Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Rolando Villazón and Marie-Ange Todorovitch
18 Jan 2006

A NICE COUP: VILLAZÓN in his first “WERTHER”

The French city of Nice has this past week been enjoying some wonderful weather and the aptly-named Cote d’Azur has truly lived up to its name.

This was fortunate, as its opera house, built around 1828 in a style reminiscent of a scaled-down Opéra Garnier, has been playing host to many first-time international visitors who have been lured by the mouth-watering prospect of hearing Rolando Villazón, hot young tenor of the moment, in his first “Werther”.

Villazón has already gained some outstanding reviews and praise from the sternest critics around the world for his performances in such works as Rigoletto, Romeo et Juliette, La Traviata and les Contes d’Hoffmann. He is already spoken of as “the next Domingo” — understandable if maybe a mite premature as this stage of his career. He is only 33, and his recent meteoric rise appears to have been sensibly planned and considered. He does indeed relate closely to Domingo, his “artistic father” (his words) who, though he never actually coaches him acts as mentor and friend to the young singer.

Audience reaction in Nice has been ecstatic and loudly vocal — perhaps too much so at the performance this writer attended when one particularly partisan group of Villazón fans in the first balcony had to be remonstrated with by a stern “Respectez la musique!” from another part of the theatre. One imagines Rolando Villazón himself was equally unimpressed. The Nice Opéra audience was obviously deeply impressed and delighted to be hearing this singer, and I wondered how such an elegant and enterprising, but essentially provincial house (with budgets to match) had managed to achieve such a coup. The answer lies in a meeting between Villazón and the producer Paul-Emile Fourny back in 2001 at the Antibes Festival. Fourny happened to remark that he wanted to stage “Werther” as soon as possible in Nice; Villazón replied that he very much wanted to add this role to his repertoire and a deal was made; luckily, I am informed, at a fee that would no longer buy this artist’s time! Of course, the advantage for Villazón is that he has been able to try out an important new role in a smaller house before submitting himself to critical review on the larger stages of the world.

Both the role and this simple but satisfying production suit Villazón perfectly, playing to his strengths and offering him ample scope to display his musical and histrionic abilities. The young Mexican certainly has the ‘physique du role’ — slim, athletic, and an elegant mover on stage, he transmits the kind of emotional vulnerability essential for this tortured young lover who is cruelly denied his dream. Perhaps it is the combination of ringing clarity and the ability to offer every nuance of expression that impressed most. The voice has a thrilling, easy top, and his delicacy and refinement in the role’s many quieter, reflective moments were matched by a most intelligent response to the words. Every line was delivered with complete understanding of, and immersion in, the character. Werther will surely become a most important role for Villazón and with good reason.

Of the other singers, the mezzo Marie-Ange Todorovitch as Charlotte was the most impressive. She has a handsome stage presence and is a sympathetic actress — and once under full control her big, dark voice brought real intensity and power to the emotionally fraught scene in Act 3 where she fully deserved the warm ovations after the “Air des Lettres” and “Air des Larmes”. She also rose magnificently to the demands of the intensely dramatic final scene and was, along with her illustrious partner, intensely moving. Andre Cognet was a forthright Albert and Sophie was sung with quintessential French spirit by Valérie Condoluci. Of the remainder, Jean-Luc Ballestra offered a promising baritone voice and stage presence and Michel Trempont brought his maturity and rich tones to a satisfying portrayal of the Le Bailli.

The conductor was the well-regarded Patrick Fournillier who was obviously firmly in control of the orchestra and in absolute sympathy with his singers. His shaping of the Entr’acte between Acts Three and Four was particularly dramatic and appealing. The choir of children was perfectly schooled and musically correct, yet also natural — not easy to achieve. The production, sets and lighting were of a suitably elegant nature, if not presenting the audience with any great visual challenges or delights. The final scene was slightly reduced in impact by an upstage procession of the children and minor characters — an interesting device but essentially misconceived in this writer’s opinion as all concentration should surely be on the dying lovers, with the outside world kept only to an aural presence.

However, minor distractions apart, this was a most exciting and successful production of Massenet’s great work and one in which the visiting star, supporting singers and musicians rose admirably to the occasion. Nice Opéra are to be congratulated — let us hope we see more such enterprising events presented here.

© Sue Loder 2006

Click here to view a larger image.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):