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In the January 2020 Issue of Opera News Online: Review of Frida

IN CELEBRATION OF ITS FORTIETH anniversary season, Atlanta Opera kicked off its Discoveries series with Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s Frida at the newly-minted Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center (seen Oct. 5). Frida had its premiere at Philadelphia’s Atlanta Music Festival in 1991 and was named by TheNew York Times as “Best Opera/Musical of 1991,” but subsequent performances in the U.S. were few and far between. The work re-emerged in 2015 at Michigan Opera Theatre, revitalized by Frida Kahlo’s increase in popularity as a cultural icon over the last decade or so. The surreal production starring soprano Catalina Cuervo (Frida Kahlo) and bass-baritone Ricardo Herrera (Diego Rivera) has now…

Review: Atlanta Symphony, pianist Jorge Orsorio put on a riveting performance

The ASO’s performance of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” was a tour de force. (Photos by Jeff Roffman) JANUARY 10, 2020 Numerous works have been derived from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. It’s the timeless and provocative story of two star-crossed lovers in Verona, unable to overcome the powerful divide between their families. “Heavy and light, bright and dark, hot and cold,” it seemed for a time that Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s tale, was ill-fated as well. Composed in 1936, it was deemed impossible to choreograph and production of the work was denied on three separate occasions —…

ArtsATL.org Year in Review: Classical music and Atlanta Symphony’s search for its next leader

DECEMBER 26, 2019 It’s a period of transition for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as it launches a high-profile search for music director Robert Spano’s successor and considers several of this season’s guest conductors as his potential replacement. The year also marked several stellar productions by The Atlanta Opera and recitals at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. Since the search for the ASO’s new music director — its chief conductor and artistic leader — has begun in earnest, and Spano is set to step down at the end of the 2020–21 season, let’s discuss which guest conductors merit consideration.…

In the December 2019 Issue of Opera News: Review of AO’s La Cenerentola

GIOACHINO ROSSINI’S LA CENERENTOLA was last seen in Atlanta in 2008, when the inimitable Jennifer Larmore starred as Angelina. Like Cinderella’s transformation before the ball, the Atlanta Opera has experienced a metamorphosis in the interim, offering contemporary works alongside the warhorses, hiring rousing singers, and mounting eye-catching productions. Now celebrating its fortieth season, the Atlanta Opera opened the mainstage at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on November 2, offering the Joan Font-Joan Guillén production of La Cenerentola, which premiered in Houston in 2007. But the production was lacking in musical alchemy and led one to wonder whether the magic was all just…

ArtsATL Review: Atlanta Symphony and Runnicles summon pathos of Shostakovich

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster David Coucheron played strong lines on the Shostakovich piece. (Photo courtesy Atlanta Symphony Orchestra) NOVEMBER 12, 2019 Despite the claim of composer Dmitri Shostakovich that his final symphony contained no extra-musical meaning, doubt remains. Post-glasnost realizations make it more likely that his Symphony No. 15, which premiered in 1972, encompasses programmatic significance camouflaged by a masterful composer then at the height of his creative powers. On Saturday evening, Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed Shostakovich’s distilled work — riddled with musical allusions and quotations, musical monograms and codes — alongside Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, featuring…

ArtsATL.com Review: The Atlanta Opera’s “Cinderella” hits — and misses — a magical touch

Dale Travis, center, as Don Magnifico, flanked by Elizabeth Sarian as Tisbe (left) and Bryn Holdsworth as Clorinda (Photos by Raftermen Photography) NOVEMBER 5, 2019 Everyone loves a good fairy tale. They’re relatable, tapping into deeply human themes like true love, heroism and justice. But there’s always an element of enchantment underlying a good fairy tale too — perhaps a magical transformation or a character in disguise. Cinderella is just one of those timeless tales. The story, adapted by Walt Disney as most of us know it, was originally penned by Charles Perrault in 1697. Yet long before Disney gave…

Review: The Atlanta Opera’s “Frida” is a bold and provocative work

Ricardo Herrera and Catalina Cuervo depict the torrid marriage between Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. (Photos by Rafterman Photography) Mexican painter Frida Kahlo didn’t know that her art was surrealistic until the French poet André Breton told her. In Breton’s estimation, whether it was a self-portrait or a collection of images within What the Water Gave Me, Kahlo accomplished a creativity unhindered by realism. Now more than a half-century later, Kahlo’s work and sense of fashion are considered iconic, and Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s opera Frida, which premiered at the American Music Theater Festival in 1991, has emerged from a hibernation of sorts. On…

An Unlikely Collaboration

In 1996 Deutsche Grammophon released an album called, “Honey and Rue” featuring soprano Kathleen Battle, then at the summit of her career.  I purchased it at an independent record store during the final year of my undergraduate vocal studies at a small, southern college.  I can still remember the CD cover.  Kathleen Battle, sporting a 1960s-era flip, resting her chin on her hands and looking like the girl next door. It was an album of American music, offering Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer of 1915”, selections from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and a new work by André Previn.  I listened…

Review of AO’s La Traviata in the July Issue of Opera News Online

ATLANTA OPERA capped its thirty-ninth season with Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, presented at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in a lavish co-production with Seattle Opera, Washington National Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival and Indiana University (seen May 3). A triumvirate of important artists—director Francesca Zambello and designers Peter Davison and Jess Goldstein—collaborated to reimagine Violetta Valéry’s tragic demise. Scenic designer Davison accomplished both visual splendor and functional efficiency with almost twenty hulking, triangular prisms that rotated, transforming Violetta’s elegant salon to a stark hospital or a charming country house. Goldstein’s thoughtful costume design updated Violetta’s story to the belle époque and conveyed the glamourous…

In the May 2019 Issue of Opera News: AO’s Dead Man Walking

Michael Mayes and Jamie Barton in AO’s Dead Man  © Jeff Roffman ATLANTA OPERA continued its 2018–19 season with Dead Man Walking, the adaptation by Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally of Sister Helen Prejean’s memoir recounting her prison ministry at the Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana in the early 1980s. On February 2, with both the composer and Sister Helen in the audience, and a cast filled with first-class singers, the company presented a gritty, unsettling show, a coproduction with the Israeli Opera, directed by AO general and artistic director Tomer Zvulun. Dead Man presents an onstage rape and murder (as well as brief…