Category Archives: Books

EUGENE ONEGIN at the Met: Netrebko Redefines Tatiana

Some fans of Alexander Pushkin’s great and iconic verse novel Eugene Onegin can’t stomach Pytor Illyich Tchaikovsky’s operatic version. Too much of the master Russian author’s brilliance is lost, they say, in the opera’s simplified libretto, written in only nine days. Pushkin’s 1833 novel is a text that “divides Russian literature into a ‘before’ and […]

Lyric Opera’s Eugene Onegin: Tatiana’s Triumph

Like Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Pytor Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is not eponymous. The play is named, not, as Dostoyevsky famously argued, for the play’s main character, but rather for the character who sets the main character in action. The main character in Tchaikovsky’s opera is, instead, the country girl, Tatiana Larina. And Tatiana might owe her […]

Lyric Opera’s CARMEN: Ashford and Calleja Make History

“Bullfighting is the only art form that both represents something and is that thing at the same time: the matador’s elegant immobility in the face of the bull not only represents man’s defiance of death, it is a man defying death, and there are women who do it too.”[i] In Rob Ashcroft’s magnificent new telling of Bizet’s Carmen, the […]

The Irish Theatre of Chicago’s THE WEIR: “A strange [but wonderful] little evening”

When I lived on a five-acre farm in Maine, I found myself strangely fascinated with the behavior of male birds. It seemed that whenever a female swallow appeared the male swallows engaged in all sorts of madcap aerial displays, loop-d-loops, dives, deal falls, etc. On the other hand, when a female cowbird appeared, the male […]

Lyric Opera’s DON QUICHOTTE: A Hymn to a Holy Fool

A dying Jules Massenet wrote Don Quichotte knowing the woman he loved, soprano Lucy Arbell, would play the courtesan-lady Dulcinee after his death. Rather than create his own libretto from Cervantes’ mammoth novel, Massenet used Jacques Lorrain’s bastardized and abridged verse play, Le Chevalier de la longue figure, for his libretto. La Lorrain’s short play […]

Lyric Opera’s THE TROJANS: The “Most Profoundly Moving Experience”

“For grandeur of conception, nobility of tone, and imaginative range [Berlioz’ The Trojans] has scarcely a rival in operatic history.”[i] The words of the great musicologist Winton Dean would seem impossible to fulfill in production. But, after seeing the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s brilliant production of The Trojans, Mr. Dean may have been understating the […]

Interrobang’s THE AMISH PROJECT: An Icon of Forgiveness

In his famous Law of the Drama, the French critic Ferdinand Brunitiere (1849-1906) insists on the primacy of  “conflict” in dramatic literature: “Drama is a representation of the will of man in conflict with the mysterious powers or natural forces which limit and belittle us; it is one of us thrown living upon the stage […]

Lyric Opera’s Lucia di Lammermoor: Superlative Voices Reign Supreme

+ You can hear it in films – not just in The Great Caruso (1951), but also in The Departed (2006), Man on the Moon (1999), two Mickey Rooney  movies, Captain January (1936),Little Women (1933), Scarface (1932) , with the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers (1930), and even in the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie (1979). […]

Remy Bumppo’s Pirandello’s HENRY IV: A Modern Masterpiece Given Life

Though considered a major modern playwright, the plays of Luigi Pirandello are rarely produced. The reasons are numerous. First, the large casts require large budgets. Second, the plays’ philosophical facades are difficult to crack. And third, directors struggle to find a production style which makes the plays both clear and exciting to an audience. Consequently, […]

CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE’S TUG OF WAR: CIVIL STRIKE- Suffering Outside of Divine Providence

From his earliest plays to his final works, William Shakespeare confirmed his world’s confidence in Divine Providence. Divine Providence is the means by which God leads his creatures to their destined end. To thwart or reject this movement, is to risk the attainment of one’s destiny. Man is assured of Providential guidance, if, in conformity […]