She’s known as America’s favourite soprano and the Queen of the Met. After several decades of topping the bill in the world’s leading opera houses, Renée Fleming is taking her passion for singing into the wider world, demonstrating the power of music to change lives. Warwick Thompson meets a supreme artist who casts her talents widely, driven by musical curiosity and determined to make an impact wherever in the world she goes
A glorious reign
Written in the stars
Our team of reviewers in the US highlight ten young American singers who are intent on taking the opera world by storm. Be sure to catch them when they next appear at an opera house near you
The Santa Fe Opera festival celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, taking stock of a unique legacy that has championed innovation and nurtured an extraordinary generation of American talent
Opera in America has a reputation for conservatism, with opera companies averse to taking risks in an environment where boxoffice success is vital for survival. However, there are real signs of countrywide change in the forthcoming season, with a slew of world premieres and performances of contemporary work.Opera Now goes in search of the spirit of innovation across the US, from east to west
Der fliegende Holländer Wagner
In Germany, Wagner’s operas have a particular resonance that makes it difficult for directors to leave them be: the composer tends to be the victim of the worst excesses of Regietheater and its overdeveloped concepts. In Frankfurt, David Bösch’s production, new this season, was immensely fussy which detracted from what could have been an admirable focus on the psychology of the opera’s characters
The art of anarchy
Cultural vandal or provocative genius? Calixto Bieito is notorious for bringing graphic scenes of sex and violence to the opera stage in productions that some regard as unflinching and gritty, while others dismiss as sensational and plain gratuitous. Robert Thicknesse immerses himself in the works of opera’s most controversial ‘auteur’
Iended my last piece by claiming that music, to be erotic, has to have a sensuousness which was hard to create in sound before the 19th century, together with a harmonic richness which evolved at roughly the same time, and for which Wagner is to take most of the credit – or the blame, if that’s how you feel about him.
He who laughs last
It’s the destiny of critics to be haunted by regret – for hasty judgements, howlers, things you didn’t understand the first time you encountered them. The only solace is to have a lousy memory and forget the nonsense you once wrote.
Roberto Devereux Donizetti
At the premiere of the Metropolitan Opera’s first‑ever staging of Roberto Devereux, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky completed her hat-trick of singing Donizetti’s three Tudor queens within a single season
Sarasota Opera Festival
In 1989, an ambitious project was launched to perform every known note that Giuseppe Verdi composed. The undertaking wasn’t, as you might expect, by a major Italian opera company, but by Sarasota Opera, a small American enterprise on the west coast of Florida.
This tale of mortals entangled with deities lends itself to all kinds of interpretation: think Semele and Jupiter as Marilyn Monroe and JFK. Opera Omaha went to the other extreme, stressing tragedy, which ended up being perhaps gloomier than Congreve’s witty libretto intends
Lucia di Lammermoor Donizetti
At their curtain call, director Katie Mitchell and her production team were met with a barrage of booing and looked quite green about the gills. Was the audience outraged by the forewarned sex and violence, or annoyed at being patronised? I’ve seen just about every sexual act imaginable simulated on an opera stage; but I’ve never seen Donizetti’s opera raise a laugh before
Powder Her Face Adès
Thomas Adès’ Powder Her Face (premiered in 1995) is effectively the true story of a risqué ‘selfie’ that took place five decades before the concept was even invented. Now that we’re used to private worlds being paraded in public, it’s only to be expected that the opera’s hard edge is somewhat dulled.
It’s rare in opera for creative teams to travel forward in time rather than delving into history for their inspiration. But in Elysium, British librettist Mark Ravenhill and Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin have looked to the not so distant future, bringing us a story that, like all good science fiction, appears alarmingly credible