Articles by Philip Hodge
I have lived on the peninsula for 21 years, and have subscribed to Pocket Opera for all of that time. Many of the performers keep coming back, and I always delight when I look at the program and see more and more names that I recognize and remember
Conductor David Rohrbaugh's handling of the extended quiet musical passage at the end of Act I was exquisite; the audience paid him the ultimate tribute: they held their applause until the last quiet note had been played and he had lowered his arms
I am amazed all over again at the overall excellence of this small company. Every ingredient outstanding, and they all combine and are so compatible with each other that the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts
Rossini’s The Barber of Seville has music so basic, characters so stock, and plot so simple that a director can put almost anything on stage without creating any blatant inconsistencies.
Do you wonder that I rave about WBOpera’s casts? When sopranos of this quality were only understudies during the regular season!
The two children are lost, it’s getting dark, and there are mysterious noises in the woods
What does the Opera Nut do on November 1, 2013, when faced with a two-week vacation after seeing 6 operas (and reviewing 4 of them) in October?
Be careful what you wish for - you may get it
When you start with a plot by Shakespeare, music by Verdi, libretto by Boito, an orchestra conducted by Nicola Luisotti, and title role sung by Bryn Terfel, it is not surprising that the result is a wonderful evening of entertainment
Tosca’s poignant Vissi d’arte, Mario’s lovely O dolce mani, and Scarpia’s doom-threatening motif are competing for attention in my head
Anna Netrebko is in a class by herself; every muscle of her face and body, every note of her voice tell you exactly what she is thinking and feeling; it almost seems indecent to expose a teen-age girl’s innermost being to a world-wide audience
The role of Dolores Claiborne was played by Patricia Racette, but you can’t fool me; The woman who walked into her dressing room may well have been Patricia Racette, but the woman who walked on stage Sunday afternoon was Dolores Claiborne
I won’t go far as Faust: “If I would haply say to the moment flying, ‘Stay thee, for thou art blissful’ Ah! let me die then, And let hell there engulf me!” but the 4 hours in the War memorial Theatre with Boito's Mefistofeles were indeed Blissful
I walk into the War Memorial Opera House, I show my ticket, the usher hands me a program, I glance at the cover, and WOW!
To the world, Falstaff is elderly, obese, ridiculous – an object of scorn – a butt for amusement; he is totally oblivious of all of this and regards himself a handsome, dashing nobleman in the prime of life – completely irresistible to all women
No other operetta can match the procession of haughty peers as they first march on to the spirited "Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes! Bow, bow, ye tradesmen, bow, ye masses! Blow the trumpets, bang the brasses!
Tantantara! Tzing! Boom!"
One of the most beautiful and moving musical performances I have ever seen. - - I had to write a review; it was the only outlet for all of the awe and wonder in me as I left the theater
I doubt that any other performance anywhere has produced wives merrier than Marcelle Dronkers and Meghan Dibble as Mistresses Ford and Page, respectively
Tell them what we did.
Tell them what we tried for.
Tell them what we gave.
Tell them that we laughed.
Tell them we were foolish.
Tell them we were brave
As an actress, there’s no question – Susannah Biller’s Despina stole the show
"We have created a space that comes from the imagination of the poet. A world both real and dreamlike, and a device that moves us from one story to another" - Laurent Pelly, Director
How do you begin to write a review when you want to rave about all aspects of the production? I can’t think of anything better than the fundamental instructions for writing an essay: start at the beginning – continue until the end – stop
Puccini and Schonberg have very different ideas about music!
Cleopatra's costume ranged from towel and soapsuds to formal gay-nineties ball gown to a “little black dress”; - - - as Orlando rides forth the banner streaming behind him reads "Make War not Love."
Jacques Offenbach cast his irreverent eye and ear on Gluck’s opera and the original myth and mused, “Hmm. I wonder what the real story was like?”
To most of Florence Gianni Schicchi appears to he hard-hearted and selfish, but to his daughter he’s a pussycat
The baby boy was snatched from her immediately upon birth and Angelica was sent immediately to a convent to spend the rest of her life in repentance, never to be spoken of or communicated with again
A man falls in love with the first unmarried woman he sees – and that might not be the same woman he was courting a mere 12 hours before; it is not surprising that in Act II All Hell breaks loose
Donald Pippin goes on to admit that Don Giovanni can be utterly charming, and concludes with an explicit warning to the women in the audience that they stay here at their own peril
When Lucia (Rochelle Bard) came on for her curtain call, the applause level doubled and nearly everyone was standing
Rick Williams does not play the part of King Gama; he IS King Gama
The instant Tosca sees the knife she becomes a changed woman. A plan has been conceived in an instant. She picks up the knife with a gleam of triumph and sprawls on the couch in a suggestive pose with a seductive smile on her face
I laughed longer and louder yesterday than I can recall doing for many a moon; the singing and the dialog were in English, and the diction of all of the singers was so good that only in retrospect did I realize that there were no supertitles
IF you live anywhere near San Jose California, and IF you like any of opera, light opera, operetta, or musicals, THEN run, do not walk, to the OSJ web site and order your tickets to see Cast I perform Der Fledermaus on Nov. 17,20, or 25
The overture to Act III begins with the familiar Wedding March and the curtain rises to reveal a perfect gem of a bridal suite suspended in a jet-black infinity
"When I read the book I realized how essentially musical and operatic it is -- the music was already there -- I could hear musical textures, rhythms, orchestral and vocal colors" -- Jake Heggie, Composer
When I asked Rochelle Barr why she decided to sing all four roles whereas most sopranos opt for only one, she replied, “I want to become another Joan Sutherland;” she’s not there yet, but don’t bet against her over the next few years
Totally and wonderfully dominated by Joyce DiDonato's Romeo and Nicole Cabell's Giuliette; brilliantly conducted by Maestro Riccardo Frizza. It was an evening to remember.
The D'Oyly-Carte Opera Company came to New York in 1936 when I was in high school, and we took the train into the city every Friday to see ten of the G&S operettas
The menacing overture begins. With a crashing chord the curtain rises to show a dimly lighted arcade – Another chord and the scene is flooded with an intense red light – With the third there is instantaneous brilliant white light –
Baritone Zurga, tenor Nadir, and soprano Leila are on a tropical island called Ceylon sometime in the distant past. The two men are each hopelessly in love with Leila; she has eyes only for Nadir. The classic Eternal Triangle – with complications
My anticipation grew as I walked into the theatre for the Piano Tech Rehearsal Friday night August 10, 2012 and viewed the open stage with its magnificent construction
We are in old Vienna during the reign of Maria Theresa and Octavian, a young Viennese blade, is crawling out of the Marschallin’s bed
Forty-one years ago I attended the World Premiere of Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco - when I found out that Merola was presenting it, I jumped at the chance
"I hope to understand what the composer and librettist wish to communicate with their original work and then interpret it in a way that is at once vital . . clear . . exciting and entertaining" - Harry Silverstein, Director
Any way you look at it, Attila is not your usual opera; to begin with, there is only one woman principal in the cast – but what a woman
Ten years ago Medea, the famed sorceress, had a spectacular day in which, to punish her faithless lover, she murdered their two small children, set fire to her successful rival and poisoned the girl's aged father - what will she do for an encore?
There are many things about Tales of Hoffman which are unusual (if not unique) among operas - I can best describe them by first giving you a condensed version of the plot
A high priestess in an austere religious order whose vows include that of chastity is in love with a leader of the enemy, and has even born him two children, a fact long kept secret, God only knows how. But a crisis is in the offing - -
As the overture reaches a climax, an image of the plane Air Force One hurtles across the screen from left to right, touching down for its landing and rapidly disappearing in the mist
An intimate story of four people: with an inner conflict between love and patriotism, and the first 3 forming the eternal triangle – with complications; out of such stuff is great drama created
Ruddigore is not as well known as some of the other Gilbert and Sullivan operas – which is a shame, because it is full of catchy tunes, clever words, and a comic twist to provide a happy ending
“What’s in a name?” asks the Bard; in Act I we knew Robin Oakapple as a painfully shy farm lad - until he was revealed to be Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, the evil baronet of Ruddigore; it’s hard to believe that he is really the same person
I was willing to grant that the director was doing a good job with his interpretation – even if I didn’t like the interpretation. But when Death opened his mouth to sing Dr. Grenvil’s words, I was totally confused
Faust may not be my favorite opera, but it’s high on the list of operas that I don’t get tired of
Manon is an opera that grows on me. I like it and appreciate it more every time I see it
People who enjoy Rossini’s Count Ory would also enjoy
the Marx Brother’s A Night at the Opera
We’re counting on you for all of the chorus parts, of course. But feel free to accompany any or all of the soloists. Gender is no barrier. What’s a couple of octaves between friends?
As I sat down in seat G2 5 minutes before curtain time, I noticed something different about the stage: there was no piano!
Here’s the Opera Nut again with a few more thoughts after two weeks and two complete performances of La Traviata
The Commendatore's portrait comes to life, dramatically rips the frame apart and strides forth; demons appear; Giovanni is dragged offstage to Hell - I’ve never seen a more dramatic ending to Don Giovanni
It seemed like old home week as I settled into my comfortable seat at CinéArts @ Palo Alto Square Theatre to begin six hours of immersion in wonderful music and cosmic story-telling
Words fail me when I try to describe Rebecca Davis; she wasn’t acting an operatic role; she was channeling the famous Parisian courtesan, Marie Duplessis.
My second complete Il Trittico reinforced two of my opinions. One, that Puccini’s three one-acts are even better taken as a whole, and two, that an ROH production with Conductor Antonio Pappano and Stage Director Richard Jones will be first rate.
I wish the author would extend “Baroque” to include early Mozart, and remind Neptune about his subject Calabanetta, a sweet-voiced young woman with a deformed body but a beautiful spirit who lives in the far reaches of his kingdom
I reviewed sixteen “Ten Best” opera productions in 2011 – no problem. I’ll just use a hexidecimal definition of “Ten”.
I had some free time last week and figured to get a head start on my review by writing part of it before seeing the opera; then after seeing it, I would revise as appropriate -- things didn’t work out that way
I don't enjoy being Scrooge at this time of year, but "Bah! Humbug!" are the only words to thoroughly convey my reaction to the 2007-8 Met HD Live production of Hansel and Gretel
Marina Poplavskaya's acting and singing is superb; In Act II her Marguerite is young, pretty, vibrant, popular; less than 9 months later, she is an old woman about to give birth - friendless, exhausted, utterly miserable
Fleming WAS Rodelinda. Her expressive face was showing every emotion that Rodelinda was feeling. Thanks to the close-up camera, at one point I could see a tear in her eye
Philip Glass, his librettist Constance DeJong, and the entire creative staff of the MetHD production have presented the essence of Gandhi’s 21 years in South Africa in a most unusual fashion – the complete opposite of verismo.
The same voice box produced the powerful German singing by Siegfried on stage and the delightful Texas drawl of Jay Hunter Morris in the interviews - I could easily believe him to be a reincarnation of Wagner’s famous 17 year old hero.
The divine words of the choir and Scarpia’s profane words are each sung to entirely appropriate music. When the two are perfectly balanced, the resulting dissonance creates an almost unbearable musical tension.
What a pair of characters - Carmen: flamboyant, sexy, strong-willed, domineering – yet potentially vulnerable; what an opportunity for a mezzo; tenor Don José: naïve country bumpkin at the start – insane murderer at the end.
The conductor raises his arms - our pulses quicken in anticipation - an opera is about to start - but wait! - the conductor’s arms do not descend; they remain upraised, poised, ready for action. The curtain rises in utter silence
Handel wrote the parts of Xerxes and his brother to be played by castrati who were a respected musical class in 18th century Europe but are now essentially extinct due to changing mores and natural selection
The advance program said that James Levine would be the conductor; the program at the theater door listed Fabio Luisi
Cilia’s Adriana Lecouvreur sounded vaguely familiar to me, so I assumed it would be classical opera, but I knew absolutely nothing about the composer or the plot. I was looking forward to being surprised - and what a wonderful surprise it was
Despite all of his past successes and his unbounded self-confidence, Don Giovanni is totally unfulfilled during the twenty-four hours of his life presented on stage - and it’s not for lack of trying
For a moment Anna Netrebko did not reply. She had been sitting relaxed with a smiling face. Her body straightened and stiffened. Her smile was replaced by a firm straight mouth. She said, simply, “I remind myself that I am a Queen.”
The air was electric when José Luis Moscovich, General Director (and Conductor) of West Bay Opera appeared on stage to welcome the audience to WBO's fifty-sixth season
There is little correlation between the historical Lucrezia Borgia and the title character of the opera Lucrezia Borgia - and even less between the real Lucrezia's bastard son Giovanni and opera Lucrezia’s long-lost son Gennaro
Heart of a Soldier is different from most operas. The Story is a biography of a current person, and it is by far the driving force of the opera; music, acting, scenery, lighting, etc. are important only in-so-far-as they enhance the story telling
I had never seen or heard Idomeneo before, but I knew I’d like it – I mean, it’s Mozart so what else do you need to know?
H.M.S. Pinafore hove into Mountain View this past weekend and it was immediately obvious that the “sober men and true” who sailed her were not exaggerating a bit when they sang, “Our saucy ship’s a beauty.”
Macbeth is a total villain with no redeeming qualities - not even consistency. Immediately after killing King Duncan he wishes the deed undone. But then he commits more murders to cover up the first one
Imagine, if you will, Agatha Christie, Groucho Marx, Noel Coward, and Richard Rogers all locked in a small room and told they can’t come out until they’ve written a new musical - Curtains"
The Broadway By the Bay’s production of Meredith Willson’s "The Music Man" is nothing but Cool
Pocket Opera's production of Mozarts' "Marriage of Figaro" with many stars who were familiar to me, was a delight
Why was the San Francisco Opera production of Wagner's "Ring Cycle" so great? Read on and find out
How Francesca Zambello, Director of the SFO Ring Series, manages two challenges which are not normally present in opera
Here you will find a complete list of all the mythical and human characters in the Ring, along with a terse summary to remind you of the complex plot.
In the course of 6 days I spent 17 hours watching and listening to San Francisco Opera's complete cycle of Wagner’s 4 operas known as the Ring. Here is Part I of a four-part review of the cycle as a whole.
Pocket Opera's Italian Girl in Algiers has great music by Rossini, an improbable plot, and a really happy ending – the bad guys aren’t really bad, everyone on stage likes the outcome, and the audience leaves humming, chuckling, and feeling good
The Met HD production of Part II of Wagner’s epic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen is a must see in its encore performance on June 1st
West Bay Opera's "Dido and Aeneas" by Henry Purcell and "La Vida Breve" by Manuel de Falla, similar and different were both thoroughly enjoyable
In this European HD performance of Verdi's Rigoletto. Placido Domingo IS Rigoletto in a production filmed in Mantua, the real town where this took place
The title role of a cat named Minette is shared by a cute little stuffed toy (silently) and later by the even cuter soprano Elise Kennedy (not silently)
In it's 70 minutes, Pietro Mascagni’s "Cavalleria Rusticana" is challenged to present a beginning, a middle and an end
I can’t recall ever witnessing a better opera performance than I saw this morning - everything came together: Verdi’s music, Amiliato’s conducting, the wonderful singers giving their all
Capriccio is like a delicate soufflé. When it is done perfectly it is an almost transcendental experience. But let any small thing disturb its fragile perfection, and it would fall flat - the soufflé served up Saturday was yummy
And so Opera San Jose's production of La Boheme ends: beautiful, predictable, actions and music in sublime accord, lump growing in my throat, tears rolling down my cheeks - I could ask no more
I saw the Ballet San Jose present Roland Petit’s Carmen, danced to the music of the familiar opera by Bizet and I was moved to write about it
My enjoyment of the Met HD production of Rossini's "Le Comte Ory" began before Ms Fleming had finished her 60-second introduction delivered from back stage
There is no question but that Erina Newkirk was the star of Pocket Opera's current production of "Manon
What a fantastic 31 hours that included "Lucia di Lammermoor", "Kiss Me Kate" and "Man of La Mancha"
A truly dysfunctional royal family - the king sacrifices his daughter, the queen kills the king, the son kills the queen - Fifteen years later the overture to Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride starts
I can’t think of a better way to start my review of this 2011 performance than to quote in full the review I wrote two years ago of the same production with a different cast
The Euro HD rendition of last year’s performance of "La Traviata" from the Royal Opera House in London reinforced previous experiences I have had
If you enjoy light-hearted opera by such composers as Offenbach, Lehar, Gilbert and Sullivan, you are bound to like Donizetti’s "The Elixir of Love"
I love West Bay Opera and was thrilled to find that their production of "Turandot" by Puccini more than held its own in comparison to the Met HD's performance
You may not necessarily enjoy "Nixon in China" by John Adams but you may be in danger of being ensnared or seduced by it
How can anyone not like Rossini’s "The Barber of Seville"? I even enjoyed it twice at Opera San Jose
My fear that "Yeoman of the Guard" by W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan would not live up to my anticipation did not materialize. I loved it
When opera is good, the music and the actions on stage each complement the other. But here while the ear is hearing a tale of great emotion, grand passion, and eventual doom, the eye is viewing the pitiable comic on stage. There is no harmony
Inevitably, Puccini’s opera has been called an “oater”. I would sum up the Met production as pure grade A oats
The music and singing were excellent throughout and despite minor flaws, the overall effect of Don Carlo was so powerful that defects were overshadowed
Dad explained to me that one shouldn’t take operatic characters too seriously; just enjoy the music and the comic situations they get themselves into
Staging makes all the difference between this Emerging Pictures HD production of Das Rheingold from La Scala and the two previous performances I saw
Have I convinced you to NOT go to the Encore performance on Wednesday, December 1 2010 at 6:30 local time? I hope not, because it is a wonderful performance and I am definitely planning to see it again. “Huh?” you ask. “How can you want to see it again when the story is so distasteful?”
The story of Elina Makropulos is a strange one. She was born in 1537 in Greece . . . . [she would] live for three hundred years without ageing
Tosca at its best is THE essential tragic opera. And yet, Tosca is not like any other opera.
I enjoyed it tremendously. The music was the same. The performers were different but the characters were the same. The language was the different but this one was simply a translation of that one. But it was a totally different experience.
I was excited about the San Francisco Opera performance of Cyrano de Bergerac because I was going to hear Plácido Domingo live
I have just seen my best-ever performance of "Madama Butterfly" at San Francisco Opera
The plot of La Forza del Destino is really very simple. Leonora and Don Alvaro are in love. Alvaro kills Leonora’s father and brother. He sends Leonora to her dying brother who kills her. Of course, there are some extenuating circumstances . . . .
The theater lights dim, the audience becomes quiet. There is an air of expectancy in the CinéArts @ Palo Alto Square Theatre where at 10 AM Saturday morning the giant screen is ready to show the 1 pm performance at the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center New York City.
If the characters all live happily ever after
and the audience leaves the theater humming and chuckling,
who can ask for more? All that is true of the San Francisco Opera production of Figaro
"Aida" was spectacular at the War Memorial Stadium and at AT&T park
I just saw "Werther" and was surprised at the similarities to "Anna Karenina"
For this incredible opera, I need a new vocabulary
If all goes well for me during the coming 2010-11 operatic season, it will be the Year of the Ring.
Last night I attended my sixth performance of La Traviata this summer, this one by the Fremont Opera. And every time there were tears in my eyes as the orchestra played the final notes of Act III.
When the opera opens, she has been High Priestess for ten or so years and apparently no one except her personal slave Clotilde knows that she has...
The Lamplighters Music Theatre has been producing Gilbert & Sullivan operas in San Francisco since 1852. Their production of Pirates of Penzance is a treat
But Carmen. Ah, Carmen. There’s a gal worth composing for
In most Grand Opera the lead male character is fairly stupid - the Prince of Tartary (we don’t know until the last act that his name is Calàf) raises stupidity to a new height (depth?).
You win some (the marvelous La Traviata I saw last week, for example) and you lose some. But if the Met Encores this performance again...
Yesterday as the final quiet chords were played by the piano and eight-piece orchestra of Pocket Opera, I was not just emotionally “satisfied”. I was emotionally saturated, emotionally drained, emotionally exhausted
Going to an Emerging Pictures' European HD performance is frequently an adventure. One of the strangest adventures is what Claus Guth does to Mozart at the Salzburg Festival
Regarding the Met HD "Eugene Onegin" production, San Francisco Splash operanut questions - Is it me? Is it this particular production? Is it Met HD?
My high expectations for the Met HD performance of Roméo et Juliette were not realized largely due to not having an intermission and technical problems
Simon Boccanegra at La Scala is a must see
Although the story is the same, Pocket Opera’s production of Handel’s Rinaldo is unimaginably different from Armida. In fact, Donald Pippin’s productions of any of Handel’s operas are in a class by themselves
Though there is no such thing as a "bad" Puccini opera, some are more familiar than others-this was better than I expected
Die Walküre-Part II of Wagner’s Ring Cycle closes the Opera nut’s marathon of 5 operas in 6 days. He deserves a medal
With Pocket Opera, Offenbach is often back, to the delight of its audience
Ten years is too long to stay away from the San Francisco Opera and
the Opera nut decided that it was time to review not one, but three operas. Be sure to check these reviews
I approached West Bay Opera's performance of La Traviata with cautious optimism and was more than delighted with what I experienced
San Francisco Splash's Operanut shares his thoughts on productions of La Rondine at Pocket Opera and Opera San Jose. He saw both in one weekend
I had the chance to see two operas, Old to the world but New to me, in one weekend. I enjoyed Hamlet and Halka and you can still see them