WNO ups its production game

Washington National Opera is raising the bar with two operas using the bones of the same set–both cleverly and fantastically. The first, a Don Giovanni for the #metoo era; the second, an opulent Samson et Delilah. Read my reviews of both at Bachtrack here and here.

Photo credit Scott Suchman

MLA 2021 Convention Call for Papers

The Forum for Opera and Musical Performance has two exciting panels at next year’s Modern Language Association Annual Convention, which is in Toronto from 7-10 January 2021, and we’re looking for exciting papers to fill them. Send abstracts to Cynthia Chase or to me, or share it with an opera-lit scholar who might be interested! Deadline is March 20.

Opera After World War II: Production, Memory, and Mourning

We invite papers on how operatic productions after WWII participate in, elide, or mediate historical catastrophe or radical discontinuity. 250-word abstracts to Cynthia Chase, Cornell U (cc97@cornell.edu ).

Operatic Spectacle: Screening, Sound, and Vision

We invite 20-minute papers that explore how aspects of screening, sound, and/or vision mediate, undermine or otherwise impact operatic spectacle. Please send 250-word abstracts and short bio to Sydney Boyd, Forum Representative for Opera and Musical Performance.

Magic Flute at Washington National Opera

I’ve been teaching the Egyptian Book of the Dead and have an entirely new appreciation for the opera’s references to Isis and Osiris. This production, with whimsical designs by Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak, focused more on childhood fancy, which isn’t always a bad thing. Read my review at Bachtrack.

Sydney Mancasola (Pamina) and Michael Adams (Papageno). Photo credit Scott Suchman

Monk’s ATLAS


One week ago in Los Angeles, Meredith Monk’s opera ATLAS opened at the LA Phil. It transcended place to isolate humanity at its root using the globe you see here as a means to access both physical space and inner consciousness–a multiplicity of worlds in sight and sound. I’ve been waiting to see this opera for decades and am so thrilled Yuval Sharon took it on, and I openly confess that when Meredith came out for the curtain call, I cried.

Tosca in D.C.

fullsizeoutput_835Tenor Riccardo Massi stole the show at the Washington National Opera last night as Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca. He was a stunner in tone, technicality, and theatrical flair. In contrast, it was difficult to say whether Speranza Scappucci’s lead conducting or soprano Keri Alkema’s heavy timbre (in the title role) made for the sluggish tempos that plagued throughout.

But the set, a classic Italian Catholic period piece that Seattle Opera provided, was the real yawner. The future of opera cannot be these sets. Give me Robert Wilson’s hues–for that matter, give me anything in Germany, France, or the Netherlands that know how to bring opera war horses into the twenty-first century with intuitive design, lighting, and inspiration that moves beyond the literal. It’s a central reason why opera feels old to the younger generation and perhaps also why critics have hailed the art form long dead.

In contrast to the dull, dusty contours someone imagined was period-appropriate Catholic Italy, the end of the first act threw me satisfyingly against the back of my velvet seat. The cathedral set rolled up into the eaves, and the chorus took the stage shining in white light against a simple black backdrop. Leave your marble pillars behind. Bring on the architecture of now.

Reich Richter Pärt


I caught the 3pm performance at The Shed with The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Ensemble Signal (Jerry Hou conducting). A mesmerizing conception of the art gallery.

The Hudson Yards complex, however, lives up to the “ultra-capitalist Forbidden city” distinction Hamilton Nolan outlines in The Guardian.