In the 1830 tragedy "Anna Bolena" ("Anne Boleyn"), the second of Donizetti's four operas dealing with Tudor England and a classic of the bel canto operatic style, the composer and his librettist Felice Romani put the title character through hell—and aren't that much easier on the singer playing the role. She's on stage for most of the opera (which, in the Lyric Opera of Chicago production that opened this past weekend, runs three and one-half hours with intermission), finishing up with not one but two "mad" scenes and an execution scene that is almost as harrowing.
If your only exposure to George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward's 1935 opera "Porgy and Bess" has been the tour of the cut down "Broadway" version that played the Muny this past summer or even the interesting but flawed Union Avenue Opera/Black Rep co-production from 2007, you'd probably be justified in wondering why this is considered a great American opera. The current Lyric Opera of Chicago revival of its 2008 production—which runs through December 20—demonstrates why.
What is it about the music of Richard Wagner—a composer admittedly stained by insularity, prejudice, bitterness and resentment—that continues to tug at every fiber of the human heart?
History tells us the 1853 premiere of Verdi's "La Traviata" was something of a disaster, capped by the fatal miscasting (opposed unsuccessfully by the composer) of a soprano whose girth, in the view of the audience, made her attempts to portray a consumptive beauty laughable rather than tragic.
The main thing you need to know about “The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess” is that it's not the Gershwins' “Porgy and Bess.” Let me me to explain.
On July 17th, 1794, the sixteen women of the monastery of the Carmel of Compiègne in France were guillotined by the revolutionary government for refusing to abandon their vows and their community. The execution, which is widely believed to have been instrumental in bringing about the end of the Reign of Terror ten days later, inspired a novella, a play, and finally, Francis Poulenc's opera "Dialogues of the Carmelites" in 1953.
Trivia question: what do Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Man Ray, Henri Matisse, and Ernest Hemingway all have in common? Answer: they all frequented the Saturday evening salons at 27 Rue de Fleurus in Paris presided over by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. And they're all characters in the world premiere production of "27," at Opera Theatre.
I can sum up the Opera Theatre production of Donizetti's 1832 romantic comedy "The Elixir of Love" in one word: bravi. Or maybe that should be "bravissimi," since every aspect of this funny, endearing, and beautifully sung show deserves heaps of praise.
There's never a dull moment in the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis production of "The Magic Flute." That's because director Isaac Mizrahi keeps his performers (including a cast of seven dancers) in constant motion. The resulting stage pictures are impressive, but they often threaten to eclipse the music and text.