Recent Opera Articles

Love Is the Drug

It may get off to a slow start, but most will likely find Elixir worth the wait

Although people often call Donizetti's rom-com The Elixir of Love a good opera for the uninitiated, director Stephen Lawless's production requires a caveat: Remember that old-fashioned thing called patience? Bring some. For although it all eventually begins to fizz and crackle at an entertaining clip, the first few scenes vacillate between forced and tentative, like a fuse that can't quite decide whether to stay lit. Whether it's the dull whiffs of musical theater in the bustling villagers, the slightly confusing ... [Read]

Whale Song

Spectacular projections, a score that swells, and a familiar tale make Moby Dick a highly theatrical and watchable opera

There is a special hell for serious music-lovers, and in one molten corner resides a certain kind of contemporary classical that puts more emphasis on atonality and stridency than any actual reason for it. Anyone who has felt those particular flames licking at their heels will be forgiven for thinking twice before allowing themselves to be sealed into the red cocoon of the Opera House with modern fare on the menu. Thus it is with much relief that one finds ... [Read]

One Way or Another

A mix of standouts and shortcomings, WNO's Destiny pulls accessible entertainment from difficult material

The funny thing about the Washington National Opera's production of Verdi's The Force of Destiny is that it actually works. Despite an awkward first scene, an unsympathetically trigger-happy hero and some unmitigated plot silliness, director Francesca Zambello's vibrantly dark re-imaging is riveting. Set in a seething 21st century underworld, mood and place are hauntingly evoked in Peter J. Davison's urban wastelands in which the disenfranchised run their own economy, entertainment and even a rebellious army. There is poignancy to his ... [Read]

Showy Boat

There's plenty to enjoy in the way the WNO's ''Show Boat'' treads the waters between opera and musicals

In a second act scene in Show Boat, the character Magnolia auditions to be a singer at Chicago's popular Trocadero Club. Magnolia was a star on the Cotton Blossom, but of course a Mississippi riverboat celebrity is in a different league from a big city nightclub act -- just as a musical is a different animal from an opera. Or is it? {Angela Renee Simpson and the company of ''Show Boat'' (Photo by Scott Suchman)} You'd be forgiven for thinking ... [Read]

Who's That Girl?

WNO presents soprano-watcher's Norma, and a fine evening for anyone who likes their betrayals bel canto beautiful

In the words of Jean Genet, ''Anyone who hasn't experienced the ecstasy of betrayal knows nothing about ecstasy at all.'' And anyone who likes their betrayal operatically ecstatic must seek out Bellini's Norma. For despite its backstory of Gallic druids versus their Roman occupiers, Norma is your ultimate destination for the agony and outrage of discovering that you have been replaced by a younger model (and not just any flibbertigibbet, but one under your own care and control). {Norma: Meade ... [Read]

Heart of Bling

When sung by a soprano of Racette's caliber, Manon a story not to be missed

Feeling a tad lackluster in the set department, director/designer and costumer John Pascoe's interpretation of Puccini's Manon Lescaut seems to have lost some burnish since its WNO premiere in 2004. With Act 1's giant staircase, skewed mirrors and a lot of A.C. Moore-style foliage, the feel is more diorama than late 1770s French village, even if the aristocratic bust-atop-plinth delivers a pleasingly sinister vibe. Matters improve with the austerity of Act 2's grand boudoir and the surreal touches of Act ... [Read]


For those with patience, ''Don Giovanni'' is a chance to see how opera can make good theater as well as good listening

Offering plenty of curb appeal in the form of wit, slapstick, a libidinous thundering bass, damsels in distress, sword fights and a reasonably gratifying comeuppance, it's no surprise that the Washington National Opera's revival of Mozart's Don Giovanni is this season's choice for ''Opera in the Outfield'' (on Saturday, Sept. 29, when the performance will be simulcast for free at Nationals Park). Though rather long for the newcomer – the kind where everyone gets their say a few times over ... [Read]

Queen for a Day

Donizetti's ''Anna Bolena'' delivers urgency, despair and beauty to the downfall of one of Henry VIII's most ill-fated wives

Timed perfectly for the Tudor fever generated by author Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and its sequel, the Washington National Opera's season-opener of Donizetti's Anna Bolena delivers urgency, despair and much beauty to the downfall of one of Henry VIII's most ill-fated wives. In this semi-historical telling of the well-known tale, Anna (Anne Boleyn), unable to resist the chance to be queen, has rejected her betrothed, Riccardo (Lord Richard Percy), in order to marry Enrico (Henry VIII). Having produced only a ... [Read]

Beautiful Dreamers

As an opera of the heart, WNO's ''Werther'' delivers the passion, however overblown

If opera is your music for heartbreak and plots be damned, then Massenet's gorgeously overwrought Werther is for you. This is boy meets already-engaged girl and gets thoroughly histrionic – nothing more, nothing less. Yet as a musical experience of impossible love, Massenet's score flows with a sweet poignancy and ominous portent that truly delivers. Of course, the simplicity of the narrative, based on the late 18th century novel by Goethe (which was so feverishly received it induced a rash ... [Read]

Biblical Proportions

However you come to it, WNO's biblical and period-political Nabucco is a potent operatic experience

With a busy narrative, a biblically minded libretto, and a director who assumes a cogent, educated audience, the Washington National Opera's Nabucco isn't for those who like their opera pre-chewed and delivered on a spoon. But for those who can roll with it, director Thaddeus Strassberger delivers a keenly paced drama and a seriously gratifying opportunity to savor some of Verdi's most instantly accessible and yet deeply beautiful music. Yes, you will want to read the program first so you ... [Read]

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