×

Operatic overtures

Santa Fe festival makes music of madness

SANTA FE, N.M. — Madness of various kinds sprawled across the stage at the Santa Fe Opera this summer, making the 45th annual opera festival a veritable encyclopedia of psychosis.

A highlight of the fest was British director Daniel Slater’s brilliant staging of Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck.”

Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski was in full command of the score’s staggering complexities, while baritone Hakan Hagegard, playing the tortured victim of a callous society, caught both the character’s childlike innocence and his feral, fear-driven state. German soprano Anne Schwanewilms, making her U.S. debut, sang Marie with rare beauty and expressive range.

Aided by set and costume designer Robert Innes Hopkins, Slater expressed Wozzeck’s encroaching madness through buckling walls and floors that caved in as well as a moon redder than anything outside of a nightmare.

Another German soprano making her American debut, Alexandra von der Weth, enthralled audiences with her “Lucia di Lammermoor,” the mad Scottish bride in Donizetti’s bel canto standard. Tenor Frank Lopardo’s ardent, gleaming tenor provided a fine partner in the duets. Conductor Richard Buckley’s sympathetic regard for bel canto singing was welcome, but director Thor Steingraber’s staging was half-baked, torn between traditional front-and-center singing and realism.

American conductor Alan Gilbert and Brit baritone Andrew Shore conspired wonderfully in Verdi’s “Falstaff.” Shore’s great portrayal of the lusty, eager swain was nuanced, and the orchestra gave a virtuoso performance. Jonathan Miller’s production, with sets by Robert Israel, located the action in Holland, a suitable locale for Falstaff to get in Dutch.

In “Mitridate, re di Ponto,” the 14-year-old Mozart shows his extraordinary sense in confrontation with dramatic nonsense from Racine. That it worked at all, with all its dramatic implausibilities, was due to the exciting singing ensemble featuring Donald Kaasch as the rogue despot of a remote Greek kingdom at war with Rome. Kaasch offered awesome runs and lunged into powerful declarations, bringing dramatic focus to an opera that needs it. Laura Aikin, countertenor Bejun Mehta and Nicole Folland offered solid support.

The baffling book for “The Egyptian Helen” was provided with a magical musical score by Richard Strauss, and John Crosby, the one-time Santa Fe topper in his 47th year at the fest, continues to thrive on Strauss’ shimmering beauty and dramatic sonorities. Christine Brewer was a Helen without fear of using her voice powerfully: Her big, seamless soprano commanded the air. She was well partnered by John Horton Murray, whose heldentenor continues to grow even as his acting doesn’t quite.

The production also was notable for the Santa Fe debut of Mark Delavan, who was most impressive in less bombastic, more seductive tones.

Next summer’s Santa Fe lineup looks particularly strong. It includes the U.S. preem of “L’amour de loin,” from Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, which won raves at last year’s Salzburg Festival. The Peter Sellars production will feature Dawn Upshaw. Other highlights include Rodney Gilfrey as “Eugene Onegin” with Patricia Racette and “The Italian Girl in Algiers” with up-and-coming mezzo Stephanie Blythe.

More Legit

  • Because of Winn Dixie review

    Regional Theater Review: 'Because of Winn Dixie,' the Musical

    Watching the musical “Because of Winn Dixie” at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Conn., it’s hard not to think of another show that premiered in the same regional theater 43 years ago. It, too, featured a scruffy stray dog, a lonely-but-enterprising young girl and a closed-off daddy who finally opens up. But “Winn Dixie,” based [...]

  • MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby

    Off Broadway Review: 'Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow'

    There’s something about Anton Chekhov’s whiny sisters that invites comic sendups of “Three Sisters” like the one Halley Feiffer wrote on commission for the Williamstown Theater Festival. Transferred to MCC Theater’s new Off Broadway space and playing in the round in a black box with limited seating capacity, the crafty show feels intimate and familiar. [...]

  • the way she spoke review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Way She Spoke' With Kate del Castillo

    Since the 1990s, scores of women in Juarez, Mexico have been mutilated, raped, and murdered at such a rate that some have called it an epidemic of femicide—killing women and girls solely because they are women. Isaac Gomez’s play “the way she spoke,” produced Off Broadway by Audible and starring Kate del Castillo, confronts the [...]

  • HBO's 'SUCCESSION

    Brian Cox Playing LBJ in Broadway Run of 'The Great Society'

    Brian Cox will play President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway run of “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way.” The role of Johnson, a crude, but visionary politician who used the office of the presidency to pass landmark civil rights legislation and social programs, was originally played by Bryan Cranston in [...]

  • Paul McCartney Has Penned Score for

    Paul McCartney Has Been Secretly Writing an 'It's a Wonderful Life' Musical

    The pop superstar who once released a movie and album called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” really does have designs on Broadway, after all. It was revealed Wednesday that Paul McCartney has already written a song score for a stage musical adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The [...]

  • The Night of the Iguana review

    West End Review: 'The Night of the Iguana' With Clive Owen

    If Tennessee Williams is the poet laureate of lost souls, none of his characters as are off-grid as the restless travelers trying to make it through his little-seen 1961 play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Holed up in a remote Mexican homestay, its ragtag itinerants live hand-to-mouth, day by day, as they seek refuge from [...]

  • Moulin Rouge Broadway

    Listen: The Special Sauce in Broadway's 'Moulin Rouge!'

    There are songs in the new Broadway version of “Moulin Rouge!” that weren’t in Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie — but you probably know them anyway. They’re popular tunes by superstars like Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, released after the 2001 movie came out, and they’ll probably unleash a flood of memories and associations in every audience [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content