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

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):