Entries from THE DRESSING tagged with 'Francesca Zambello'

Dead Man Walking and Talking

If asked to condense to one sentence the message of composer Jake Heggie's and librettist Terrence McNally's opera Dead Man Walking, the Dresser would say "the truth will set you free." In this political climate under the Trump administration where alternate facts and television reality shows keep changing the definition of truth, this opera about death row inmate Joseph De Rocher who claims innocence of two brutal murders and a rape weighs questions about social justice and personal responsibilities. De Rocher's foil is a young nun who agrees to be his spiritual advisor. Washington National Opera under the baton of...

Twilight of the Gods and the Honest Dark

After 18 plus hours of Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung, the Dresser was thoroughly impressed with all aspects of Washington National Opera's production as conceived and directed by Francesca Zambello. Zambello's The Ring of the Nibelung was a tour de force and the Dresser was fortunate to have partaken of the opening nights of The Rhinegold (April 30) and The Valkyrie (May 2) and the closing performances of Siegfried (May 20) and Twilight of the Gods (May 22). Twilight of the Gods (Götterdämmerung) is astonishing if not for the failed lovers Brünnhilde (Nina Stemme) and Siegfried (Daniel Brenna)...

Siegfried: An Opera Framed in Flame

The expectation upon deciding to experience the four operas of Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung is that the operagoer attends consecutive performances. Washington National Opera presented three cycles of the four operas from April 30 to May 22, 2016, running each cycle within a week or less. Given that some attendees show up wearing Viking headgear--helmets with a pair of bovine horns, the Dresser thinks that attending The Ring operas is something like a convention for Rocky Horror Picture Show fans. People love The Ring operas so much, they want to participate beyond being a lump of skin...

The Valkyrie: A Vex Me, Hex Me Study of Strong Women

On the heels of Washington National Opera's fine production of Richard Wagner's opening Ring Cycle opera The Rhinegold conceived and directed by Francesca Zambello, the Dresser saw The Valkyrie on May 2, 2016. The role of Brünnhilde (and yes, Dear Reader, she is The Valkyrie) was sung by the incomparable Christine Goerke because the scheduled soprano Catherine Foster was injured in rehearsal some days before. Perhaps because of this last minute substitution of Goerke who sets the performance bar high, the overall cast performance was several notches above the satisfying performances delivered in The Rhinegold by such singers as Alan...

Rhinegold & the Value of a Woman

What is the value of a woman? How many bags of gold must be piled up to hide one woman so she cannot be seen? What about the man of a certain size who dons a gold head covering and then, to prove his power, he becomes a toad? The Dresser asks in our current political climate, could we be talking about real estate mogul Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Presidential Republican nomination? Or are these surreal scenes from Richard Wagner's opening Ring Cycle opera The Rhinegold seen by the Dresser on April 30, 2016? Washington National Opera's Artistic...

We are Still Lost in the Stars

In Washington, DC, a town where its major newspaper--The Washington Post--headlined "It's still apartheid", a story about continuing racial strife in South Africa, Washington National Opera, the night before--February 12, 2016--opened the profoundly moving production from Cape Town Opera of Lost in the Stars, a musical based on Alan Paton's novel Cry, the Beloved Country. Paton's novel was published in 1948. Kurt Weill, a Jew who fled Nazi Germany, in collaboration with Maxwell Anderson, who wrote the book and lyrics, premiered Lost in the Stars on Broadway in 1949. In 2011, WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello helped co-produce the Cape...

WNO American Opera Initiative #4--A Deluge of New Chamber Operas

On December 2, 2015, the 7 P.M. house at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater was full for the fourth annual Washington National Opera American Opera Initiative. WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello in introducing the program of three new twenty-minute chamber operas said there is no other program in the United States quite like this one, which gets backing from a major opera company including seasoned mentors (2015 mentors are conductor John DeMain, composer Ricky Ian Gordon, and librettist Mark Campbell) and outstanding singers from WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. The Dresser finds this program and its popularity (given the Terrace...

When Talking Heads Are Sisters

The Dialogues of the Carmelites, with words and music by Francis Poulenc and based after a play by Georges Bernanos is a through-composed opera with accessible music that has occasional flourishes common to film music. On February 23, 2015, the Dresser saw Washington National Opera's company premiere production under the direction of WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello and the baton of Antony Walker leading the WNO orchestra. The libretto rendered in clunky English (but approved by Poulenc as the official English translation) concerns Blanche de la Force (ably sung by Canadian soprano Layla Claire) a young aristocratic woman born in...

The Little Prince, A Family Affair

Suppose the little person in your life demanded three reasons why he or she should go with you to Washington, DC's Kennedy Center to see Washington National Opera's The Little Prince. You could say the star of the show is a little boy who comes from another planet to help an airplane pilot who crashes in the Sahara Desert (on December 19, 2014, the Dresser saw boy soprano Henry Wager perform fluidly in this demanding role), the red fox has her own trapdoors in the stage floor (Aleksandra Romano knew how to make the fox head worn on top of...

WNO Premiers Opera by Jeanine Tesori

On December 14, 2013, Washington National Opera premiered The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me by composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist J. D. McClatchy, WNO's first opera by a woman composer. This 90-minute family opera, commissioned by WNO's Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, is based on The Lion, The Unicorn and Me: The Donkey's Christmas Story by British novelist Jeanette Winterson. Zambello, who directed the production, also chose the book. Set in two acts, the first half of the show introduces the Me of the title, a boy angel with a set of golden wings that he seems to have trouble adjusting....

Francesca Zambello's The Force of Destiny

Tour de force--Francesca Zambello's production for Washington National Opera of The Force of Destiny (La forza del destino) by Giuseppe Verdi is an absolute tour de force. Opening night, October 12, 2013, Zambello, WNO Artistic Director, demonstrated her prowess in all aspects of operatic art: choosing and interpreting a complex rarely performed opera, enlisting a cast of remarkable singers--especially American soprano Adina Aaron who sang the role of Donna Leonora of Vargas, and assembling a creative team that made every aspect exciting, including music (conductor Xian Zhang was masterful energizing glue), sets (Peter J. Davison's bawdy inn with neon yellow-eyed...

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