Recently in Performances
Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17. Perfection, as one would expect from arguably the finest Rameau interpreters in the business, and that's saying a lot, given the exceptionally high quality of French baroque performance in the last 40 years.
Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.
The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.
Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.
If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.
Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.
With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.
Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.
Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.
The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.
One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.
That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.
Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.
‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.
The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.
In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.
High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.
The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.
‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough
and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy
will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.
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.
[This review originally appeared at Opera Seria, a Yahoo group. It is reprinted with the permission of the author.]