opera

Ricky Ian Gordon’s treatment of John Steinbeck’s heartbreaking 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath” is this week’s Sunday Opera (4/22  3:00 p.m.).  This world premier recording features Brian Leerhuber as the desperate Tom Joad leading his extended family away from the horrors of the dustbowl only to find that California holds no promise for them at the end of their journey.  The cast also includes Roger Honeywell as Jim Casey, Kella Kaduce as Rosasharn, Andrew Wilkowske as Tom’s hapless brother Noah, Robert Orth as Uncle John, and Deanne Meek and Peter Halverson as Ma and Pa Joad.

The Sunday Opera (4/8 3:00 p.m.) will, in its small way, be celebrating the centennial year of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with an afternoon of his two major operas: “Trouble in Tahiti,” and its sequel “A Quiet Place.”  “Trouble in Tahiti” had its world premiere at Brandeis University as part of their Festival of Creative Arts.  The barely finished opera which had a problematic physical production, was not particularly well received, but it was reworked and performed at Tanglewood before appearing on television, all in 1952.  

It’s a perfect April Fool’s on this week’s Sunday Opera (4/1 3:00 p.m.) when we turn to Franz Josef Haydn and his farce “Il Mondo Della Luna.”  Based on a play by Carlo Goldoni, the clever Ecclitico wins both money and a bride from the foolish Buonafede with a tale that he will take him to the moon and introduce him to the society there.  We’ll turn to a 1993 recording featuring Luigi Alva, Domenico Trimarchi, Edith Mathis, Arlene Auger, Frederica von Stade, and Anthony Rolfe Johnson for this charming bit of tomfoolery.   

  This Sunday Night at eight o'clock (04-01-18), three singers from the early and middle parts of the twentieth century take center stage. Gino Bechi (1913-1993) was not well known outside of Italy, but his interpretation of Verdi was on a par with Robert Merrill, Leonard Warren and Ettore Bastianini. Claudia Muzio (1889-1936) easily was one of the finest sopranos of the first half century, and Richard Tauber (1891-1948) is still the touchstone for how to sing operetta, although he had an extensive career in opera as well.

Opera Philadelphia

With the successful launch of its new Fall festival format under with its belt, Opera Philadelphia this week announced its plans for its O18 Festival. The festival will run September 20-30, 2018, bringing two world premieres, two new productions and some other treats to opera audiences at a variety of venues.

Two works by Sir Michael Tippett are on offer for this week’s Sunday Opera (3/25  3:00 p.m.)  His groundbreaking opera “A Midsummer Marriage” which deals with a symbolic pathway to marriage and life in the face of change will open the program.  The recording is the world premiere production from 1955 featuring Joan Sutherland, Richard Lewis, Edith Coates, and Adele Leigh and the Covent Garden Chorus and Orchestra under the direction of John Pritchard.

Music by the rival of Weber and friend to Beethoven and Mendelssohn is being featured on this week’s Sunday opera (2/4  3:00 p.m.) when we’ll look at two supernatural works from the pen of Heinrich August Marschner.  The first is the opera that cemented his place as one of the important composers of German opera, “Hans Heiling” in which the prince of the gnomes searches the mortal world to find a wife but learns just how difficult finding true love can be.  

Vincenzo Bellini’s last opera, “I Puritani,” is on offer as this week’s Sunday Opera (2/25  3:00 p.m.).  It proved to be one of Bellini’s best received operas, and it was revived frequently after its premier at the Theatre-Italien on 24 January 1835.  With a libretto by Count Carlo Pepoli, it’s a story of love, mistaken infidelity, madness, opportunistic sanity, and finally, a happy ending.  

We’ll be “crossing over” on this week’s Dress Circle (2/25  7:00 p.m.).  Well, the singers will be crossing over as some of opera’s greatest sing favorites from the world of Broadway.  Those singers include Eileen Farrell, Robert Merrill, Rise Stevens, Dorothy Kirsten, Thomas Hampson, Kiri Te Kanawa, Jerry Hadley, Frederica von Stade, and more.  We’ve scheduled songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and the Gershwins from shows like “South Pacific,” “Music in the Air,” “The Most Happy Fella,” “Allegro,” and “The New Moon.” 

As part of its commitment to supporting new American music, Opera Philadelphia next week will premiere Cycles of My Being, a song cycle that delves into the realities and facets of life as a black man in America. Composed by Tyshawn Sorey with lyrics by poet Terrance Hayes, the work will have its world premiere Feb. 20 in a performance by bel canto tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who has been tapped as an artistic advisor to Opera Philadelphia.

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