Magazine article Opera Canada

Glimmerglass Opera

Magazine article Opera Canada

Glimmerglass Opera

Article excerpt

Young American stage director Chas Rader-Shieber has an uncanny ability to render static, over-long Handel operas palatable for modern consumption, and his Glimmerglass Opera production of Orlando was utterly charming. Despite the fact that the Glimmerglass Orchestra was not up to the period finesse of Bernard Labadie's own Les Violons du Roy, the Canadian conductor managed to produce an expressive, intelligent and dramatic reading of the score.

Rader-Shieber's magical approach was masterfully rendered by designer David Zinn, and lit imaginatively by Lenore Doxsee. Because the opera revolves around people wounded by love, Rader-Shieber created a hospital in an enchanted arbor whose bed-ridden victims were pierced by Cupid's arrows. Both the beautiful woods and costumes mirrored the most gracious aspects of 18thcentury aesthetics.

The sensational counter-tenor Bejun Mehta (Orlando) may have had a wild pitch at times, but his thrilling, ringing top, blistering coloratura speed and gorgeous clarity of sound confirmed his growing superstardom. While male soprano Michael Maniaci's voice is not as strong, nonetheless his attractive Medoro was warm and creamy in tone. Excellent bass David Pittsinger (Zoroastro) sang with manly, robust command and his stage presence had great charisma. Soprano Joyce Guyer (Anjelica) has a pretty, fluid voice that suited the role, but while Christine Brandes' Dorinda sings up a storm, the soprano was almost too heavy and dark in sound to fit comfortably in the Baroque period.

Not only has director Christopher Alden single-handedly Americanized the concept of Eurotrash, he keeps getting more vulgar and silly. An Alden production increasingly means watching the stage as if hypnotized by a cobra: what is happening is horrendous, but you can't take your eyes away. Alden's new rendering of Offenbach's Bluebeard was set in the lobby of a cheap hotel. Bluebeard was a preppy serial killer who emulates the Texas chainsaw massacre to get rid of his wives. His hit man, Popolani, was a schizophrenic psychopath. King Bobeche was a Mafia don with a nymphomaniac wife and clueless daughter, while the latter's fiance, Prince Saphir, was a spaced-out, brain-dead dude. The only sane character was Bobeche's minister, Count Oscar. Alden tried to make Charles Kondek's acclaimed English translation into something hip and failed miserably.

However, the production was one of the best conducted and sting of this year's four Glimmerglass operas. …

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