For its annual opera, Bard Summerscape has chosen Carl Maria von Weber's seldom performed masterpiece, Euryanthe. Der Freischütz had been a great success at the Kärtnerthortheater in Vienna at its premiere in 1821, and the impresario Domenico Barbala lost no time in asking Weber for another opera of the sort. Weber, however, wanted to compose something different. He wanted to grow beyond the popular Singspiel alternation of spoke dialogue and sung numbers in favor of a freer flow of recitative, sung dialogue, and arias. Weber had considerable difficulty in deciding on a libretto, and he eventually persuaded Helmine von Chezy to take on the job—against her protests. She wrote the libretto for Schubert's even more unsuccessful Rosamunde at the same time. Both premiered in 1823.) Euryanthe's failure in spite of Weber's splendid music is generally blamed on the poor quality of Chezy's verse and the involved, hard-to-follow plotline. Over the years, Euryanthe receives only occasional performances, but it has also aquired a passionate cult following, mainly on the basis of the excellent 1975 recording with the Dresdner Staatskapelle playing under Marek Janowski, and Jessye Norman and Nicolai Gedda, among the cast. Director Kevin Newbury and his team have worked hard to overcome Euryanthe's challenges, as Mr. Newbury likes to call them, and his discussion of them in this interview gives us every reason to be optimistic.
ABT's The Dream is highly poetic, romantic and vaguely Victorian. It differs from the version presented by the New York City Ballet in that it is only one act and has a somewhat different story line as well as highly contrasting choreography. (I confess to a preference for the NYCB version, but so be it.) Herman Cornejo was unquestionably the star of the performance, a magical, energetic Puck whose leaps are astounding. He spins so brilliantly I couldn't tell how many rounds he made; took to the air as though truly born an elfin sprite and displayed a keen a sense of humor. Oberon was danced by Cory Sterns in place of the injured David Hallberg. In one charming moment, Oberon partnered Puck; when the sprite leapt into his master's arms, the audience let loose a collective chuckle. This Oberon, regal and compelling, does some of his own dirty work, sprinkling the love charm into Titania's eyes so that when she awakens she is entranced by Bottom, complete with ass's head, and danced with panache by Blaine Hoven.
John Banville and Michael Miller discuss Love in the Wars, his free English adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist's play, Penthesilea, with a digression about the rest of Mr. Banville's work, before returning to the play, which will receive its world premiere at Bard College Summerscape. Kleist's theatrical ambition was to fuse Greek tragedy with Shakespearean "burlesque." The work shows his pessimistic world view spiced with black Prussian humor.
Sacrilege! Impertinence! Brigadoon, that beloved 1947 Golden Age musical about a Scottish town that awakens only once a century, has been rewritten! Ignoring silent protests and fears of Brigadoon fans everywhere, the Goodman Theatre of Chicago is presenting a new production with a new book. Hold on to your bagpipes—they made it even better.
The Montreal Chamber Music Festival offers an irresistable combination of weekend jazz with weekday classical concerts. Within this the Festival organizers, principally the founder and director, Denis Brott, a professor at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, construct the programs around a few themes, including lunchtime Bach concerts, great Canadian pianists, and the Israel Connection, which brings young Israeli musicians to Montreal. For logistical reasons, I had to concentrate on the classics and the latter two categories. For me it was time for Beethoven and Schubert, and I was also attracted by the participation of a brilliant young violinist, Giora Schmidt,
For a city that hasn’t seemed very welcoming to opera, Boston has had a lot of opera going on lately. Since Opera Boston closed on January 1, 2012, there’s been only one major opera company left, the Boston Lyric. But last fall, Gil Rose, former music director of Opera Boston, returned as the head of an important new company, Odyssey Opera, leading a rare performance in concert of Wagner’s first opera, the epic Rienzi. It was a critical success, and now, at the intimate BU Theatre, Odyssey has let its other shoe drop with two programs of fully staged smaller-scale but equally unusual repertoire: Verdi’s second opera, Un giorno di regno (King for a Day), the first of his only two comedies and one of the biggest flops of his entire career; and a double bill of Mascagni’s even rarer “lyric scene,” Zanetto, last seen in Boston in 1902, when Mascagni himself brought it on an American tour (and was thrown into the Charles Street jail for not paying his company), and Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s 1910 farce, Il segreto di Susanna (Susanna’s “secret” being her unladylike addiction to cigarettes).