Gil Rose Source: Odyssey Opera

Boston's Odyssey Opera Is Back with New CD and Recent Performance

Ed Tapper READ TIME: 2 MIN.

One of the Boston-based music organizations hardest hit by the Covid outbreak was Odyssey Opera. For many years, the ensemble had treated audiences to extremely rare and seldom performed, operatic works, often presenting US premieres. Amid its 2019-2020 season devoted to "The Tudors," its most ambitious to date, the company was forced to abruptly terminate the season due to the pandemic. Although Boston audiences were deprived of spectacles such as Britten's "Gloriana," and Rossini's "Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra," the company was able to inaugurate the season with a superb concert performance of Saint-Saens' "Henry VIII."

Although Saint-Saens composed 13 operas, the enormous popularity of "Samson et Dalila" has completely eclipsed the remaining dozen. One of the grandest, "Henry VIII" is almost never revived, and known to but a few listeners from its ballet music, which has been occasionally performed. The opera itself has never been recorded in its entirety, only in an incomplete version. Under the leadership of Gil Rose, Odyssey Opera has addressed that omission to the catalog by issuing a 4-CD set of the complete score, including all the ballet music. The set features the entire cast that gave such a sensational start to an ill-fated season. Baritone Michael Chioldi sings the title role with an authority befitting the regal character he portrayed. Chioldi made his Metropolitan Opera debut this year as Rigoletto. For "Henry VIII," he was joined by a talented cast, many of them Boston-based singers. The new CD set offers nearly four hours of opulent French Romantic music, with a dash of English Renaissance melody tossed in for the appropriate flavor. The set is now available online for sale or download.

Odyssey made its long-awaited return to live performance this past weekend, with the U.S. premiere of "Troika," a program consisting of the three one-act operas of Rachmaninov. Though known mostly for his rhapsodic piano concertos, the Russian master was a prolific composer for the voice. His songs and choral works are certainly better known than his operas. "Aleko," "The Miserly Night" and "Francesca da Rimini" are almost never performed here in the U.S. Odyssey presented the entire trilogy in a concert performance at Jordan Hall, the first company in the country to attempt such a feat. The operas were sung in the original Russian language, with English super-titles. An excellent cast included Mikhail Svetlov, Yelena Dyachek and Yeghishe Manucharyan.

As for future projects, Odyssey recently announced the east coast premiere of "The Lord of Cries." The work is a joint collaboration by husbands John Corigliano and Mark Adamo. The opera had its world premiere last summer at the Santa Fe Opera to great acclaim. Its story is based on two literary sources, Euripides' "The Bacchae," and Stoker's "Dracula." The gay, operatic superstar, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo will reprise his leading role as the god Dionysus who returns to Earth during Victorian England, taking the form of none other of than the Count himself. There will be only one performance, on Saturday evening, Nov. 19. at Jordan Hall. This should be gala event not to be missed.

For further information about Odyssey Opera's recordings and upcoming events, visit the website:

by Ed Tapper

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