Opera

Feb. 5 Syracuse Opera: La Bohème

Danielle Pastin (standing) and Casey Finnigan star as Mimi and Rodolfo in the 2016 Syracuse Opera production of Puccini'd "La Boheme"

Syracuse Opera presents a well staged but vocally unspectacular ‘La Bohème’

The set, save for some ineffective props, looks good — but the production lacks the necessary chemistry between Mimi and Rodolfo

By David Abrams

I’m not sure what caused the fire alarms to sound at the Crouse-Hinds Theater shortly before the final act of the Syracuse Opera production of La Bohème. But it was easy to rule out what little sparks had been flying between the two principal characters up to that point…

Nov. 21 LA Opera: Norma

Angela Meade (center) in the title role of LA Opera's production of Bellini's "Norma" (photo: Ken Howard)

LA Opera’s ‘Norma’ delights with superlative vocal efforts, insightful staging

Angela Meade, as the iconic Druid priestess, conquers Los Angeles

By James Sohre

If you were to take all the sopranos in our collective memory who conquered the Everest role of Norma and pooled all their strengths with none of the weaknesses, the result may come close to Angela Meade’s towering performance at Los Angeles Opera…

Nov. 6 Syracuse Opera: Glory Denied

Cast of Syracuse Opera's production of "Glory Denied" (from left: Ashly Neumann as the younger Alyce; Kevin Newell as the younger Thompson; Jennifer Goode Cooper as the older Alyce and Gregory Gerbrandt as the older Thompson

Acting, singing, staging ignite in Syracuse Opera’s ‘Glory Denied’

The company mounts a riveting production of Tom Cipullo’s opera about America’s longest-held POW

By David Abrams

From 1964 through his release from North Vietnam in 1973, Colonel Jim Thompson held the unfortunate distinction of being America’s longest-held prisoner of war. Upon release he returned home to a country, and marriage, that was largely unrecognizable from what he had left nine years earlier…

Oct. 17 Met simulcast: Otello

Aleksandrs Antonenko as Otello and Sonya Yoncheva as Desdemona in the Met production of Verdi's "Otello" (phpto: Ken Howard)

The Met delivers a colorblind ‘Otello’ whose Moor is as white as Desdemona 



Should dramatic integrity in Shakespeare be compromised in the name of “political correctness?”



By David Abrams

Opera audiences have long grown accustomed to colorblindness in the casting of principal roles, content to sacrifice some degree of dramatic credibility in order to experience a diversity of singing actors…

Sep. 23 SF Opera: Sweeney Todd

Brian Mulligan (top) as Sweeney Todd and Wayne Tigges as Judge Turpin in Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" (photo: Cory Weaver)

Amplification problems aside, SF Opera’s ‘Sweeney Todd’ a bloody good show

Stephanie Blythe’s role as Mrs. Lovett was a triumph — eclipsing all others and recalling the great Angela Lansbury

By James Sohre
Contributing writer

It is hard to argue with the boisterous, enthusiastic reception given San Francisco Opera’s Sweeney Todd. But let me try…

Sep. 22 SF Opera: Luisa Miller

Soprano Leah Crocetto as Luisa Miller and members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in Verdi's "Luisa Miller" (photo: Cory Weaver)

Rare Verdi, well done: SF Opera stages ‘Louisa Miller’

The singing was good all around, but the set was largely disappointing

By James Sohre
Contributing writer

Luisa Miller lurks in the shadows of Verdi’s major accomplishments.

Periodically the piece shows up in a successful reading such as this one at San Francisco Opera and makes us wonder why this engaging music doesn’t gain wider acceptance…

Aug. 17 Santa Fe Opera: Cold Mountain

Deborah Nansteel (left, standing) as Lucinda, and Nathan Gunn (far right) as Inman in Santa Fe Opera's premiere production of "Cold Mountain" (photo by Ken Howard)

Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere of ‘Cold Mountain’ a treasure

Jennifer Higdon, in her first operatic effort, delivers Charles Frazier’s Civil War tale in a bright and original voice

By James Sohre
Contributing writer

Long a champion of new works, the venerable Santa Fe Opera has scored a resounding success with the world premiere of Cold Mountain.

Librettist Gene Scheer has transformed Charles Frazier’s novel into a riveting, richly detailed lyric drama that remains faithful to the author’s important plot points and themes, while composer Jennifer Higdon provides a restless score of pulsating confrontations, ever shifting musical moods, and almost unerring musical commentary and emotional support…

Aug. 2 Glimmerglass: The Magic Flute

Sean Panikkar plays Prince Tamino in The 2015 Glimmerglass Festival production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," sung in English (photo: Karli Cadel)

Glimmerglass’s ‘The Magic Flute’ a muddled journey with no clear sense of direction

Madeline Sayet, directing her first-ever opera production, misses a golden opportunity to take the celebrated singspiel in a daring new direction

By David Rubin

Mozart’s The Magic Flute is a major challenge for even experienced directors. While the music is sublime, the story is a puzzle that few have solved satisfactorily…

July 22 Cazenovia Counterpoint: Strawberry Fields

A view of the John Lennon shrine in New York's Central Park the setting for Michael Torke's one-act opera, "Strawberry Fields"

‘Strawberry Fields’ adds a touch of Central Park, and John Lennon’s imagination, to Cazenovia

Torke’s one-act opera, the centerpiece of Wednesday’s Society For New Music’s Cazenovia Counterpoint program, draws a capacity crowd

By David Abrams

Cazenovia turned into Central Park Wednesday evening, if only briefly, as the Society For New Music mounted Michael Torke’s one-act opera Strawberry Fields to the delight of a packed-house audience at Cazenovia College’s historic opera house, the Catherine Cummings Theater.

Strawberry Fields is the name of the 2.5-acre “shrine” in New York’s Central Park that serves as a memorial to Beatles’ songwriter-guitarist (and peace activist), John Lennon. At the center of the shrine lay a magnificent mosaic with the word “IMAGINE” radiating from its center…

July 18 Glimmerglass: Cato in Utica

John Holiday as Caesar in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2015 production of Vivaldi's "Cato in Utica" (photo: Dory Schultz)

Glimmerglass Festival’s ‘Cato in Utica’ hails Caesar — and John Holiday’s magnificent countertenor

But the handsomely staged U.S. premiere of Vivaldi’s opera seria, though interesting, pales in comparison with Handel’s operas

By David Abrams

The Glimmerglass Festival presented the long awaited U.S. premier of Vivaldi’s “lost” opera Cato in Utica Saturday to an enthusiastic audience that left little doubt as to which singer was the most noble Roman of them all…

July 11 Glimmerglass: Macbeth

Eric Owens as Macbeth and Melody Moore as Lady Macbeth in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2015 production of "Macbeth" (photo: Karli Cadel)

Glimmerglass Festival’s ‘Macbeth’ a vocal triumph fit for a king

Eric Owens roars and Melody Moore soars in the company’s first-ever production of the Verdi masterpiece

By David Abrams

Shakespeare’s Macbeth may have murdered his way to the throne, but in the new Glimmerglass production of Verdi’s operatic adaptation of the tragedy Eric Owens appears to get there on the sheer power of his colossal bass-baritone…

July 1 SF Opera: Les Troyens

The Trojan Horse in the San Francisco Opera production of "Les Troyens" (photo: Cory Weaver)

SF Opera’s ‘Les Troyens’ a vocal and visual tour de force

Looking a gift horse in the mouth has never revealed so much

By James Sohre
Contributing writer

From the moment Donald Runnicles gave the downbeat at San Francisco Opera’s Les Troyens, I knew I was in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience…