Critic’s Picks (May 24 – 30)
“We live in an extraordinary Age” — Carl Sagan. We are now in late spring of the second pandemic year. Some venues are striving to re-open for online or in-person performances, while others are looking ahead and announcing their 2021-22 seasons. As reported in Opera Wire, among the theatres announcing their upcoming seasons are Opéra National de Paris, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Badisches Staatsoper Karlsruhe, Théâtre Capitole de Toulouse, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opéra National du Rhin, Pittsburgh Festival Opera, Opéra de Toulon, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Oper Frankfurt, Festival Castell de Peralada, Opera Philadelphia, Spain National Orchestra and Chorus, Opernhaus Zürich, Festival Valle d’Itria, and the Teatro Real de Madrid. The reopening are not all smooth, sad to say – Slipped Disc just reported that Opéra de Lyon has cancelled its reopening for non- COVID reasons – the building is closed due to a strike by its staff.
The Salzburg Whitsun Festival in Austria opened this week with a blockbuster Tosca starring Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann, replacing the originally announced Anja Harteros and Bryn Terfel. An interesting twist is that it also featured the great Cecilia Bartoli – no, not as Tosca, but as the Shepherd Boy! She made her debut in this cameo role at the age of 10. These performances feature personalized ticketing to facilitate contact tracing, a maximum of 50% capacity, proof of vaccination, and use of face masks. Glyndebourne Festival has re-opened (May 20 to August 29), with Kát’a Kabanová. the first in a program of four operas and a concert series. The Czech Philharmonic performed a concert with a live audience of 350 on May 10 in Prague, conducted by Semyon Bychkov. This marked the Czech Republic’s first cultural event with a live audience since the pandemic lockdown. Austria’s Salzburg Easter Festival now takes place on November 1. Wiener Staatsoper reopened on May 19 to a live audience, with COVID precautions. The Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival is going ahead for an in-person festival (July 5-Aug 2).
LA Opera will return to live, in-person performances starting with a June 6 performance of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. James Conlon conducts, with Russell Thomas, J’Nai Bridges, and John Relyea. Two orchestras have announced its summer plans: LA Philharmonic reopens the Hollywood Bowl in July, and the Cleveland Orchestra returns to the Blossom Festival on July 11. New York’s Teatro Nuovo has announced that it will put on Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on July 27 and 28 on the summer stage at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park. And Toronto’s Luminato Festival, normally taking place in June, will be moved to October this year.
The theme of Met Opera’s nightly free streaming this week is “Rare Gems,” referring to operas that are rarely staged in North America, such as The Nose and Prince Igor. Big stars to be seen this week include Renee Fleming, Mirella Freni, Placido Domingo and Juan Diego Florez. Met streams start at 7:30 p.m. ET and remain available for 23 hours. “A Concert for New York,” the first concert involving Met Opera forces since the pandemic, took place successfully on May 16. In the meantime, the virtual “Met Stars Live in Concert” series came to a successful conclusion with the Three Divas (Ailyn Perez, Nadine Sierra and Isabel Leonard) last Saturday. With COVID numbers now going down in the US, the future for live performances is looking a little brighter. Stay tuned.
Met Opera | Massenet’s Thaïs. Starring Renée Fleming, Michael Schade, and Thomas Hampson, conducted by Jesús López-Cobos. Production by John Cox. From December 20, 2008. | Details
Met Opera | Borodin’s Prince Igor. Starring Oksana Dyka, Anita Rachvelishvili, Sergey Semishkur, Ildar Abdrazakov, Mikhail Petrenko, and Štefan Kocán, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. Production by Dmitri Tcherniakov. From March 1, 2014. | Details
Toronto Wagner Society | Jane Eaglen — 7:30 pm ET. The great Wagnerian soprano Jane Eaglen, a memorable Brunnhilde and Isolde, is the guest of TWS. She is now a noted voice teacher training the next generation of singers. | Details
Met Opera | Rossini’s La Donna del Lago. Starring Joyce DiDonato, Daniela Barcellona, Juan Diego Flórez, John Osborn, and Oren Gradus, conducted by Michele Mariotti. Production by Paul Curran. From March 14, 2015. | Details
Opera Atelier | Handel’s The Resurrection — 7 pm ET. Opera Atelier presents a fully staged film of The Resurrection, starring sopranos Carla Huhtanen and Meghan Lindsay, mezzo Allyson McHardy, tenor Colin Ainsworth, and bass-baritone Douglas Williams. Originally scheduled for April 2020 and now online, ticket is $25, and available to purchasers for on-demand viewing until June 10. Read our preview here. | Details
Met Opera | Shostakovich’s The Nose. Starring Andrey Popov, Alexander Lewis, and Paulo Szot, conducted by Pavel Smelkov. Production by William Kentridge. From October 26, 2013. | Details
Met Opera | Giordano’s Fedora. Starring Mirella Freni, Ainhoa Arteta, Plácido Domingo, Dwayne Croft, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, conducted by Roberto Abbado. Production by Beppe De Tomasi. From April 26, 1997. | Details
Opera de Quebec | Le Barbier de Séville — 3 pm ET. Hugo Laporte, baritone (Figaro), Sarah Bissonnette, mezzo (Rosina), Andrew Haji, tenor (Comte Almaviva), Doug MacNaughton, baritone (Bartolo), Alain Coulombe, bass (Basilio). Orchestre symphonique de Québec, conducted by Jean-Michel Malouf. | Details
Salle Bourgie | Jana Miller and Philippe Sly — 7 pm ET. This live audience concert at Bourgie Hall in Montreal features two Schumann song cycles, “Frauenliebe und Leben” sung by Miller and “Dichterliebe” sung by Sly. Plus “Kinderszenen” played by pianist Jean Marchand. $54/$46(museum members)/$28(under 34). Purchase online access ($20) for viewing from June 5 to 19. | Details
Met Opera | Strauss’s Capriccio. Starring Renée Fleming, Sarah Connolly, Joseph Kaiser, Russell Braun, Morten Frank Larsen, and Peter Rose, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. Production by John Cox. From April 23, 2011. | Details
Met Opera | Rossini’s Le Comte Ory. Starring Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Susanne Resmark, Juan Diego Flórez, Stéphane Degout, and Michele Pertusi, conducted by Maurizio Benini. Production by Bartlett Sher. From April 9, 2011. | Details
1) Wigmore Hall | Graham Johnson: Poulenc, The Life in the Songs. The great British pianist Graham Johnson talks about his lifelong interest in the music of Francis Poulenc, culminating in his new book on the French composer. A fascinating revelation — Johnson asserts that Poulenc “borrowed” Baron Ochs’ great waltz in Act 2 Der Rosenkavalier and modified it for “Les chemins de l’amour!”
2) Screaming Divas with Sondra and Keri | Matthew Epstein. Streamed May 21, this is a really funny yet profound episode. Sondra Radvanovsky and Keri Alkema chat with legendary impresario and voice/opera fanatic Matthew Epstein, who has nurtured the careers of many singers, including the late Canadian soprano Erin Wall. I chatted with Matthew last November when I wrote the tribute to Erin for Opera Canada. A must watch for those passionate about the singing voice in classical music.
3) Glyndebourne Festival | Cunning Little Vixen. Streamed free on May 23, this performance of the whimsical Janacek opera from 2012 is on demand until Sunday June 6. Vladimir Jurowski conducts the Glyndebourne forces, with a fine cast starring Lucy Crowe (Vixen), Emma Bell (Fox) and Sergey Leiferkus as the Forester.
4) Teatro Alla Scala | Concerto Daniel Harding. Streamed last week, the British conductor Daniel Harding leads the La Scala forces in a wonderful concert featuring the Overture from Weber’s Der Freischutz, and Antonin Dvorak’s majestic Symphony No. 9.
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