Long regarded by many as one of the highlights of the French grand opera tradition, Gounod's "Faust"—a beautifully sung production of which opened Winter Opera’s season—actually started life in 1859 as an opéra comique with spoken dialog instead of recitatives and without large ballet sequences. It was only the addition of the former in 1860 and the latter in 1875 that elevated Faust to the position of eminence it held in opera houses for over a century.
Winter Opera has closed their current season with a musically splendid and visually satisfying production of Puccini’s 1900 political melodrama “Tosca.” Acting and some casting choices did not always strike me as ideal, but the company sang beautifully, the orchestra sounded solid, and the sets and costumes were, given the group’s small budget, quite lavish.
So, opera fans, let’s consider Douglas Moore and John Latouche’s 1956 opera “The Ballad of Baby Doe.” Is it a classic that deserves its position as one of a small number of American operas in the standard repertory? Or is it a dated effort whose time has come and gone? Or perhaps a little of both?
I have a friend who says he loves directing Shakespeare because it’s so easy to do. Just don’t get in the playwright’s way and you can’t lose. I think the same could be said of the better Gilbert and Sullivan operettas as well. Don’t mess with G&S and you’re golden.
It's all there: passion, infatuation, love, death, poverty, suffering, joy and art. And yet, La Boheme defies categorization as just another soap opera. After 116 years, Giacomo Puccini's music of the heart still grabs the listener's soul more willingly than any siren call ever could.