This year it's Johann Strauss II's The Gypsy Baron (Ziegeunerbaron). Directed by Silva-Marin with Music Direction by Derek Bate, The Gypsy Baron tells a classic operetta-style tale of a prodigal son, mistaken and hidden identities, prophecies, treasure, and of course, wine.
This year has certainly been different, though - and maybe you’ve noticed the change in tone since I’ve gone from being Schmopera’s primary voice, to its behind-the-scenes editor and sometimes-guest author.
Though Otello may be the title character and tragic hero of the story, in truth it is Iago who is the most alluring character on stage. For four hundred odd years, Shakespeare’s infamous villain has captured the imaginations of audiences everywhere. Spanish baritone Carlos Alvarez played him with chilling ease.
The men indiscriminately abuse Pénélope and the women of her kingdom, theatrically throwing them around like amateur wrestlers. Yet their violence succeeds as seduction and they are rewarded with sexual favors. The men are thinly drawn, each portraying a single affect – incredulity, apathy, viciousness and predation. The women are sexualized totems who have little effect on the larger story.
Billed as selected excerpts from three operas, the event comes across on paper as a kind of combination Donizetti-teaser and superstar feature concert. Yet, the experience was remarkably gratifying artistically thanks not only to the operas’ shared backstories, but also to director Matthew Ozawa’s unity of concept through the scenes and, of course, Radvanovsky’s riveting portrayal of Anne Boleyn, Mary Stuart, and Elizabeth I.
Much like past productions I've seen at ENO, the singing was a bit of a mixed bag. Many of the characters were played by young singers at the beginning of their careers. Naturally, some flourished while others struggled to keep up.
I hope that Ciekiewicz gets many more opportunities to sing this role. You won't hear it sung better anywhere, and her outstanding dramatic ability helped us feel the heartbreak of Susannah's anguish and confusion.
At first glance, this opera based on the Thomas Mann novella of the same name doesn't lend itself to the stage which could, in part, be the reason Britten sat with the piece for so many years.
Incredible music, a beautiful set, and even stunning costumes too. Lisa Magill perfectly rounds out the production with her classic designs. She successfully fits the designs to the 18th century, and manages to have everyone looking their absolute best.
The over-the-top, 50's-horror-movie vibes of the opera's finale? Go ahead and laugh (some in the audience did). But an aria cataloguing thousands of victims of rape; a rapist sharply calling a survivor of his violence "You bitch!" – we should feel uncomfortable laughing at these moments.