Opera Appreciation

A chance to view a full range of operas, (including those not normally available locally) from the best opera houses around the world.
All are Welcome. If you are not already a member of the group, come along anyway to see and hear what you are missing.

Scout & Guide HQ
3rd Wednesday of the month
1.15 pm for 1.30 pm prompt start
  • Leader: Michael Lomax - 01695 573411
  • Coordinators:
    • Shelagh Weston - 0151 548 1469
    • Beverley & Iris Kelly - 01704 872412

The prompt and early start allows us to show full performance of the longer operas. These are shown on the large-screen TV with a great picture and sound.

A synopsis and information about each opera is provided and is also included as a link below

£1 including tea/coffee and a biscuit.

Next Opera’s

September 19th; Verdi – Il Trovatore

October 17th; Puccini – Tosca

November 21st; Handel – Julius Caesar

December 19th; Gershwin; Porgy and Bess

for details see below ( as they are added each month)


September 19th 2018 at 1:30pm
Il Trovaore – Verdi

Il TrovatoreThis 1978 performance of Il Trovatore from Vienna is a definitive performance of Verdi’s war opera, under the stern direction of Herbert von Karajan.

Placído Domingo is at the height of his powers here, singing the title role with power and passion, his dark-tinted tenor ideally suited and still capable of the vocal leaps and bounds required by some of Verdi’s most challenging music. His Manrico is a mix of neurosis and sex appeal whose death in the fourth act leaves the viewer feeling hollow. It should say something about his performance that his “Di quella pira” rings down the curtain on Act III with so much gusto and energy that the aria feels like the climactic finish of the opera. You almost forget that there’s a fourth act to come…..more here

Verdi’s Il trovatore is probably best known for its ‘gypsy’ music: the Anvil Chorus, Azucena’s ‘Stride la vampa’ and Manrico’s heroic ‘Di quella pira’ are key examples. But Verdi wrote wonderful music for all four of his leads and the score boasts a host of thrilling ensembles and chorus numbers including the Count’s aristocratic aria ‘Il balen del suo sorriso’ and Leonora’s prayer

Synopsis: Click here.


August 15th 2018 at 1:30pm

Andrea Chnier – Giordano

Giordano’s Andrea Chenier is one of the greatest of verismo operas, full of heart-stopping big tunes and powerful emotional situations. If it is not as well-known as it should be, it is because in summary it sounds a little too like Puccini’s Tosca: there is a tussle between political opponents over a woman, an attempt to save a condemned man, a tenor aria about writing poetry on the eve of execution. The difference is that Gerard (Giorgio Zancanaro) is not a villain like Scarpia, he is an idealist whom the French Revolution has betrayed as much as it has his rival the poet Chenier (Placido Domingo). His temptation to abuse his power to seduce the virtuous Maddalena (Anna Tomowa-Sintow) is a momentary one, though its consequences are terrible. There is a streak of post-Wagnerian decadence in much of this–Maddalena is at least as much in love with death as she is with Chenier, and the final love duet has a deeply sinister aspect.

Domingo is at his best in this Covent Garden Opera House performance from 1985; at once ardent and serious-minded, we believe in his Chenier as a poet and political figure. Conductor Julius Rudel gives the rich score all the weight and lyricism it demands and the Covent Garden chorus is at its occasional best in the scenes of revolutionary excess.

Synopsis: click here


July 18th 2018 at 1:30pm

The Turn of the Screw – Britten

If you have the misfortune to be born into an operatic family you can expect to be murdered by your own mother (Médée, Lucrezia Borgia), killed by your grandmother (Jenufa), or even bumped off by a hitman hired by your father (Rigoletto).

Perhaps most insidious, however, are the crimes not of violence but of absence, neglect rather than active cruelty. Productions of Verdi’s I due Foscari and Britten’s The Turn of the Screw whispered some of the darkest unspokens of parent-child relations, conjuring nightmares all the more potent for their subtle horrors.

Britten’s ‘curious story’ of a governess caring for two orphaned children in a remote house is a miracle of taut construction. Running at less than two hours, with a cast of six and an orchestra of just 13, its slender precision mirrors Henry James’s original. But Britten’s musical narrative has a built-in device denied to the prose-bound James. Constructed around a single theme, the work unfolds in 15 variations, each ‘turning the screw’ just a little tighter on this single idée fixe. In Jonathan Kent’s endlessly inventive production for Glyndebourne (originally seen in 2006), these variations go from musical transitions to the dramatic engine driving this domestic tragedy to its terrible conclusion.

The cosy 1950s naturalism of Paul Brown’s set is framed by a double, circular revolve. Almost perpetually in motion, propelling beds and baths, children and their ghostly doubles into and out of view, it suggests unseen agency. At its centre is a giant glass panel which twists and shifts with each changing scene. Endlessly reinventing itself, first greenhouse, now French windows, then frozen lake, it remains always a membrane — increasingly and terrifyingly porous — between two worlds. Whether these are worlds of sanity and madness or safety and danger remains deliberately unclear as they merge and bleed into one another, echoing the governess’s own question: ‘Is this sheltered place the wicked world, where things unspoken of can be?’

Scene from Glyndebourne Tour’s Turn of the Screw. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Elegant though Kent’s production is, Britten’s opera stands or falls with its cast. Achieving a rare natural chemistry, the children — Flora (Louise Moseley) and Miles (Thomas Delgado-Little) — dominate. So familiar, so instinctive is their play that it loads the dice even more heavily than usual against the governess (Natalya Romaniw) and her suspicions. A brilliant coup de théâtre finds them playing in the dirt of a fresh grave, ripping petals from a wreath — horrors of the sweetest, most innocent kind imaginable.

If all eyes are on the children, all ears are on the adults of the cast. Anthony Gregory’s Quint is exquisitely sung, his villain all the more disturbing for his vocal beauty. He’s paired with an explosive Miss Jessel (Miranda Keys), whose vocal dramatics contrast with Romaniw’s matter-of-fact delivery — only hinting at hysteria in the very final moments — and an unusually robust Mrs Grose from Anne Mason.

On careful inspection, film footage used in the Prologue reveals itself shot in Glyndebourne’s own gardens. We may watch Bly’s tragedy from the safety of the audience, but shouldn’t kid ourselves that we’re safe from its horrors. It’s the final and cruellest twist for a Screw that’s tightly wound indeed.

Synopsis: click here


June 20th 2018 at 1:30pm

Il Barbiere Di Siviglia – Rossini

Many operas around the world cover on the subjects of love, sorrow, and death, that is to say, they are tragic dramas. If you are not good at such negative stories, I recommend you see this opera-“The Barber of Seville.” I’m sure we will burst into laughter many times, because there are some comical points in this opera. You should especially pay attention to the dialogue between Bartolo and Almaviva. Almaviva disguises himself as Bartolo’s right hand man in Act 2. The audience frequently burst into laughter.

Gioachino Rossini who composed this opera is a musical genius. The overture of this opera is very famous. And Rossini’s melodies are bright and smooth, so the opera’s story flows freely. Do you know the “Rossini Crescendo”? This is Rossini’s unique method of composition to increase sound volume gradually in steps. The Rossini Crescendo probably excites both orchestra and audience at the same time.

Synopsis: click here



March 21st 2018 at 1:30pm

Idomeneo – Mozart

Opera in three acts, Libretto by Giovanni Battista Varesco
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Returning home from the Trojan Wars during a storm, Idomeneo, the king of Crete, vows to sacrifice to Neptune (the Greek god Poseidon) the first living creature he meets ashore in return for his own safety. The first person he sees turns out to be his own son Idamante, and Idomeneo attempts to escape from fulfilling his vow. Idamante, meanwhile, is loved by orphaned prisoner Ilia and by the jealous Electra. Who will be sacrificed, and who will stay with Idamante?

Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Conductor James Levine
Chorus Daniel Palumbo

Synopsis; Click here


April 18th 2018 at 1:30pm

Cav & Pag


January 17th 2018 at 1:30pm

Aida – Verdi

Aida at the Met 2009

This high-definition broadcast of the Met’s sumptuous Sonja Frisell-Gianni Quaranta production brings Verdi’s beloved opera to breathtaking life. The spectacular sets and costumes, the thrilling triumphal scene, and the newly created choreography by Alexei Ratmansky all frame Verdi’s poignant story of impossible love in an incandescent way. Violeta Urmana is the slave girl of the title who loves the warrior Radamès (Johan Botha). Dolora Zajick sings Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter and Aida’s rival for Radamès’s affection. The love triangle ends in treason, imprisonment, and death.

Synopsis; click here

Time 2hr 47m


February 21st 2018 at 1:30pm

Daughter of the Regiment Donizetti

Marie was found on a battlefield as a baby and adopted by a regiment of soldiers. When she falls for Tonio – a civilian – she faces a choice between love and her adopted family.

Pelly’s production fizzes with exuberant humour. It features wonderfully inventive sets: large maps evoke the mountains of Tyrol, the regiment’s camp drowns in laundry and an armoured tank bursts into a drawing room. Gaetano Donizetti’s score weaves robust, military melodies with moments of pathos. Musical highlights include the bravura tenor aria ‘Pour mon âme’, with its vertical leaps to a succession of high Cs, and the delightful duet ‘Quoi? vous m’aimez!’ in which Tonio expresses his love for Marie.

Dessay, Florez

Synopsis; click here

Time 2hr 12m



20th December 2017 at 1:30pm

La Traviata – Verdi

Ileana Cotrubas is stunning as Violetta, the glamorous courtesan who gives up everything for love. Her portrayal is filled with countless little touches that make even the most familiar role seem totally new, and audiences suffered with her plight, and wept at her death.

Plácido Domingo’s golden, seductive voice would make any woman want to run away with him, and Cornell MacNeil is his stern but understanding father.

James Levine’s nuanced conducting is sublime.

Time 2hrs 30m

Synopsis: Click to download


Die Meistersingers von Nϋrnberg – Wagner

From Glyndbourne Opera House

One of the world’s oldest and most celebrated opera festivals, running through the summer months in a magnificent modern theatre situated in the grounds of a country house. This isn’t simply a fluffily glamorous summer beano for the idle wealthy, but one of the world’s great opera houses, boasting unfailingly high musical and production standards that are a byword among the cognoscenti.


The impoverished Franconian knight Walther von Stolzing has come to Nuremberg to dispose of his lands with the aid of the wealthy goldsmith Veit Pogner. He has fallen instantly in love with Pogner’s beautiful daughter, Eva, and followed her this morning to church. As the congregation sing a final hymn and file out, he seizes his chance to talk with her alone…………..

‘Meistersinger is the best-liked Wagner opera, not such a monster as The Ring, clearly better than the slightly ludicrous Tannhauser and Lohengrin, less holy than Parsifal, not so taxing as Tristan. So it is played a lot, and loved by not only Wagnerites, but a lot of the generality of mankind as well.

Meistersinger is the acceptable face of Wagner. There are no hang-ups with sex and sin, no power-mad dwarfs, no sprouting staves, no swans and not a holy grail in sight. Even the racial propaganda mentioned in the notes above can be played down to zero effect except for the unavoidable and disagreeable final outburst about the ethnic cleansing of the arts.

The story is simple, strong and rather slow……….

But the great glory of Meistersinger is its music.’

October 18th at 1:30pm Acts 1 & 2

2h 32m

A superb performance of this melodic comic opera performed at Glyndbourne in 2011. It has freshness, colour and movement which keeps your attention. The storyline is there throughout and easily splits into two halves enabling us to show this exciting video in successive months. We will give an intro to Act 3 to remind you of the story.

See Synopsis .

November 15th at 1:30pm Act 3 of Die Meistersingers von Nϋrnberg,

Wagner from Glyndbourne Act 3, 2h 08m

In which an elopement is frustrated and a serenade leads to an altercation which becomes a riot, our hero rehearses his bid for winning a song contest, a journeyman is promoted and an unscrupulous town clerk makes off with someone else’s poem.

An introduction will be given to remind you of the story so far.

Synopsis; of Die Meistersingers von Nϋrnberg from Glyndbourne 2011

“So it’s three hearty cheers for Meistersinger, a noble life-enhancing work which, although a long sit-down, can give you one of the happiest and most rewarding of evenings in the opera house .”


Winter 2017/2018 Programme length

Wednesday

1:30pm

Dec 20th

La Traviata – Verdi

Domingo, Levine, from the Met

2h 30m

Wednesday

1:30pm

Jan 17th

Aida – Verdi

Urmama. Gatti, from the Met

2h 47m

Wednesday

1:30pm

Feb 21st

Daughter of the Regiment Donizetti

Dessay, Florez

2h 12m

Wednesday

1:30pm

March 21st To be arranged

20th September 2017 at 1:30pm

L’Elisir D’Amore – Donizetti

Except for three passages, Nemorino in ”L’Elisir d’Amore” is nearly a perfect role for Luciano Pavarotti, who sang it at the Metropolitan Opera Friday night in the season’s first performance of the work. It doesn’t overtax the stamina or volume of his voice (both were more than ample Friday); it isn’t too high; it benefits from his lively, pointed diction, and it gives generous opportunities for both of his strongest traits as an actor – clowning and simple pathos. He mugged with relish but was almost never excessive, and he was believable and touching at the moment when poor Nemorino’s hopes topple in the first finale.

Synopsis: Click to open


16th August 2017 at 1:30pm

La Donna del Lago – Rossini

Although thought by some to be one of Rossini’s greatest Neapolitan operas La Donna del Lago is rarely performed, probably due to its demanding florid bel canto vocal writing. I side with Amazon’s staff reviewer, who says that La Scala’s glorious production is graced by some of today’s finest singers and that Riccardo Muti brilliantly emphasizes the work’s dramatic plot, beautiful melodic ideas and touches of local colour.
Set in a dark, glowering ancient Scotland in perpetual strife, battles off stage and three men vying for the love of the soprano. The singing is in this opera … well pointed by Muti. But what singing, as florid as you’ll find and better than you’re likely to encounter in another live performance.

Synopsis – Click to Open


19th July 2017

Turandot – Puccini

 

In a giant courtyard of the Forbidden City, a woman’s voice soars gloriously into the night sky.

Spotlights illuminate a 580-year-old Ming Dynasty temple where emperors once made sacrifices to their ancestors. Now hundreds of Chinese soldiers and dancers move to the music and to instructions shouted over a loudspeaker. Two ancient-looking pavilions at the front of the vermilion temple hall eerily glide toward center stage, then spew forth dozens more soldiers.


21st June 2017 at 1:30pm

Traviata – Verdi

Netrebko as Violetta

“Netrebko and Villazón . . . are young, attractive and able to convey dramatic emotions. . . . There is not a cough to be heard, nor a crinoline in sight. Yet the passion each lover feels for the other is tangible, and Violetta’s desperation unbearably acute.”

A gorgeous Anna Netrebko not only looks the part in Act 1, she also seizes the sexy essence of the fameous courtesan through sultry actions. There’s no question why man fall for this Violetta. Her conquests include Alfredo, portrayed with equal aplomp by the consummate artist Rolando Villazón. With excellent audio and superb video direction, Netrebko and Villazón’s rather magical rapport comes to the fore, and vocally the two blend superbly . . .Villazón . . . is pure gold throughout. Not content just to blow the audience away with his burnished tenor, he imparts every ounce of Alfredo’s naive and conflicting emotions without       losing the larger melodic contours. His singing is expansive and dark of timbre yet nimble.”

Netrebko · Villazón · Hampson
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wiener Philharmoniker · Carlo Rizzi
Staged by Willy Decker · Directed by Brian Large

Synopsis: click to open


Past Productions

17 May 2017 at 1:30pm

The Girl from the Golden West – Puccini

A youthful Placido Domingo makes a dashing Dick Johnson his greed turned to love on meeting Minnie. His final act aria in which he appeals to the mob not to tell Minnie that they have hanged him but rather let her believe that he has ridden away remorseful to a new life is particularly appealing.

Minnie…Carol Neblett

Dick Johnson (alias Ramirez the bandit)…Placido Domingo

Jack Rance…Silvano Carroli

Ashby…Robert Lloyd

Jack Wallace…Gwynne Howell

The Royal Opera Chorus and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Nello Santi

Recorded in the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London in 1983

NVC ARTS/WARNER 50466-8356-2-8 [140 mins]

“This is a truly inspired opera with some wonderful music that to my mind admirably evokes the wild west. A soaring performance by the 3 principals, supported admirably and with considerable charm by the supporting cast. I can’t stop watching it”

Synopsis: – Click to OPEN


15 March 2017 at 1:30pm

Othello – Verdi

A Film by Franco Zeffirelli
Otello, A film by Franco ZeffirelliFrom the rousing opening to the desperate and tender finale, this is perhaps Verdi’s most highly charged, sweeping score: a complete masterpiece. It’s a natural project for Zeffirelli, who has filmed both Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet; Taming of the Shrew) and Opera (La traviata) successfully. And he pulls out all the stops here.

His storytelling is lucid, if sometimes overstressed, with dreams and flashbacks, but led by the music.

Domingo is magnificent, the greatest Otello of his generation, no question, with Ricciarelli the most lovely and radiant Desdemona imaginable. Diaz at Iago is fine and the whole production is eye-poppingly sumptuous, as you would expect from Zeffirelli.

Actors: Plácido Domingo, Katia Ricciarelli, Justino Díaz, Petra Malakova, Urbano Barberini

Directors: Franco Zeffirelli

Writers: Franco Zeffirelli, Arrigo Boito, Masolino D’Amico, William Shakespeare

Producers: John Thompson, Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus

Synopsis: click to open


15 February 2017 at 1:30pm

Sicilian Vespers

Cover Picture Sicilian Vespers

 

Les Vêpres siciliennes is one of Verdi’s lesser-known mature operas, but was vital to his development as a composer. It was created for the Paris Opéra in 1855, providing Verdi with an opportunity to embrace the elaborate style and traditions of French grand opera.

Stefan Herheim brings Verdi’s tale of revenge, family relations and patriotism to Covent Garden for the first time. His imaginative production draws parallels between the opera and the opera house for which it was written, including a spectacular re-creation of the Paris Opéra itself. Musically, the work contains impressive choruses, passionate duets and some wonderful showpiece arias for the principal singers. Particular highlights include Procida’s aria on returning to Sicily ‘Et toi, Palerme’, the Act IV duet ‘De courroux et d’effroi’ in which Hélène expresses her sympathy for Henri’s dilemma and Hélène’s brilliant Act V boléro, ‘Merci, jeunes amis’.

Leo Nucci, Susan Dunn, Veriano Luchetti, Bonaldo Giaiotti, Gianfranco Casarini,

Conductor: Riccardo Chailly, Producer: Luca Ronconi

Synopsis:- click to open


18 January 2017 pm

Carmen

Carmen Cover Picture

Placido Domingo, Julia Migenes, Ruggero Raimondi, Faith Esham

Directors: Francesco Rosi                                        Writers: Georges Bizet

All the passion and spectacle of Bizet’s Carmen comes to life in this dazzling screen opera starring Placido Domingo and Julia Migenes-Johnson. In 19th century Seville, the lusty, tempestuous Carmen (Migenes-Johnson) seduces a naive Army corporal, Don Jose (Domingo), newly assigned to the village fortress. Jose abandons his career, his fianc‚e and even his dying mother for the love of this sultry gypsy. But soon she spurns him in favor of a toreador, Escamillo (Ruggero Raimondi). Crazed with jealousy, Jose begs Carmen to return to him, but her taunting declaration of independence results in tragedy. Shot entirely on location in Andalusia Spain, Bizet’s Carmen has been hailed as the definitive version of this classic opera.

There are a lot of famous melodies in this opera, for example, the famous prelude, “Habanera” sung by title role, Carmen, and other songs. You would never be bored by this opera, though operas generally are long. “Toreador Song” sung by Escamillo who is a bullfighter in Act 2 is outstanding, and the Aria sung by Micaela in Act 3 is lyrical and beautiful. Many first time opera-goers would enjoy seeing this opera.

Synpsis:- click to open


15 June 2016 pm

La Boheme

la-boheme-ss15-production-shots-02-325x250Puccini (113 mins) from Opera Australia

Puccini’s unforgettable tale of love, youth, and tragic loss

It’s about friendship and falling in love. It’s about sacrifice and never giving up, even if it means parting with your lover — or your favourite coat.

 

20 July 2016 pm

Sadko

SadkoRimsky-KorsakovPuccini  (174mins.)  Marinsky Theatre,  Kirov Opera Chorus, Kirov Opera Orchestra

You can really smell the sea in this opera – the simple evocation of the rocking sea that opens the opera weaves itself into every corner of the score.

The opera tells the story of Sadko, a gusli player, who leaves his wife, Lubava, and home in Novgorod and eventually returns a wealthy man.

17 August 2016 pm

Pelleas and Melisande

production imageopera by Claude Debussy (Theater an der Wien 2009) (163 Mins)

The only opera Debussy ever completed, it is considered a landmark in 20th-century music.The plot concerns a love triangle.

“This is one of the most beautiful operas of all time.
Debussy’s subtle music frames this mysterious love drama, in which the action and the words dominate. The result is a perfect matching of words, theater and music. In this opera there are no arias, the melody is in the orchestra, not in the voices, it may seem strange to those accustomed to romantic opera, but as one gets used, it’s beauty shows itself. “

21 September 2016 pm

Ariadne Auf Naxos

Richard Straus (134 mins)

Combining slapstick comedy and consummately beautiful music, the opera’s theme is the competition between high and low art for the public’s attention.

19 October 2016 pm

Il Trovatore

Il Trovatore Cover Picture

Four internationally celebrated Verdians gather on the stage of The Royal Opera for an unforgettable night of music and drama. Tenor José Cura is thrilling as the freedom-fighting troubadour of the title; seductive baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky is his nemesis Count di Lina; acclaimed soprano Verónica Vilarroel is the object of their love; and Yvonne Naef dazzles as the vengeful gypsy Azucena. Carlo Rizzi conducts, and Elijah Moshinsky’s lavish production, which updates the action to the mid-19th century, fills the stage with breathtaking fight sequences and grand sets.

 

16 November 2016 pm

Manon Lescaut