Tag Archives: portland opera

on such a night

With Portland Opera’s production of Le nozze di Figaro opening on Friday, I’ve been in constant Mozart mode for the past couple of weeks while I prep my pre-performance talks. During a recent YouTube scavenger hunt, I ran across these clips from “On Such a Night,” Anthony Asquith’s cinematic love letter to Glyndebourne and the 1955 Festival performance of Figaro with Sesto Bruscantini in the title role, Sena Jurinac as the Countess, Franco Calabrese as the Count, and Elena Rizzieri as Susanna. David Knight, who also appeared in Asquith’s 1954 drama, The Young Lovers, plays David Cornell, an American from Chicago attending the opera for the first time.

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all insensitivity

Puccini is past, Ravel is on the docket now.

Over the next few weeks,  I’ll be reacquainting myself with L’Heure espagnole and L’Enfant et les Sortileges in anticipation of Portland Opera‘s upcoming production at the beginning of April. This is a very good thing, not only because I love Ravel’s music, but also because it gives me an excuse to delve into the vocal, orchestral, chamber, and solo piano repertoire immediately surrounding these two works.

In his review of the premiere of L’Heure in May, 1911, Pierre Lalo stated that:

The orchestration…is charming, brilliant, idiosyncratic, diverse, full of subtle timbres and rare sonorities…That. for the musical material he employs, for the chord progressions and explorations of harmonies which for him are customary, M. Ravel owes much to Debussy is a manifest fact. But the soul of his music and of his art is entirely different. M. Debussy is all sensitivity, M. Ravel is all insensitivity.

Here’s the opening of the 1987 Glyndebourne Festival production of L’Heure espagnole, designed by Maurice Sendak and directed by Frank Corsaro. Expect more video clips of both operas from my YouTube channel between now and the end of March.

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opera insights – turandot (part 1)

Here’s the first part of my recent pre-performance talk on Puccini’s Turandot for Portland Opera.



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Henry James, part 2

In today’s Oregonian, Laura Grimes shares some of the reactions she got to her piece last week on Henry James’ “The Ambassadors.” She also mentions Portland Opera’s upcoming production of Turn of the Screw and links to my original posting about (re)reading James’ novella in preparation for the pre-performance talks I’ll be giving.

I’ve just rounded the bend and will probably finish the last four chapters today. I hope to have something up about the opera in the next day or so.

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James on my mind

Portland Opera is presenting Benjamin Britten’s Turn of the Screw in February, and so in preparation for my pre-performance talks, I’ll be refamiliarizing myself with a work I haven’t heard in a very long time and posting some of my observations on it over the next couple of weeks.

I’m also (re)reading the Henry James novella that served as the basis for the opera’s tightly constructed libretto. I intentionally put parentheses around that prefix because although I was assigned “The Turn of the Screw” for my freshman American Lit class, I never got past the prologue. Nothing made the slightest bit of sense to me. Sure, I recognized each of the individual words on the page, but when they were all strung together into what should have been something meaningful, I kept tripping over verbal speedbumps like this:

“The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child.”

Excuse me?  And that’s just the first sentence!

I’m not sure why, but things are going much more smoothly for me this time around, and I seem to have settled into some kind of Jamesian flow. (I don’t know what that is, exactly, but I’m not going to fight it.) In order to get a better sense of the author’s style, I’ve even started in on “The Ambassadors,” a dense, sprawling, and puzzling novel that may take me several months–or at the rate I’m going, years–to finish.

Speaking of James, Laura Grimes had a terrific piece in this past Sunday’s Oregonian entitled “My adventures with Hank,” in which she recounted her well-meaning (but  ill-fated) attempts at slogging through “The Ambassadors.” (Her description of trying to read it on the bus is priceless.) I got such a kick out of what she wrote that I emailed her about Turn of the Screw and my own ongoing encounters with the author. I hope Laura’s able to catch one of the performances at the Keller.


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