David Stern conducted the orchestra of about 35 players and the 24-voice chorus. He brought admirable restraint to Puccini’s score, which was no small feat under the circumstances, with his forces distanced and wearing masks, except when the choristers and wind players removed them to perform. The production was amplified, with excellent sound design by Paul Bevan.
To experience Die Zauberflöte in a windblown matinee on February 21 was a joy. Mozart’s final opera lends itself to more of a stand-and-deliver approach than the naturalistic La Bohème, but Robinson still staged a lively affair, organized around sets of blue and yellow cubes. Starry singers abounded, including Polenzani as Tamino, Janai Brugger as Pamina, Joshua Hopkins as Papageno, Kathryn Lewek as the Queen of the Night, Peixin Chen as Sarastro, and Green as the Speaker. And plaudits to the Three Ladies (Shannon Jennings, Jenny Anne Flory, Jennifer Johnson Cano) and the Three Spirits (Emily Helenbrook, SarahAnn Duffy, Megan Callahan). Stern, an excellent Mozartian, conducted.
Because the libretto is such a sprawling, muddled concoction, a certain ennui is unavoidable at times in Die Zauberflöte, but the endlessly inventive score always saves the day. Standouts included Lewek in the Queen of the Night’s supersonic arias (competing quite successfully with the sound of a jet coming in to land at nearby Palm Beach International Airport), Hopkins’s swaggering Papageno, and Chen’s stately account of Sarastro’s hymn to Masonic lore. What will stay with me the longest is the heart-stopping simplicity of Pamina’s aria ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’. Brugger’s expression of loss and grief was the perfect, mournful reflection of the pandemic.
Each of the festival’s three operas was performed twice in repertory. Pagliacci, conducted by Patrick Summers, featured Ana María Martínez, Robert Watson and Michael Chioldi. john fleming
Adriana Lecouvreur https://www.raiplay.it/programmi/adrianalecouvreurteatrocomunaledibologna This Adriana Lecouvreur won’t get the voice-fanciers swooning, but its take on Cilea’s perfumed opera is persuasive—aptly sincere and aptly artful. Bologna’s Teatro Comunale is the setting for a production by Rosetta Cucchi, in collaboration with the TV director Arnalda Canali, which has been very much conceived for the screen. Both stage and auditorium are used as performing spaces and the camerawork is lively, fluid and immersive.
Each of the four acts is set in a different era: 1730; 1860; the 1920s and 1970 or so. Cucchi’s intention is to evoke other sirens of stage and screen, such as Sarah Bernhardt, Yvonne Printemps, Loie Fuller and Catherine Deneuve—though at times Kristīne Opolais in the title role looks strikingly like Jane Fonda. In practice this concept is less contrived than it might sound, partly because the work itself, setting Adriana’s candour and generosity against the artifice around her, consciously blurs the lines between life and theatrical art. Somehow the production also succeeds in retaining enough objectivity on the material to avoid slipping into high camp. Act 4, which can sometimes
Opera, May 2021