Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Arabella in San Francisco

A great big guy in a great big fur coat falls in love with the photo of the worldly daughter of a compulsive gambler. A great big conductor promotes the maelstrom of great big music that shepherds all this to ecstatic conclusion.

Two falls out of three for Britten in Seattle Screw

The miasma of doom that pervades the air of the great house of Bly seems to seep slowly into the auditorium, dulling the senses, weighing down the mind. What evil lurks here? Can these people be saved? Do we care?

Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ten years ago, I saw one of the first performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Now, Music Theatre Wales and National Dance Company Wales give the opera its first United Kingdom production - in an English translation by Amanda Holden from the original Italian: the first time, I believe, that a Dusapin opera has been performed in translation. (I shall admit to a slight disappointment that it was not in Welsh: maybe next time.)

Tosca in San Francisco

The story was bigger than its actors, the Tosca ritual was ignored. It wasn’t a Tosca for the ages though maybe it was (San Francisco’s previous Tosca production hung around for 95 years). P.S. It was an evening of powerful theater, and incidentally it was really good opera.

Fine performances in uneven War Requiem at the Concertgebouw

At the very least, that vehement, pacifist indictment against militarism, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, should leave the audience shaking a little. This performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra only partially succeeded in doing so. The cast credits raised the highest expectations, but Gianandrea Noseda, stepping in for an ailing Mariss Jansons and conducting the RCO for the first time, did not bring out the full potential at his disposal.

The Tallis Scholars at Cadogan Hall

In their typical non-emphatic way, the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips presented here a selection of English sacred music from the Eton Choirbook to Tallis. There was little to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, little in the way of overt ‘interpretation’ – certainly in a modern sense – but ample opportunity to appreciate the mastery on offer in this music, its remoteness from many of our present concerns, and some fine singing.

Dido and Aeneas: Academy of Ancient Music

“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” Well, the spectral Queen of Carthage atop the poppy-strewn sarcophagus wasn’t quite yet “laid in earth”, but the act of remembering, and remembrance, duly began during the first part of this final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s Purcell trilogy at the Barbican Hall.

Poignantly human – Die Zauberflöte, La Monnaie

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at La Monnaie /De Munt, Brussels, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Romeo Castellucci. Part allegory, part Singspeile, and very much a morality play, Die Zauberflöte is not conventional opera in the late 19th century style. Naturalist realism is not what it's meant to be. Cryptic is closer to what it might mean.

Covent Garden: Wagner’s Siegfried, magnificent but elusive

How do you begin to assess Covent Garden’s Siegfried? From a purely vocal point of view, this was a magnificent evening; it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this was as fine a cast as you are likely to hear anywhere today.

Powerful Monodramas: Zender, Manoury and Schoenberg

The concept of the monologue in opera has existed since the birth of opera itself, but when we come to monodramas - with the exception of Rousseau’s Pygmalion (1762) - we are looking at something that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century.

ENO's Salome both intrigues and bewilders

Femme fatale, femme nouvelle, she-devil: the personification of patriarchal castration-anxiety and misogynistic terror of female desire.

In the Company of Heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

Palestrina led from the front, literally and figuratively, in this performance at Wigmore Hall which placed devotion to the saints at its heart, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria, Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary all musically honoured by The Cardinall’s Musick and their director Andrew Carwood.

Roberto Devereux in San Francisco

Opera’s triple crown, Donizetti’s tragic queens — Anna Bolena who was beheaded by her husband Henry VIII, their daughter Elizabeth I who beheaded her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and who executed her lover Roberto Devereux.

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

A lunchtime feast of English song: Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

The September sunshine that warmed Wigmore Street during Monday’s lunch-hour created the perfect ambience for this thoughtfully compiled programme of seventeenth- and twentieth-century English song presented by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall.

O18: Mad About Lucia

Opera Philadelphia has mounted as gripping and musically ravishing an account of Lucia di Lammermoor as is imaginable.

O18 Poulenc Evening: Moins C’est Plus

In Opera Philadelphia’s re-imagined La voix humaine, diva Patricia Racette had a tough “act” to follow ...

O18: Unsettling, Riveting Sky on Swings

Opera Philadelphia’s annual festival set the bar very high even by its own gold standard, with a troubling but mesmerizing world premiere, Sky on Wings.

Simon Rattle — Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, and Britten

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra marked the opening of the 2018-2019 season with a blast. Literally, for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new piece Donum Simoni MMXVIII was an explosion of brass — four trumpets, trombones, horns and tuba, bursting into the Barbican Hall. When Sir Harry makes a statement, he makes it big and bold !

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Eve Queler
09 May 2006

MONTEMEZZI: L’amore dei tre re

What happened to Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre re? After the opera’s triumphant premiere at La Scala in 1913, Montemezzi was vaulted into the international limelight, and his creation enjoyed regular performances throughout the world until his death in 1952.

Since then, the opera’s popularity has eroded severely, and now it lingers on the outermost fringes of the canon, emerging from time to time like an elderly lion to remind us that it, too, once held audiences in thrall with its roar. One of the surest signs of L’amore’s near-obsolescence is the simple fact that the Opera Orchestra of New York decided to conclude its 35th anniversary season at Carnegie Hall with a performance of the work. Eve Queler’s organization has made its name over the years by reviving neglected operatic scores, and its concert presentation of L’amore on 4 May was no exception.

The reason for the opera’s fall from grace cannot have much to do with its actual merits. By any standard, this is a powerful and well-crafted work, both musically and dramatically. Sem Benelli’s libretto is a naked melodrama of raw emotion elevated and concentrated by its archaic setting in 10th-century Italy. The barbarian king Archibaldo is suspicious of his son Manfredo’s new bride, Fiora. The suspicion is justified: Fiora has been secretly trysting with fellow Italian Avito, the man she was supposed to marry before the barbarians conquered their homeland. Archibaldo’s blindness prevents him from discovering Fiora in flagrante delicto, but when she finally admits her transgression to him and refuses to reveal her lover’s identity, the king strangles her. In the opera’s final act, Avito kisses Fiora’s corpse, but he dies from the poison the barbarians have placed on her lips. Manfredo, unable to master his grief, cannot restrain himself from kissing Fiora as well, and the opera concludes with Archibaldo holding his dying son in his arms.

Montemezzi’s music fills out this tale of betrayal and passion with all the high-stakes energy it can bear, yet the score never devolves into hysterics. Although it clearly lives within the borders of verismo, the opera owes more than a little to Wagner and Debussy. There is a distinctly Wagnerian swagger to the end of Act One, for example, as Manfredo takes Fiora to bed and Archibaldo laments his son’s ignorance. And when Fiora defiantly confesses her guilt to Archibaldo at the heart of Act Two (“Allora...Allora...Quello ch’io baciavo”), it is hard not to think of the similarly electric moment in the second act of Parsifal when Kundry drops her seductress routine and finally confronts Parsifal with the truth about her identity. Meanwhile, the evocative orchestral atmospherics of the opera call Pelléas to mind, and certainly Benelli’s storyline and dramatis personae refer back to Maeterlinck’s drama. Nevertheless, the opera is quintessentially Italian in its approach. All the characters are fully aware of their motivations, and as they maneuver toward their aims, their emotions surge directly to the surface, finding expression in line after line of wide-ranging, ardent melody. Today, with our predilection for late Wagner and Pelléas, we expect a story like this to receive an elusive, psychologically layered musical treatment. Perhaps this tacit assumption can help to explain why Montemezzi’s opera has not managed to retain its allure over the past half-century. In any case, it certainly deserves attention on its own terms.

Even if the opera’s overall quality was in doubt, no greater excuse could be proffered for its revival than to give Samuel Ramey the opportunity to sing the role of Archibaldo. Ramey’s performance on Thursday night was strong and self-assured, and yet there was room in his interpretation of Archibaldo for hints of the self-pity and despair that sap the soul of this blind and aging king. Ramey’s voice, on the other hand, seems not to have aged much, at least not on this occasion. His bass sound, rich and unforced, filled the hall throughout the evening, and the climax of his first-act aria (“Italia! Italia!...è tutto il mio ricordo!”) was thrilling. As Fiora, the soprano Fabiana Bravo seemed content at first to indulge in histrionics rather than tap into the considerable resources of her instrument. Her weak Callas impersonation, peppered with the usual gasps, sobs and wails, was applied just as assiduously to her love duet with Avito in Act One as it was to her dissimulating dialogue with Manfredo at the beginning of Act Two. As the second act progressed, however, Bravo let her voice do the work, and it soared. The iron core of her middle range communicated Fiora’s resolute pride, while the glitter of her high notes made us understand what attracted these men to her in the first place. Fernando de la Mora (Avito) was the only principal who sang his role from memory, and the deeper level of dramatic commitment on his part was evident and much appreciated. Unfortunately, his quintessential lyric tenor voice, naturally honeyed and supple, was pushed beyond its limits in many places, and the result was diffuse and flat. Much the same could be said of baritone Pavel Baransky in the role of Manfredo.

It’s hard to blame these singers for overexerting themselves, however, since Maestro Queler never accommodated them by limiting the sound of her orchestra. Concert presentations of opera always come up against the problem of balance, but for this performance Queler seems to have ignored the problem altogether. Still, the orchestra made its way through the score without too much calamity, and some of the players memorably rose to the occasion in featured moments (the flute solo in Act One, the viola solos in Act Three, the offstage trumpets throughout). Let’s hope that this performance inspires a few opera companies to assemble a fully-staged production in the near future.

Benjamin Binder

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):