David covers fine arts and opera. He was a staff writer for the Saint Louis Post Dispatch and before that the San Francisco Examiner and Boston Phoenix. Now retired he has returned to Boston
Weill and Brecht Classic Full of Jaunty Songs but Hard to StageBy: - Mar 19th, 2018
"The Threepenny Opera" needs to be done with color and verve if it is to speak to today's audiences. The BLO's production was all too beige. Director James Darrah soft-pedaled the politics at the heart of the work, which left it a corpse with some not-so-pretty songs attached.
Three Modernist Works Investigate MythsBy: - Mar 07th, 2018
Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex" is a bizarre hybrid, an opera-oratorio set to a text by Jean Cocteau. Emmanuel Music paired it with two works about Orpheus, another denizen of the land of the Green myths. In their works, both Matthew Aucoin and John Harrison, composers with local connections, showed their debt to Stravinsky.
Reprised by Boston Early Music FestivalBy: - Dec 05th, 2017
The 19 year old Handel inherited this ridiculous opera libretto when the composer assigned it abruptly left town. Ambitious to get out of Hamburg himself, he gave it better than it deserved, writing some gorgeous arias for his dueling pair of sopranos. A superb cast and expert orchestral playing made the opera a hit for the Boston Early Music Festival.
Fine Cast but a Misguided ProductionBy: - Oct 20th, 2017
Puccini's "Tosca" remains one of the most popular operas in the world 117 years after its debut. Today with its portrait of fascist tyrants taking women forcibly for their own pleasure, it has renewed relevance. In her American debut Russian soprano Elena Stikhina made the role her own.
Italian-born Composer Worked in GermanyBy: - Oct 12th, 2017
Agostino Steffani (1653-1728) was important in his day, serving as a priest and diplomat as well as a composer, but he was forgotten after his death. The BEMF has devoted much of its attention to resuscitating his vocal works over the past 6 years. Its most recent research led to an enchanting concert of vocal duets, featuring local favorite Amanda Forsythe and colleagues from around the world.
Comedy Based on Book of Revelations Nothing to Laugh OverBy: - Oct 03rd, 2017
Cerise Lim Jacobs, whose "Ouroboros Trilogy" was so engaging last season returns with "Rev. 23," subtitled "A Farcial Hellish Opera!" that was less successful both thematically and musically. Is end-times and rebirth an appropriate subject for farce? The production was good to look at and the music-making was fine, but still.....
Performers from Italy and France to Slovakia and MexicoBy: - Jul 03rd, 2017
With its own produced concerts and 18 sponsored groups, the BEMF programs music from 9:30 a.m. to midnight, which only the most intrepid music lovers can attend. Your reporter made it to nine, including both operas, in seven days. With the theme of "carnival," there was a lot of outside-the-law music, including some salacious texts, to consider.
19th Biennial Festival's Two Operas and 18 ConcertsBy: - Jun 25th, 2017
The early music world comes to Boston every two years for the BEMF. This year its centerpiece opera was Andre Campra's "Le Carnaval de Venise," an opera-ballet, in its American premiere. It also reprised a hilarious pair of intermezzi, one of them the popular "La serva padrona," by Giovanni Pergolesi and Handel's Roman period oratorio "La Resurrezione." A good time was had by all.
Festival Theme is Carnival After CampraBy: - Jun 03rd, 2017
Campra's "Le Carnaval de Venise" sets the theme, but the weeklong festival ranges far and wide, from Mexico to Germany to Rome, Florence as well as Venice. Pergolesi's "La serva padrona"will feature local favorite Amanda Forsythe, and the BEMF orchestra will play Handel's "La Resurrezione." Something for everyone - everyone who loves early music that is.
Esotreric Opera Exhumed by Boston's Russian EmigresBy: - May 22nd, 2017
Anton Rubinstein was a powerful cultural figure in 19th century St. Petersburg, but his music, especially his operas, have fallen out of the repertory. Commonwealth Lyric Theater, which specializes in underrepresented Russian and Slavic opera has brought Rubinstein's masterpiece, the opera fantastique, "The Demon" to Boston audiences.
Young Cast DeliversBy: - May 06th, 2017
As the final opera in its 40th anniversary season, the BLO ended on an exuberant note. The Mozart classic was transposed from the 18th century Vienna suburbs to a villa in 1950s Italy, allowing a range of chic retro fashions to take stage center. But the young singers, all in fine voice, did not let the costumes upstage them. This might not have been a profound "Figaro," but it was fun, which might be just what Mozart and da Ponte wanted.
Handel's Greatest Opera a Real ChallengeBy: - Apr 27th, 2017
Boston Baroque's "Giulio Cesare" marked the role debut of soprano Susanna Phillips as Cleopatra in this tale of love and war with Cleopatra and Julius Caesar its central protagonists. Full of ravishing arias and ensembles, the opera is almost an embarrassment of riches. Boston Baroque did it justice if not in the elusive definitive production it deserves.
The Boston Lyric Opera Production is Stylish and SexyBy: - Mar 22nd, 2017
The morality play, inspired by Hogarth, was turned into an overlong, prolix opera by Stravinsky and his collaborators W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman. An attractive young cast does its best but can barely bring this dud to life. Special shout-outs to set and costume designers who made the production hip and racy.
Influence of Venetian Dance Music on EuropeBy: - Feb 13th, 2017
With more than 230 CDs and a rigorous touring schedule, Jordi Savall's "Hesperion XXI" is one of early music's most popular groups, sure to fill concert halls all over the world, especially in Boston a hotbed of the broad field of "early" music. In recent years, Savall has been focused on how music is transmitted between cultures over time, and this lively concert surveyed how Venetian dance music influenced music in France, Germany, England and Spain.
Demonstrated How to Give a Song RecitalBy: - Feb 08th, 2017
Young American soprano, Susanna Phillips, has what it takes - a beautiful voice, a charming manner and a fierce intelligence. Her Celebrity Series concert, "Women's Lives and Loves," traced the female condition through song. It could serve as a seminar in how to build a vocal recital.
Pastiche Composed for Apartments of Louis XIVBy: - Dec 02nd, 2016
Louis XIV was a great arts patron, but like most powerful men, he liked to be flattered. The two divertissements revived by the BEMF are sycophantic but charming to listen to and see. As usual, the BEMF forces excelled in a highly stylized production.
Retelling of Oedipus Rex OK's IncestBy: - Nov 23rd, 2016
Mark-Anthony Turnage created the kind of scandal the arts love when in 1988 he premiered his first opera "Greek." A punkish provocation, it set the hoary myth of Oedipus, he who killed his father and married his mother, in a declining Thatcherite Britain. In choosing it, the BLO, in a dynamic production, asks whether it is still relevant.
British Composer Begins Three Year Partnership with BSOBy: - Nov 11th, 2016
Young (45 years old) hotshot Thomas Ades is a triple threat: composer, conductor and pianist. In his first outing with the BSO as artistic partner he showcased each of those skills. The results were mostly good. Among the highlights was the local premiere of his "Totentanz," a major work by any standard.
Hungarian Rarity a Perfect Halloween OperaBy: - Nov 03rd, 2016
Bela Bartok is known for his folklore inspired spiky modernism, which he applied distinctively to orchestral and chamber works. "Bluebeard" is his only opera, and it is an awkward undramatic outlier in the repertory. Its lushly beautiful music, however, is a powerful reason why it is revived on occasion. The BSO under Charles Dutoit did it proud.
Renee Fleming Sings Her Most Sympathetic Role with Susan GrahamBy: - Oct 03rd, 2016
Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier" is a model of passionate communication via music. The story of the Marschallin who hands over her young lover Octavian to a girl his own age drips with fin-de-siecle melancholy. The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Richard Strauss’s beloved comedy “Der Rosenkavalier” was as close to perfection as I have heard.
Controversial Production Lives Up to ExpectationsBy: - Sep 29th, 2016
Calixto Bieito restores the sexuality long-missing to "Carmen" - but it is the guys, the half-naked soldiers in Spain's North Africa outpost, who are hot. His Carmen is a cool existentialist, half in love with easeful death. Her murder by a spurned lover on an empty stage outside the bullring could have been staged by Samuel Beckett. This is a controversial production for the expanded Boston Lyric Opera.
Three Operas on Ancient Myths by Brookline LibrettistBy: - Sep 12th, 2016
Cerise Lim Jacobs had a dream: to create three operas incorporating myths from the ancient world, using the Ouroboros, the snake that consumes its own tail in order to be reborn, as a recurring motif. The three works were produced together and they turned out to be engaging, even moving, with music that didn't pander to the audience while also not leaving it out. We'd love to hear it, at least "Madame White Snake" again.
Kristine Opolais Sang Tatiana's Letter Scene from Eugene OneginBy: - Apr 25th, 2016
The BSO seems to love working with its new music director Andris Nelsons, who was ending his second season with this concert, which, BTW, featured his glamorous wife, Kristine Opolais, as the soprano soloist. In addition to the Tchaikovsky, the program included Debussy's "La Mer," Ravel's "La Valse" and Dutilleux's "Metaboles."
Production Brought Out Its beautyBy: - Apr 19th, 2016
Boston Baroque strayed from its central focus on Baroque music to play Mozart's eternally popular "The Magic Flute." I don't like its quasi-religiosity, but Mozart's music proves irresistible. Martin Pearlman played his Baroque band with style, and the vocal cast was (mostly) excellent.
Neo-Romantic masterpiece gets second outing in 30 yearsBy: - Apr 08th, 2016
Back in the '70s, David Del Tredici was the hottest composer in town. Then he and the movement he led, neo-Romanticism, faded from view. His obsessive, rapturous works based on Lewis Carroll's "Alice" deserve to be heard. Gil Rose and his Boston Modern Orchestra Project obliges. The result - two and a half hours of lush music - was largely satisfactory. We want to hear more.