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

Gioachino Rossini, Il Viaggio a Reims (Kirov Opera)
28 Jan 2007

ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims

Rossini’s last Italian opera, staged in 1825 as a part of Charles X’s coronation festivities, is a bizarre creation — a sassy little farce capped with a coronation cantata in the best traditions of staged court entertainment, from 16th-century Italian intermedi through their Baroque and Classic operatic progeny.

Gioachino Rossini: Il Viaggio a Reims

Kirov Opera and Orchestra, Valery Gergiev (cond.)
Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., 27 January 2007

 

This production, a combined effort of the Kirov Opera and Théâtre du Châtelet, was premiered in 2005, and has made its way to the Kennedy Center in Washington DC as a part of the Kirov’s residency here, now in its fifth year.

Minimal staging (sets by Pierre-Alain Bertola) strips the “Golden Lily Hotel” to its scaffolding, revealing the opera for what it truly is — a collection of sparkling vignettes with hardly a semblance of a plot; a glorious divertimento; a concert in costumes — but what fabulous costumes! Among costume designer Mireille Dessigy’s creations, not to be missed are the Contessa de Folleville’s outrageous hats and Corinna’s ancient regime version of fuzzy slippers. The Russian general’s garb complete with a sailor’s tunic and a white horse (yes, an actual — and impressively well-behaved — animal) is hilarious. As for Corinna’s entrance costume, capped with a fantastic feather turban and illuminated from within by flashing electric lights, it is beyond description, and would surely land some Hollywood star enterprising enough to steal it a place on the “worst dressed, yet most memorable” red carpet list. The “English golf dandy” outfit of Chevalier Belfiore, on the other hand, was funny but not particularly convincing.

The Kirov’s performance started well before the opera began, with the orchestra players (with their instruments) and singers (with their luggage) making their way to the “hotel” from the auditorium, greeting the audience in two languages (none of them Italian), and then negotiating stage space with the “cleaning crew,” mops and vacuums in hand. The conductor — maestro Gergiev himself — did not carry a suitcase, was relieved of his coat by one of the choristers, but would keep his hat on throughout the evening. Both the conductor and the orchestra (dressed in white and reduced almost to a chamber group for the occasion) were positioned on stage, with a harpsichordist placed on the proscenium and dressed up in full ancient regime regalia, complete with high heels and a powdered wig. Similarly dressed was a harpist wheeled onto the stage on a special platform whenever her services were required to accompany Corinna the poetess (the lovely Irma Gigolashvili); and a fabulous flutist (unfortunately not identified in the program) who performed her second act solo flawlessly, all the while engaged in a clever pantomimed “duet” with Lord Sydney (Eduard Tsanga). 

Throughout, the production (directed by Alain Maratrat) was filled with stage business — always energetic, often clever, and occasionally detrimental to sound production: for instance, practically nothing performed on the back section of the scaffolding (behind the orchestra) made it into the hall. On the other hand, plenty of singing (and some very funny acting) occurred in the orchestra — among the orchestra seats, that is. This clearly delighted the audience but presented a significant challenge to ensemble performance — a challenge that the young troupe, to their credit, met and triumphed over, even in the lightning-fast stretti. Overall, the vocal performance of the young cast, including some tremendously difficult passagework, was almost uniformly superior: Anastasia Kalagina as Madame Cortese impressed with the precision of her coloratura; Larisa Yudina as the Contessa proved herself a comic talent, yet was ever ready with those breathtaking E-flats. Dmitry Voropaev as Belfiore, Daniil Shtoda as Count di Libenskoff, Vladislav Uspensky as Baron di Trombonoc, and particularly Nikolay Kamensky as basso buffo Don Profondo were all excellent. Anna Kiknadze as Melibea was less impressive, but she did occasionally enjoy her moments of glory (unfortunately, the final polonaise was not one of those moments). Only Alexey Safiulin as Don Alvaro was truly disappointing: he did well in the ensembles, but the solos — including the gorgeous “fake flamenco” song Rossini had smuggled into the grand finale — were almost entirely lost. The chorus — members of the Mariinsky Academy of Young Singers — acted lustily and sang well; the orchestra sound was clean, crisp, and tastefully “classic” — in fact, barely recognizable as coming from an orchestra better known for the sweeping romantic sound of its Tchaikovsky and Wagner productions.

Grand drama devotees might find Il Viaggio a Reims annoyingly fluffy. Opera purists could object to the coloratura occasionally getting lost in the stage business or covered with the audience’s laughter. Yet, to those who think of opera as primarily a theatrical spectacle, the Kirov production proves deliciously watchable. It is just what King Charles X of France had ordered from his favorite composer — a splendid and frivolous piece of entertainment for a very special occasion.

Olga Haldey

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):