Category Archives: Music

TIDEWATER STAGE’S THE 39 STEPS: A HILARIOUS HOMAGE

“Spoof’ was originally a late 19th century drinking game involving coins. By the late 1950s the term began to be used to describe a skit or “send-up” of a popular literary or cultural genre. By the late 1970s “spoof” had engendered a theatrical movement known as the “Theatre of the Ridiculous”, itself a send up […]

MY FIRST TATTOO

No, not that kind of tattoo! I mean the kind of tattoo I didn’t even know existed until a few weeks ago. The tattoo I mean originated in the England of 1644 as the name for a signal made, by drum beat or bugle call, in the evening for soldiers to return to their quarters, […]

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 […]

Lyric Opera: Chicago’s Third Great NORMA

As late as 1920, American musicologists considered Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma “an improbably old-fashioned, almost hurdy-gurdy work.” But thanks to Chicago sopranos, that opera has become a standard of the American operatic canon. Written when Bellini (1801-1835) was just thirty years old, Norma had played in Chicago since the mid-nineteenth century by various visiting opera companies. […]

My 10 Favorites of 2016, In No Particular Order

KING CHARLES III – Chicago Shakespeare THE AMISH PROJECT – Interrobang WONDERFUL TOWN – Goodman THE MERCHANT OF VENICE – Shakespeare’s Globe at Chicago Shakespeare THE SEAGULL – The Artistic Home COMPANY – Writers’ Theatre A LOSS OF ROSES – Raven Theatre PYGMALION – Remy Bumppo THE TROJANS – Lyric Opera THE MAGIC FLUTE – […]

LYRIC OPERA’S MAGIC FLUTE: A Metatheatrical Spectacular

Reviewing an 1879 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the anonymous Chicago Tribune critic noted, “it would be absurd to try to explain the plot…. All sorts of explanations have been attempted but, if anyone ever really knew what it meant, he died before he said anything about it. It is a hodge-podge, nonsense, and […]

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 […]