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I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.
“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”
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.
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.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
“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.
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.
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.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
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.
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.
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.
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.
24 Sep 2005
ROSSINI: L’Italiana in Algieri
This newly re-mastered recording was originally released in 1954 by Columbia (Qcx 10111/12), later reprinted by EMI (C163-00981/2), and it includes, besides Giulieta Simionato in the title role, three other members of the original 1953 production at La Scala: tenor Cesare Valleti, and bass Mario Petri in their respective roles of Lindoro and Mustafà and Conductor Carlo Maria Giulini.
By far one of the finest comedies in the operatic repertoire, L’Italiana in Algieri has always played the “little sister” to Rossini’s more famous Il Barbiere di Siviglia, but unlike the “older sister,” L’Italiana had a successful launch, and the proceeds from its 1813 premiere season saved the Teatro San Benedetto from bankruptcy. L’Italiana in Algieri also made its twenty-one year old composer the toast of Venice. The librettist, Angelo Anelli loosely based his drama on the legend of Roxelana, a young Russian girl who in 1523 was captured into slavery by the Turks, and who later, through her guile and intrigue married the Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. There is another legend involving a young Italian noblewoman who was captured and sent to a harem in Algiers. The young woman was later set free and returned to Italy to, no less, sing the role of Isabella!
As was the custom in the nineteenth century and before, L’Italiana had previously been set to music by another composer, in this case Luigi Mosca, in 1808.
After a somber but comical beginning symbolizing the Sultan’s omnipresence, the overture which Stendhal considered frivolous, quickly and effectively mixes the love and mad cap themes in the opera, bringing to mind the different characters and situations in the opera.
Mario Pietri in the role of Mustafà sets the tone in the opening scene: a bit gruff, but gentle. His basso voice is well suited for this role, as is his perfect timing and comic mastery. A young Graziela Sciuti in the role of Elvira, delivers a delicate and solid performance as Elvira, the Sultan’s rejected love interest. Her crystal clear soprano shines in the Quintetto of Act 1. Baritone Marcello Cortis delivers a fine performance as the quintessential pompous and elderly suitor, Taddeo; however of all the principals, his is the least interesting rendition.
Of special notice is Cesare Valetti, a key participant in this recording. His Lindoro is expressive and graceful without being weak or affected, and from the start of his opening aria “Languir per una bella,” Valetti’s brilliant lyric voice soars over the orchestra with ease. There is no need for Valetti to worry over other younger singers of today in this role. Many speculate that operas are neglected for lack of female voices to carry the work, but in the case of L’Italiana one would venture to include the lack of tenors like Valetti.
Giulietta Simionato is somewhat limited in her coloratura, but her fluid singing, masterful technique, and elegant phrasing show her as a qualified and adept performer of Rossini’s and early nineteenth century music. In fact, it can be argued that Simionato’s participation in the revival of these early operas paved the way for future generations of singers. A great Dalila, Amneris, Mignon, Carmen and Azucena among others, Simionato is perfectly at ease in lighter roles, having successfully sung a number of comedies before taking on the role of Isabella.
Simionato imbues Isabella’s “Cruda sorte” with the fragility of a lost, bewildered young woman in search of the man she loves—a lullaby in sharp contrast to the subsequent “Qua ci vuol disinvolture” in which Isabella sheds her innocent image to disclose her determination and true intentions. In “Oh! Che muso, che figura!” rather than addressing the listener with mocking intentions, as the aria is often sung, Simionato, very effectively, almost whispers the words to herself, going back to the image of the bewildered young woman, as though she were laughing with, instead of at Mustafà’s unpleasant appearance. Her high notes are never forced, and her chest notes are natural. Likewise, her interpretation of “Per lui che adoro” is lovingly slow and deliberate, leaving one wandering who the recipient of her lament really is—just as intended by Rossini.
The music and story are fast paced, providing the audience with one musical situation after the next, and Giulini conducts with restraint and attention to detail—thus the nuances in the score are never lost or overshadowed by unnecessary embellishments or loudness. Rossini’s melodic invention is evident throughout, as is his superb use of the sound of the language in the riotous finale to Act 1, in which all the characters relate their state of mind to a sound, which the composer parallels to an instrument in the pit. The cast and orchestra are superb in the handling of this situation, capturing the Rossinian genius with an engaging verve, yet never overpowering one another.
Not only is this a delightful opera, overflowing with the composer’s magic, but all the interpreters are in top form, making for a most enjoyable listening experience. Though there are some cuts—few operas were not “cut” throughout the first half of the twentieth century—the recording holds its own against better known, more complete, later versions of Rossini’s masterpiece.