Opera Chic: Top 5 operas to see this spring
The average opera house’s season has a life span of about eight months, with spring marking the remainder of the annual programming. Most houses will then wind down and prepare to more or less close shop during the summer. (After that, it’s summer festival offerings.) Here, Opera Chic’s picks of the top five productions that will be in American and European opera houses from now to the beginning of summer.
1. Los Angeles Opera presents Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen
After a quarter-century of existence, the Los Angeles Opera is presenting their first complete Wagner Ring cycle, a huge task for any opera house to wedge into their season between lighter Italian and French repertory. Beginning in May, the cycle will be conducted by L.A. Opera Music Director, James Conlon, with production design by Achim Freyer. Going to town on his $32 million dollar budget, Freyer turned Wagner’s iconic characters into light-saber wielding heroes (some with giant puppet heads) who traverse a Tron-inspired universe, which greatly helps the four operas fly by at a breakneck speeds: a full Ring cycle (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung) usually takes place over the span of four evenings, adding up to about 15 hours.
2. Palermo’s Teatro Massimo presents Franz Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten
Austrian composer Franz Schreker’s best known work, Die Gezeichneten (The Stigmatized) gets a new production for Italy’s biggest opera theater, Sicily’s Teatro Massimo. Opening on April 14, the late-romantic tragedy comes from British opera director, Graham Vick, Artistic Director and founder of the delightfully progressive Birmingham Opera Company (England—not Alabama). Vick’s trail-blazed through the world’s biggest opera houses with his unpredictable, innovative, and satirical productions that pull down the pants of your parents’ traditional operas. He’ll give your favorite opera a wedgie.
3. Fort Worth Opera presents Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls
Everything’s better in Texas, especially an opera spin-off of Reinaldo Arenas’s autobiography Before Night Falls. The late Cuban writer was also inspiration for Julian Schnabel’s 2000 film of the same name, starring that sexy slice of Serrano ham, Javier Bardem. The new opera was composed by Cuban-American composer Jorge Martín and was written by close friend of Arenas, Dolores M. Koch. Baritone cutie Wes Mason (above) sings the lead in Fort Worth Opera’s 2010 Festival world premiere in May.
4. Salzburg’s Whitsun Festival presents Mozart’s Betulia liberata
Every spring, the quaint and very Austrian town of Salzburg hosts the Whitsun Festival (Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele). Under Neapolitan maestro Riccardo Muti’s baton, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s seldom-heard oratorio “Betulia liberate” opens the late May festival. Written when the Austrian composer was only 15, teenage Wolfgang’s gorgeously clean work narrates the creepily-sexy biblical beheading tale of Judith vs. Holofernes. It’s guaranteed to inspire salaciously gory post-concert conversation in one of Salzburg’s beer halls.
5. Royal Opera House presents Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment
Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez (above) is at it again, belting out those vocal-chord-defying high C’s for the Brits, as London’s Royal Opera House hosts (again) the iconic Laurent Pelly production of Donizetti’s French-libretto opéra comique, La Fille du Régiment. Flórez’s lightweight, flexible, high tenor (also called tenore di grazia) voice easily swings it out of the ballpark with an effortless bravado in Tonio’s famous aria, “Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!” Late May will find Flórez at Covent Garden opposite French Soprano Natalie Dessay as his character’s love interest, Marie. If that doesn’t do it, Dawn French (of “French and Saunders” fame) takes a hilarious cameo as La Duchesse de Crackentorp.