Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Last night David and I, along with our friends Robert and Larry, saw Chicago Lyric's presentation of Charles Gounod's Faust. It is filled with gorgeous melodies and requires virtuoso singing. Fortunately, Chicago Lyric had a cast that could do both.

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Ailyn Perez as Marguerite sang sensationally. Both in the coloratura 'Jewel Song' and in the more lyric moments she was splendid. A fine singer.

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As Faust, Benjamin Bernheim was equally good with a remarkable top to his voice.

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Edward Parks as Valentin sang with a strong baritone voice that had a wonderful sound. 

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Christian van Horn as Mephistopheles was a very big presence with a very big voice. He couldn't quite produce the three octaves of laughter on high 'f' to low 'f' as Gounod wrote, but was very menacing.

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Annie Rosen as Siebel was a little light vocally but sang her aria well.

The huge chorus, as always, sang very well under the direction of Michael Black. Emmanuel Villaume was the splendid  conductor.

Now we come to the sets and stage direction. A different story. Kevin Newbury was the production designer and Vita Tzykun the set and costume designer.

In a word, I hated it. The stage was overfull of props and screens on which a barrage of images of skeletons, corpses, and crosses ran rampant. It was distracting and had little to do with the opera. This is a part of the current idea that any classic opera has to be completely  overhauled. Had it not been for the great singing, This would have ruined the opera for me.

There was very little movement from either the soloists or the chorus, which aways seemed to be stuffed on the stage. But all the twitching electronics distracted one so much it didn't seem to matter.

But then, I am an old grouch!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Mary Stuart

Last night David and I saw Schiller's play Mary Stuart in a new translation by Peter Oswald at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. 

I saw this play in the Phoenix Theatre production in 1957 in New York. The translation was by Jean Stock Goldstone and John Reich and it was directed by Tyrone Guthrie. It featured Eva Le Galliene as Elizabeth and Irene Worth as Mary. An amazing cast!

The play takes place in the last days of Mary's life just before her beheading at Fotheringhay Castle and includes a fictitious meeting of the two queens which never really happened. 

Image result for kk moggie   K.K. Moggie

In Chicago Shakespeare's production, directed by Jenn Thompson, K.K. Moggie played the role of Mary and Kellie Overbey was Queen Elizabeth. I felt that Ms. Moggie was the stronger actress, but then, her role is much more dramatic and sympathetic. The entire cast was very good but could have used some diction training for the arena stage of the theatre. In this setting it's never a good idea to have actors facing the back wall of the set and expect them to be understood,

Image result for kellie overbey   Kellie Overbey

In both cases Schiller's poetry was changed into prose, which was probably a good idea. Not my favorite evening in the theatre.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cosi fan tutte

On Monday evening David and I saw Lyric Opera's production of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. The time period, for some reason, was set at the time of World War I, which made the libretto even more confusing than it would normally seem.

The cast was uniformly good but somehow it never excited me. It seemed a bit lack-luster.

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Andrew Stenson as Ferrando has a fine tenor voice and sang with fervor.

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Joshua Hopkins as Guglielmo was good but not exciting.

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Alessandro Corbelli was reliable as Don Alfonso.

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Ana Maria Martinez has a lovely voice with excellent high notes but her low range is lacking substance. Unfortunately, the role of Fiordiligi has a very wide range and the singer needs a strong low voice to bring the best to it. To quote Wickipedia: 'According to William Mann, Mozart disliked prima donna Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, da Ponte's arrogant mistress for whom the role of Fiordiligi had been created. Knowing her idiosyncratic tendency to drop her chin on low notes and throw back her head on high ones, Mozart filled her showpiece aria Come scoglio with constant leaps from low to high and high to low in order to make Ferrarese's head "bob like a chicken" onstage.

Ms Martinez did not 'bob like a chicken', but her low notes were not in balance with her lovely high ones.

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Marianne Crebassa as Dorabella has a beautiful voice and sang very well but sounded too much like Ms Martinez. In their first scene together I had trouble figuring out who was who from the sound of their voices.

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As Despina, Elena Tsallagova was excellent both vocally and dramatically.

The conductor was James Gaffigan, making his debut at the Lyric.