Cincinnati: Preview: Three Baroque Operas in One Month

02/02/2015

United StatesUnited States Cincinnati, Ohio Preview: Three Baroque Operas in One Month

These days it is difficult to catch a live performance of any opera composed before the late 18th century. Mozart gave us at least four works that are staples in the repertory of most opera houses, but when it comes to Handel, who wrote fifty stage-worthy musical dramas, or Scarlatti, Lully, and Rameau – three composers who wrote extensively for the lyric stage – their absence from opera houses in America is glaring. Of Monteverdi’s total output, three operas survive: L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, and his finest one, L’Incoronazione di Poppea, the most frequently performed of the three.

The midsize, Midwestern city of Cincinnati is a hub of musical activity all year and, in February 2015, the site of the month-long Cincinnati Early Music Festival, a celebration of Renaissance and Baroque music (and even a bit of Medieval stuff) that includes Monteverdi’s Poppea and Handel’s Alcina and Ariodante.

Monteverdi’s raucous and randy tragicomedy, set in the decaying Imperial Rome of Nero during the first century of the Common Era, is being staged by Emma Griffin in the intimate Cohen Family Studio Theatre at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Griffin’s views on the work and its pan-sexual goings on are informed by a 21st-century sensibility, one that doesn’t easily buy into the story of sexual infatuation and political betrayal framed by Monteverdi and librettist Giovanni Busenello as a power play between Fortune, Love and Virtue. The prologue where these mythological creatures appear is cut in Emma Griffin’s production, not only for the sake of bringing a work that can easily run four hours plus into a tolerable 2:15 running time but, more importantly to this director, in order to intensify the focus of the drama into the Nero-Ottavia-Ottone-Poppea-Drusilla-Seneca hexahedron.

The characters will be costumed in 20th-century dress and accompanied by a small ensemble of early instruments. The young voices of singers from C-CM’s ranks should serve well this text-driven, lightly orchestrated score. Performances are February 20, 21 and 22.

The weekend after Poppea, Kenneth Shaw and Amy Johnson will put the young members of Opera d’Arte through their Baroque paces when the month-long rehearsals for Handel’s Alcina come to fruition in a weekend of performances in C-CM’s ever-busy Cohen Family Studio Theatre.

In a telephone chat, director Shaw emphasized that what attracted him and co-director Amy Johnson to Alcina was its universal theme of the search for love, which makes the work eminently accessible for today’s audiences. The supernatural elements of the story will be there too, Shaw says, but more as a backdrop to the story of two women – Alcina, the very embodiment of fantasy, and Morgana, the essence of reality. The costumes and sets, done in collaboration with the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning, will be both timeless and vaguely contemporary.

The moveable feast for Baroque Opera fans extends to the nearby township of Wyoming, where the Cincinnati Chamber Opera puts down stakes this month for the Cincinnati stage premiere of Handel’s Ariodante. The youthful members of the CCO have been visiting the Baroque repertory for the last couple of seasons with productions of Handel’s Acis and Galatea and Monteverdi’s Orfeo, which defines the fledgling company as both daring in their repertory choices and comfortably familiar with the style.

The cast of eight, including gifted mezzo-soprano Kate Tombaugh in the title role, will be directed by Mary Beth Crawford “in no tartans,” says the company’s artistic co-director Shawn Mlynek with a laugh, alluding to the story’s Scottish Highlands setting, but in gowns and tuxes instead, Masked Ball fashion.

Rafael de Acha
· Monteverdi – L’incoronazione di Poppea – 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20; 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21; p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22. C-CM Cohen Family Studio Theatre. For further information: C-CM Box Office – 556-4183
· Handel – Alcina – 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 1 For further information: C-CM Box Office – 556-4183
· Handel – Ariodante – Friday, February 27th, 7:30 pm; Sunday, March 1st, 2 pm. For further information: www.cincinnatichamberopera.com

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • NEW! Glyndebourne 2020 cancelled and looking to the future __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Philadelphia announces Digital Festival O __________________________________
  • NEW! The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020-2021 at Dresden’s Semperoper __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Southbank Centre in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020-2021 at London’s Barbican __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall’s 2020-2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Wigmore Hall in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Educating Rita, says who? __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2020 Salzburg Festival – 1 to 30 August __________________________________
  • NEW! Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war – and when will we all meet again? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! ACCOMPANIST OR PARTNER? PIANIST SUSIE ALLAN IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN QUINN __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • NEW! BTHVN2020 – Beethoven anniversary goes into overtime __________________________________
  • SOME GOOD NEWS! Extraordinary generosity of the Longborough Festival Opera audience __________________________________
  • Remembering Margaret Rutherford: murder on and off screen __________________________________
  • Remembering George London’s life and legacy on the 100th anniversary of his birth __________________________________
  • PIANIST LOUIS LORTIE IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • PIANIST JONATHAN BISS IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH SARDINIAN TENOR PIERO PRETTI __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month