture Park www.woodinculture.net. Lahti Symphony Orchestra, resident company of the concert hall, hosts an annual Sibelius Festival which takes place in September 8-11, 2011. www.sinfonialahti.fi. Lahti was established as a woodworking town that essentially died when the woodworking factory, which had operated for 130 years, closed. The construction on the shores of Lake Vesijärvi of Sibelius Hall in 2000 as a wooden addition to the historically preserved factory, revitalized the area, not only architecturally but also culturally. Opening on March 9, 2000, the Hall was the largest wooden structure built in Finland in the past 100 years. A marvel of wood craftsmanship and design, it boasts perfect acoustics, designed by the late Russell Johnson (Artec Consultants, N.Y.). Architects Hannu Tikka’s and Kimmo Lintula’s design made innovative use of wood, both structurally and decoratively. The branches of the massive wooden pylons in the middle of the foyer, known as Metsähalli (Forest Hall) extend towards the ceiling and one of the most unique features of the space: the position of the small lights on the ceiling replicate the position of the stars in the sky when Sibelius was born, and are reflected on the walls of glass on either side. The glass also allows the fusion of views of the lakeside exterior with the foyer’s interior. The hall is decorated with contrasting colors and woods, with a French Romantic style 52-pipe the hall’s focal point. Its acoustics are adjustable by a canopy that can be raised or lowered from the ceiling depending upon the type of performance. More than 30 wooden sculptures and other works of art by Mauno Hartman are displayed around the building. Wood Architecture Park (Lahden Puuarkkitehtuuripuisto) www.woodinculture.net The park, located near Sibelius Hall, the lake and the harbor, is an ongoing project. Currently one can visit the Illuminated Canopy (2005) by Kengo Kuma with its slatted wood top and side construction and nighttime illumination symbolizing the Aurora Borealis. Wooden Spiral (2006) by Richard Leplastrier consists of four blocks of stone topped by a spiraling grid of logs. Piano Pavilion (2008) by Gert Wingårdh resembles a ship about to be launched, celebrating the history of Lahti habor. Viewing Terrace by Peter Zumthor (2010) is a place from which to admire the view across Lake Vesijärvi.
For Aalto enthusiasts, 170 miles north of Helsinki there is the Alvar Aalto Museum, Alvar Aalon katu 7, Jyväskylä. www.alvaraalto.fi, a special museum of architecture founded in 1966 that is housed in a building designed by Aalto (1973) on a slope leading to Lake Jyväsjärvi.
Art Museums of note in and around Helsinki: Museum of Contemporary Art, Mannerheiminaukio 2, www.kiasma.fi. Ateneum Art Museum, Kaivokatu 2, www.ateneum.fi. Didrichsen Museum of Art and Sculpture Park, Kuusilahdenkuja 1, www.didrichsenmuseum.fi; Villa Gyllenberg, Kuusisaarenpolku 11, www.villagyllenbrg.fi. EMMA-Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Näyttelykeskus WeeGee, Ahertajantie 5, Espoo www.emma.museum
For Sibelius lovers - Jean Sibelius sites: Ainola, (Sibelius’s home) Ainolantie (www.ainola.fi). is in the Tuusula Lake Road Artists’ Community, around 30 minutes from Helsinki. Sibelius and his family lived in Ainola for more than 50 years. He and his wife are buried in the garden. Sibeliuksen Syntymäkoti (Birthplace of Sibelius), Hallituskatu 11, Hämeenlinna www.hameenlinna.fi/historiallinenmuseo. around 60 miles north of Helsinki. Sibelius was born in 1865 in a wooden house in the center of the town, which is now the museum. Sibelius Museum, Biskopsgatan 17, Åbo (Turku) www.sibeliusmuseum.abo.fi, around 100 miles northwest of Helsinki. The museum is devoted to music with exhibits on Sibelius’ life and work. The building, designed by Woldemar Baeckman and constructed of concrete, glass, with funnel-shaped pillars around an atrium garden, is itself architecturally interesting.
Opera in Helsinki (in addition to the Finnish National Opera)
The opening of the Musiikkitalo (Helsinki Music Center) in August 2011 brought the world premiere of Olli Kortekangas’s Yhden yön juttu (One Night Stand) in October 2011 by the Sibelius Academy, one of center’s resident companies. The Opera Skaala Kapsäkkia is a small adventurous company that commissions new Finnish Opera each season, performing in a variety of unique and challenging venues.
Practical Information for visiting Helsinki
Information on the World Design Capital 2012 (Ramander House, Aleksanterinkatu 16; www.wdchelsinki2012.fi.
How to get there: Fly British Airways (www.ba.com) to Helsinki’s International Airport (HEL). Bus service by Finnair Airport Bus into Helsinki leaves every 20 minutes with stops at the Central Railway Station and Scandic Continental Hotel. The cost is approx. €6.00 and takes 30 minutes. Taxis are quite expensive from the airport into town. Probably the most convenient way to get around Helsinki is to buy either a tourist ticket (www.hkl.fi) for unlimited travel on public transportation or the Helsinki Card (www.helsinkiexpert.com) for both unlimited travel on public transportation and entrance to museums, and discounts on tickets to the opera and symphony, restaurants, shopping, car rentals, and tours.
Suggested Reading: on Finland: Portraying Finland: Facts and Insights (Otava Publishing), Find Out about Finland (Otava Publishing); on Finnish National Opera: 100 Years Finnish National Opera (100th Anniversary souvenir book); Finnish Opera by Pekka Kako (Finnish Music Information Center) on internet at http://www.fimic.fi/contemporary/opera; Oopperatalo (The Opera House) editor Tapani Eskola, Kustannus Oy Projektilehti Publisher,1995 in English, Finnish, German. An illustrated book on the architecture and construction of Helsinki’s Opera House. Recommended DVD: excellent FNO performance of the Finnish opera, The Red Line.
For more information, contact the Helsinki Tourist & Convention Bureau, Pohjoisesplanadi 19, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.visithelsinki.fi
Newmark Theater, Portland, Oregon
Tatiana recording love letter on audiotape (boom box)
Tatiania and Onegin (Alexander Elliott) slow dance
Lensky watching Onegin flirting with Olga (Abigail Dock)
Above Eugene Onegin Photos by Cory Weaver
Pillow Fight concluding Italiana in Algeri - photo James Daniel
Royal Opera House, London, Facade
Detail of Royal Opera House facade
Posters for Lucia di Lammermoor
Grand Opera House, Wilmington, Delaware
Detail façade, Grand Opera House, Wilmington, Delaware
Grand Opera House auditorium
Grand Opera House, view toward stage and Amleto production
Auditorium ceiling of Grand Opera House, Wilmington
Grand Opera House auditorium detail of lighting
Auditorium of Grand Opera House, Wilmington
Below are pictures from Il Volo concert at Kennedy Center and of Il Volo
Better Gods photos by Scott Suchman
Tester as Lorrin Thurston, Timothy J. Bruno as Judge Albert Judd, Daryl
Freedman as Queen Liliʻuokalani, Ariana Wehr as Kahua, and Hunter Enoch as
J. Bruno as Judge Albert Judd, Rexford Tester as Lorrin Thurston, and Daryl
Freedman as Queen Liliʻuokalani
Daryl Freeman is Queen Lili'uokalami
The below photos are from the revised world premiere of Appomattox at the Kennedy Center and are by Scott Suchman
Solomon Howard (Martin Luther King Jr.) Tom Fox (President Lyndon Johnson
David Pittsinger (Robert E. Lee)
Robert Baker (Edward Alexander) David Pittsinger (Robert Lee) Aleksey Bogdanov ( John Aaron Rawlins) Richard Paul Pink (Ulusses Grant)
In the Penal Colony Photos by T.Charles Erickson. Yury Yanowsky (Man) rear. Neal Ferreira (Visitor) David McFerrin (Officer)
Yanoswsky (Man) McFerrin (Officer)
From top: Man, Visitor, Officer
Sibelius Hall on Lake Vesijarvi evening.
Foyer Sibelius Hall during intermission.
Lake promenade outside Sibelius Hall during intermission.
View towards stage with Lahti Symphony Orchestra in Sibelius Hall
Awards for recordings received by Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Staircases leading up to auditorium's tiers
Setting sun over Lake Vesijarvi. End of perfect Sibelius week.
Phillip Addis as Jaufre RUdel, troubour and Prince of Blaye and Erin Wall as Clemence, Countess of Libya
Phillip Addis as Jaufre Rudel and Erin Wall as Clemence
Tamara Mumford as the Pilgrim and Phillip Addis as Jaufre Rudel
Erin Wall as Clemence, Countess of Libya
Tamara Mumford as the Pilgrim and Phillip Addis as Jaufre Rudel
Grand Theatre de Quebec, exterior
Auditorium of Grand Theatre de Quebec
Auditorium of Teatr Wielki, Poznan with singer in audience
"Nobles" singing amidst audience in auditorium
Halka, Zofia, and the mountain peasants
Halka (Magdalena Molendowska) and Jonek (Piotr Friebe)
Halka, Jonek, with the mountain peasants with masks
The Nobles: Zofia (Natalie Puczniewska) and Janusz (Bartlomiej Misiuda)
Adam and Eve (Bartlomie Misiuda and Magdalena Wachowska) in Space Capsule landed on Mars
Adam and Eve in space capsule:greatest reality show ever
"Two flies in space capsule, Martyna Cymerman and Tomasz Raczkiewicz
Cross-dressed fly (counter-tenor Tomasz Raczkiewicz
The producer (Andrzej Ogorkiewcz) cajoling the crowd.
Adam and Eve above in Space Capsule preparing for lift-off with producer below of greatest reality show ever
Producer of greatest reality show ever - Space Opera
Harrison Opera House, home of VIrginia Opera
Foyer of Harrison Opera House
Chandeliers of stacks of sandblasted acrylic disks connected by stainless steel rods in foyer of Harrison Opera House
Proscenium arch and stage of Harrison Opera House
Boxes in Harrison Opera House
King Kipperupus and erotic (dream) dancers from Cyberiada
Suspended mask with Queen Genius and percussion instrument - Cyberiada
Erotic dream acrobatics - Cyberiada
Constructor Trull with two suspended story telling masks and flying astronauts in background among percussion instruments
King Mandrillion with gray blow-up advisor and astronaut
King Mandrillion's subjects in identical boxes with Queen Genius in background.
Views of Olavinlinna Castle, Savolinna Opera Festival and surroundings
Jan Hultin, SOF General Director at helm
Jan Hultin, Karyl Lynn, Artistic director of SOF, Finnish Ambassador
New Helsinki Music Center
Concert Hall in Music Center
Facade Opera House on Mannerheimintie
Opera House facade facing lake
Auditorium of Opera House
FInlandia Hall auditorium
Lahti - Sibelius Hall auditorium
Lahti - lake in front of Sibelius Hall
Lahti Sibelius Hall foyer
Didrichsen Museum of Art and Sculpture Park
Hvittraskintie: house of Saarinen, Lindgren, Gesellius
View of lake from Hvittraskintie
Sonora Hall in Music Center
One Night Stand - world premiere opera in Sonora Hall