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

La forza del destino at Covent Garden

Prima la music, poi la parole? It’s the perennial operatic conundrum which has exercised composers from Monteverdi, to Salieri, to Strauss. But, on this occasion we were reminded that sometimes the answer is a simple one: Non, prima le voci!

Barbara Hannigan sings Berg and Gershwin at the Barbican Hall

I first heard Barbara Hannigan in 2008.

New perceptions: a Royal Academy Opera double bill

‘Once upon a time …’ So fairy-tales begin, although often they don’t conclude with a ‘happy ever after’. Certainly, both Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, paired in this Royal Academy Opera double bill, might be said to present transformations from innocence and ignorance to experience and knowledge, but there is little that is saccharine about their protagonists’ journeys from darkness to enlightenment.

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Eglise Gutierrez & Joyce DiDonato (Photo: Ken Howard, © 2006)
18 Jul 2006

CINDERELLA GLITTERS

JULES MASSENET'S 'BROADWAY HIT,' the 1899 Cendrillon, billed as Cinderella but sung in French, was given top notch treatment at its Santa Fe Opera debut Saturday night (July 15).

The Old Master of French opera would have been delighted that his fairy tale show was so well treated. Indeed, Broadway would be lucky to welcome such an audience-pleasing and musically polished light entertainment.

Santa Fe Opera, not known as a French house, pulled off a high-style, energetic production with enough excellent singing and good orchestral playing to let you know you were not in a vaudeville theatre. Otherwise,
the presentation was strictly show-biz and for this mild, melodious bit of operetta fluff, that is a very good thing.

French producer/designer Laurent Pelly was hero of the occasion. His conception of the musical fairy tale was low-farce with touches of romance and sentiment, and when it was not over-illuminated by the inconsistent lighting designer Duane Schuler, it glowed with youth and, dare I say, modernity. With no special effort to bring the old 19th Century show into a later era, the feeling was always up-to-date and fresh. The boy-girl plot is a slight one; Cinderella's trials and tribulations are thrice familiar and just barely endurable, but couched in Massenet's beautifully written score and graced by his buoyant melodies the package was a delight to enjoy on its own terms. A few solo numbers and lovely duets took care of expectations of operatic music, otherwise all was romp and posturing.

Set in a series of sliding walls, panels and free-standing backdrops entirely covered with the artfully inscribed text of the fairy tale (in French) - it was fun to sit there and translate - the show was alive visually due to vividly colored costumes (rouge ruled), comical and over-stated, that had the audience laughing and applauding at every turn. Cinderella's coach, pulled by two dancers charmingly gotten up as horses, was the French word for coach - carrosse - most artfully wrought into a carriage of sorts, that wheeled gracefully onto the stage and off again bearing its beautiful cargo to the Prince's Ball - yes the glass slipper was visible as was a pungent Fairy Godmother issuing her charge to be home by midnight.

What made it all work? Aside from Massenet's music, the performance of Joyce DiDonato, a winsome young lyric mezzo-soprano from Kansas City, galvanized the show. Cinderella is a big sing, and DiDonato had the vocal strength and quality to last the evening. Her acting was simple and natural, while she played against Richard Stilwell, as her loving father Pandolfe, with sincerity and touching sentiment. This is likely a hard role to master as it requires unfailing energy, a lot of high notes and strong emotion, and it cannot seem artful. DiDonato was in every way appropriate to the occasion, as was the sympathetic veteran baritone, Stilwell, a favorite at Santa Fe since 1972.

The important role of Fairy Godmother, engine of the action all evening, was a big success for Cuban-born coloratura soprano Eglise Gutierrez. Her mock magical heroics on stage and her remarkable high soprano singing were assured and engaging. Cute, bosomy, delightfully costumed, with an illuminated wand and amusing gestures to control those in her spell, this was one Fairy in a million. Watch for the name, she's to be heard from. Billie Burke is envious!

Most of the remainder of the cast was in a lesser league. Judith Forst, the distinguished Canadian mezzo, seemed ill-cast as the caricatured social-climbing stepmother, Madame de la Haltiere, disappointing in both vocal force and comic creativity. She was quickly a worn cliché, as were her 'ugly' daughters sung by faint voiced Ann-Carolyn Bird and Gabriela Garcia. Special dispensation must be given to a young mezzo soprano, Jennifer Holloway, a second year apprentice in the Santa Fe Opera young artist program. She replaced the noted Kristine Jepson, through on several months' notice, as Prince Charming - normally the other leading role of the opera. It was otherwise with Holloway, not that she did not look the part and have a promising voice - for indeed she was convincing to the eye as a lean young man and her voice encompassed all the notes. Stage experience, however, was not hers and she seemed too often dramatically pallid and emotionally uninvolved. It was probably unwise to cast young Holloway against a major talent such as DiDonato; let's check back in five years.

A few members of the Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet graced the stage as presenters at the Prince's Ball, and after a rather insipid start, conductor Kenneth Montgomery and his fine-sounding orchestra settled into good routine. Cinderella at Santa Fe is a winning show, maybe even the hit of the five-opera summer season, with seven performances to go through August 24.

We are advised the season is largely sold-out, though there are turn-backs.

J. A. Van Sant, Santa Fe

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):