Opera Feed

"The Love Suicides at Sonezaki" at the White Light Festival

by Steven Pisano

Sonezaki_Shinju-hatsu_toku042.final_copyright Hiroshi Sugimoto-Courtesy of Odawara Art Foundation(© Hiroshi Sugimoto/Courtesy of Odawara Art Foundation)

2019 marks the 10th anniversary season of Lincoln Center's White Light Festival, offering works from around the world in music, theater, and dance that explore art’s power to "reveal the many dimensions of our interior lives." The festival opened this past weekend and continues through November 24.

The initial presentation, The Love Suicides at Sonezaki, is a Bunraku play written by the esteemed Japanese dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725). A soy sauce company sales clerk named Tokubei and a prostitute named Ohatsu are in love, but many forces conspire to keep them apart. So, they decide that if they cannot be together in this world, they will commit suicide and be together in the next life. The show was such a big hit when it was first presented in 1703, that numerous young couples were known to commit suicide in the nearby forest, which caused the Tokugawa shogunate 20 years later to prohibit any further performances--a ban that lasted until 1955 (232 years later!).

This U.S. premiere was created by artistic director Hiroshi Sugimoto, one of the world's most celebrated photographers and architects, as well as a theater producer. The music was written by Seiji Tsurusawa, who is known as a Living National Treasure.

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"The Love for Three Oranges" at Opera Philadelphia

by Steven Pisano

20190918-DSC03872(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Opera Philadelphia's recent production of Sergei Prokofiev's "The Love for Three Oranges" was a frothy, fun concoction, less an opera than a zany musical comedy. Its source story had its origins in the commedia dell'arte, which Prokofiev, writing in the early 1920s, spiced up with a fair dose of absurdist surrealism.

In a nutshell, there is a handsome young Prince who mopes around in bed, his malaise brought on by reading too much serious poetry. The doctors in the court of the King of Clubs, the Prince's father, prescribe that he can only be cured by laughter. But though many in the kingdom try, none can make this sourpuss chuckle, until one day the witch Fata Morgana, who is involved sideways in a plot to kill the Prince, is knocked over and shows her underwear, which of course makes the Prince break out into an uproarious peal of laughter which finally breaks his grumpy mood. Pissed off at being laughed at, though, Fata Morgana curses the Prince to fall in love with three oranges.

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A Quick Visit to The Ring at The Met

Met Opera Die Walküre - 32After Tuesday's NY Phil concert with Semyon Bychkov leading the U.S. Premiere of Thomas Larcher's colorful, surprisingly tonal Symphony No. 2 "Kenotaph", I took a chance and walked across Lincoln Center Plaza to the Met, just as Die Walküre, the second installment of Richard Wagner's monumental opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen - was letting out for its second intermission.

Sure enough, a patron who had had enough for one night - Die Walküre runs five hours, not including curtain calls - offered me her ticket in the Grand Tier, which is how I got to see all of Act 3: the Ride of the Valkyries, the long duet between Wotan and Brünnhilde, the Magic Fire music. As I said when the Met last staged the Ring in 2012, this Robert Lepage production - and it's 40 ton machine - is a bit hit-and-miss, but the music, as performed by the mighty Met Orchestra under the brilliant conductor Philippe Jordan, is breathtaking. (Jordan is currently Music Director of two of the biggest opera houses in the world: the Paris Opera and the Vienna State Opera.) As for the singers, home grown soprano Christine Goerke is a force of nature as Brünnhilde, her voice easily carrying over the orchestra. Bass Michael Volle is a menacing, almost terrifying Wotan, while soprano Eva Maria Westrbroek fortified her position as the world's leading Sieglinde. 

Tickets for the remainder of this cycle, as well as cycle 3 next week, are all gone, but you can take your chances at the box office on returns. Or, maybe just show up a few hours late and hold up a finger. You'll be glad you did. 

Video preview here. More pics below and on the photo page.

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Janacek's "Diary of One Who Disappeared" at BAM

by Steven Pisano

47496985642_a841d5a9db_o(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

The Czech composer Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) is perhaps best known in this country for his operas Jenufa and The Cunning Little Vixen, though he wrote seven other operas, as well as orchestral, chamber and vocal music. One of Janáček's most striking works is Diary of One Who Disappeared (1919), which arrived at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last week in a production by the Belgian group Musiektheater Transparant, directed by Ivo van Hove

Van Hove has seemed to be everywhere in recent years. While his principal work has been with International Theater Amsterdam, the largest theater in the Netherlands, he regularly has directed plays both in the UK and New York, winning both the Olivier and Tony Award for directing (for 2015's A View From the Bridge.) Often cited for his minimalist style, he works frequently with his longtime life partner, Jan Versweyveld, who created both the stage and lighting design for this run at BAM.

Diary of One Who Disappeared is a 22-part song cycle written for piano and voices. It was inspired by a series of anonymous poems that appeared early in the twentieth century in a Brno newspaper. The poems told of an all-consuming love that a boy felt for a Gypsy girl, and Janáček soon found a parallel in his own life. In 1917, in his early 60s, Janáček met Kamila Stosslova, a married woman with children who was almost 40 years his junior. Although she was not romantically interested in him, and their interactions with each other were intermittent, Stosslova became Janáček's muse for the prolific last decade of his life. Some 700-plus letters from Janáček to Stosslova survive, in which he repeatedly tells her she was the inspiration for many of the characters in his works. In one letter he wrote: "If the thread that binds me to you were to break, it would also break the thread of my life."

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