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Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).



31 Dec 2004

La Cenerentola a Torino

Una piccola ma scelta rappresentanza di questo esimio consesso ha assistito ieri sera alla terzultima rappresentazione de La Cenerentola al Regio di Torino. In una sala strapiena di un pubblico festoso, reattivo e soprattutto devastato dalla bronchite (propongo per il...

Una piccola ma scelta rappresentanza di questo esimio consesso ha assistito ieri sera alla terzultima rappresentazione de La Cenerentola al Regio di Torino. In una sala strapiena di un pubblico festoso, reattivo e soprattutto devastato dalla bronchite (propongo per il futuro di posizionare nel foyer del teatro tinozze di caramelle alla codeina) e' stata rappresentata la nota produzione Ronconi/Palli, nata a Pesaro qualche anno fa. Quella della cicogna, per intenderci.

Salto a pie' pari le considerazioni sulla parte visiva, di cui parlero' a parte.

Appena entrati in teatro, ancora in coda al guardaroba, abbiamo avuto da fonte sicura la ferale notizia che Sonia Ganassi aveva la febbre ma era intenzionata a cantare. In sala, infatti, e' stato dato l'annuncio in forma ufficiale. Che dire? La Sonia stava male e si sentiva. La voce si arrochiva di frequente, in basso tendeva a parire, la coloratura era problematica. Succedeva poi una cosa strana, che non so fino a che punto sia da attribuire all'influenza. Alcuni passi di agilita', tutti quelli con passaggi o scale ascendenti, mettevano la Ganassi in evidente difficolta', ed erano eseguiti quasi a denti stretti e producendo un suono per nulla gradevole. Non so se fosse un tentativo per superare un problema vocale dovuto al malessere, mi piacerebbe sapere da chi ha visto le recite precedenti se ha notato una cosa del genere. Comunque, la Ganassi e' arrivata in fondo da seria professionista qual e' ed e' venuta a capo onorevolmente anche del rondo', seppure utilizzando per le variazioni finali una specie di falsetto che sapeva di forzato ripiego. Per la cronaca, il rondo' ha avuto comunque una discreta e affettuosa ovazione accompagnata da alcuni fischi francamente inopportuni, visto l'evidente stato di malessere in cui si trovava la cantante, che piu' di una volta durante l'opera ha girato la testa per tossire.

Ramiro era Antonio Siragusa, che ha fatto tutto bene e anche benissimo ma ha infilato nella grande aria del secondo atto una serie di acuti decisamente tirati. Lo so, da quando Florez e' sceso fra noi abbiamo avuto la prova evidente della perfezione vocale tenorile. Siragusa e' un ottimo cantante che non si merita un ingiusto paragone con Florez. Diciamo che, dimenticando Juan Diego, il suo e' probabilmente il miglior Ramiro in circolazione oggi.

Esecrabile il Dandini del sempre piu' insopportabile Roberto De Candia, trasandato vocalmente e scenicamente pieno delle solite mossette che rendono i suoi personaggi uno la fotocopia dell'altro. Non mi ha entusiasmato il Magnifico di Andrea Concetti, che ha grande presenza scenica e ottimo impatto nei recitativi, ma da un punto di vista puramente vocale e' un po' insipido. L'aria di entrata e' scivolata via quasi senza un applauso. Bravissimo invece Marco Vinco come Alidoro e, come dire?, simpatiche le due sorelle, di cui non ricordo i nomi. Vocalmente la soprano era a suo modo gradevole (anche se molto stile sopranino/cucu'), ed ha avuto anche l'aria prima del finale reintegrata. L'altra sorella era francamente problematica da ascoltare, ma nell'insieme il duo era molto divertente.

La direzione di Enrique Mazzola mi e' parsa piu' che buona, varia nei tempi e non troppo incline a certi manierismi che ormai sono entrati nella tradizione, come la stucchevole enfasi sulle erre nel concertato del nodo rintrecciato.

Riccardo Domenichini

[This review originally appeared at Opera Seria, a Yahoo group. It is reprinted with the permission of the author.]

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