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

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Scene from Orfeo ed Euridice (Photo Credit: Robert Kusel)
14 Mar 2006

HIGH RISK “ORFEO” FROM CHICAGO LYRIC

Producer Robert Carsen, together with his set designer Tobias Hoheisel, is taking a big risk with their new production of Glück’s 1762 version for alto of “Orfeo ed Euridice” at Chicago Lyric Opera.

By stripping down the story to its bare bones, eschewing ballets, later additions and mock Grecian tunics, he takes us to the core of the work within seconds of the curtain rising. But then he has to keep us there: and with just a few sweeps of grey stones, a heaped grave (concealing both entrance and exit to the Underworld) and a lit cyclorama sky for much of the production — enlightened by superb lighting and occasional dramatic torches — that is a tall order. However, he has a trump card in the form of his acting singers. With complete faith in the abilities of David Daniels (Orfeo), Isabel Bayrakdarian (Euridice), and Ofelia Sala (Amor) to plumb depths of pathos with dignity and truth, and to hold the eye unwaveringly, he challenges the Chicago audience to go with him in this very singular and arresting vision of the ancient myth.

Not that the audience has much option — the entire opera lasts some ninety minutes only, but is given without intermission with just brief interludes between the acts. This has been something of a novelty for many in the audience, but they have responded with good manners and fulsome praise — and with virtually full houses both nights this writer attended, obviously the word was out that this was a production not to be missed. And, of course, all got out to their various transports somewhat earlier than normal — a bonus on freezing Lake Michigan nights.

Such intensity of drama and singing, with essentially just two major characters and a deux et machine to motivate the action, requires top class performers and the voice of American countertenor David Daniels in all its voluptuous beauty was the essential ingredient that balanced Carsen’s austere vision and the music’s serene elegance. He is on stage continuously, with but occasional vocal respite — and without doubt this must become one of his great roles. Total physical commitment, total integrity, and a fine vocal line that spun heartache and despair in a way that inspired awe at its consistent beauty and superb intonation. This was a fuller, more intensely lived performance than his earlier concert version at Covent Garden in 2002 and he was complemented by his colleagues throughout.

Bayrakdarian, when she appeared at last from the depths of Hades, in this case literally out from the grave, was a perfect match both vocally and dramatically. She is an elegant figure on stage who more than convinced with her mix of innocent anguish, confusion and despair. Her timbre and tone seemed perfect for this brief, but essential role as she had to quickly establish all the emotions required within minutes. At times in the climactic third act both characters were twisting, turning, almost engaging, then being torn apart again by Orfeo’s panic-driven attempts to abide by his instructions. Ofelia Sala’s Amor was a bright, sparkling, if essentially static, contrast to the more dramatic voices alongside her and her scenes with the despairing lover were memorable as she ably depicted the capricious, boyish Amor who sanguinely orders the night’s action. She is obviously a singer of wide dramatic capability; as her Tytania in the Liceu, Barcelona’s “Midsummer Nights Dream”, (also with Daniels and now on DVD) attests.

With this 1762 version of the opera, Glück was making an early attempt to put the brakes on the traditional indulgent opera forms of his predecessors, and both Carsen and Daniels follow through in every way. They create, and maintain, a steady, if ratcheting-up, dramatic growth. There is no showboating of the famous arias, each of these emerges naturally, on the breath, from within the music and the story and worked well when the audience was prepared to sit quietly and let this seamlessness just happen. One night they did, another they didn’t and burst into spontaneous applause — somewhat to the detriment of the magic.

Baroque expert Harry Bicket’s control of orchestra and chorus was neatly effective, if perhaps a mite less successful in period feel than his previous “Partenope” by Handel here — but nevertheless the Lyric orchestra offered some nice attack and articulation whilst not loitering too much in the plusher sections of the score. Alternating with “Rosenkavalier” at the end of a long season must have been particularly testing for them — how often do we audience give a thought to these hard-working musicians whose professionalism and multi-faceted skills are too easily taken for granted? Together with the excellently schooled Chorus — who had more than a usual amount of acting to get their teeth into in lieu of the more traditional ballet — this orchestra did the production proud, and helped create one of the most innovative, musically superb, and challenging “Orfeo’s” that has been seen in a long time. If only it could make the transition to DVD, and perhaps in a more sympathetic, smaller venue. Are you listening, Liceu? Munich? Glyndebourne? The production continues until March 26th.

© S.C. Loder 2006

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):