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

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

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):