Recently in Performances
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.
It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?
‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies,
that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’
Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon
which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting
and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can
charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to
convey emotion and embody character.
‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.
Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.
It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).
Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.
Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.
28 Jan 2005
Poppea at Palais Garnier
Parisians do not like camp. David McVicar’s production of Monteverdi’s last opera was jeered in October at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées and now David Alden has met the same fate. This is unfair because his use of radical kitsch is altogether more sophisticated and his manipulation of the singers faultlessly choreographed. In any case, this classic staging dates from 1997, when it was first seen in Cardiff and Munich. McVicar’s approach now looks like a pale copy of an industry template.
L'incoronazione di Poppea Paris Opera (Garnier)
By Francis Carlin [Financial Times]
Published: January 28 2005 02:00 | Last updated: January 28 2005 02:00
Parisians do not like camp. David McVicar's production of Monteverdi's last opera was jeered in October at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées and now David Alden has met the same fate. This is unfair because his use of radical kitsch is altogether more sophisticated and his manipulation of the singers faultlessly choreographed. In any case, this classic staging dates from 1997, when it was first seen in Cardiff and Munich. McVicar's approach now looks like a pale copy of an industry template.
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Un Monteverdi shakespearien
[28 janvier 2005] [Le Figaro]
Les premières se suivent et ne se ressemblent pas à l'Opéra de Paris. Le surlendemain d'une pénible Flute enchantée, Gérard Mortier nous invitait à un grand moment de fascination théâtrale avec le Couronnement de Poppée de Monteverdi, dans une mise en scène de David Alden qui avait déjà triomphé à Munich. Dans les fascinants décors de Paul Steinberg (ce damier aux perspectives fuyantes !), Alden réalise une mise en scène formidablement musicale, ou chaque geste est en adéquation avec le rythme dramatique de Monteverdi. Dans une sorte de palace de luxe stylisé, les personnages habillés à la façon jet set du XXe siècle, existent avec une force d'attraction et de répulsion irrésistible. De chanteurs d'opéra, on a fait de grands acteurs, capables de jouer la comédie et la tragédie, le burlesque et la violence : un jeu physique et sensuel, c'est bien le moins pour le plus érotique des opéras du répertoire.
Ce Néron hagard, incapable de maîtriser ses pulsions, cette Poppée femme fatale qui le tient sous sa dépendance sexuelle et mène les autres par le bout du nez, ces femmes au bord de la crise de nerfs qui cassent leur talon, on ne les oubliera pas. Alden en fait des figures shakespeariennes, n'hésitant pas à outrer ce mélange des genres qui rend Monteverdi si audacieux. Mais Alden reste attentif au point d'équilibre entre grotesque et gravité, entre onirisme et réalisme. Le personnage de Sénèque retrouve ainsi le juste dosage entre véritable compassion et raillerie d'un philosophe alcoolique et sentencieux, dont les disciples serviles notent chaque phrase avec une frénésie ridicule. Bien des images nous resteront, non pour leur seule beauté plastique, mais pour leur expressivité : quand le décor s'évacue pour laisser Poppée s'endormir sur fond vert (magnifiques lumières de Pat Collins), quand Octavie fait ses adieux nus pieds en robe noire, quand l'horloge de Chronos vient surveiller les amants réunis, le temps suspend son vol.
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