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

Guillaume Tell, Covent Garden

It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

Cosi fan tutte, Garsington Opera

Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.

The Queen of Spades, ENO

Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Larissa Gogolevskaya
06 Feb 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District (Kirov Opera)

The Kirov Opera and Orchestra concluded their annual residency at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC last week with a Sunday matinee concert performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1932 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District.

Dmitri Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District

Kirov Opera, Kennedy Center, Washington, DC, 4 February 2007

 

Even unstaged, this powerful and disturbing work filled with scenes of rape, humiliation, corruption, and murder felt almost too overwhelming to sit through. Speculations of political pressure aside, it was not difficult to imagine, after being a member of the audience, why the middle-aged composer would have felt compelled to rewrite the work, curbing the raw violence of his X-rated early masterpiece down to at least a PG-13 rating (the new version, renamed Katerina Ismailova after the main character and premiered in 1963, was reportedly the composer’s favorite).

Conducted with savage intensity by maestro Gergiev, the Kirov Orchestra proved itself once again one of the premiere ensembles in the world today, operatic or otherwise. Even the premium-seat dwellers, well-schooled in the social etiquette that forbids applause until the end of the piece (or in this case, until the intermission), erupted spontaneously into an ovation after the breathtaking rendition of the 2nd tableau interlude. The conductor simply refused to hold his orchestra back to accommodate the singers, and the power of volume alone was truly earth-shattering – exactly the kind of effect Shostakovich’s uncompromising music demands. To their credit, both the excellent chorus and most of the soloists withstood the competition admirably. Unlike the previously reviewed Il Viaggio a Reims, which was a vehicle for the relative novices at the Mariinsky Academy of Young Singers, this production involved the premiere forces of the venerable Kirov stage. Larisa Gogolevskaya was spectacular as Katerina the kupchikha (merchant’s wife), the only character in a cartoonish parade of degenerates for whom, despite three murders in a space of four acts, the composer allows his listener to feel any sympathy. Her gut-wrenching rendition of the Act 4 arioso is worth a special mention, as are her confrontation scenes with her bully of a father-in-law Boris Timofeevich. Unfortunately, Alexei Tanovitski in the latter role was not perhaps the best partner for Gogolevskaya: despite an attractive sound and some good acting that won him approval of the audience, his voice lacked the sheer strength necessary to match (and often overpower) Katerina and, in this particular case, also to hold his own against the orchestra. Among secondary characters, Liubov Sokolova was a gorgeously trashy Sonyetka, while an operatic veteran Gennady Bezzubenkov deserved his applause as both a thoughtful Old Convict, and as a lecherous Priest whose profundo register drew gasps from the hall.

Indeed, quite a few characters created by the singers made one long to see the opera staged, but none more so than the two leading tenors of the production, Evgeny Akimov as Katerina’s husband, Zinovy Borisovich, and Viktor Lutsiuk as her lover, Sergei. At the beginning, it made little sense to me that Lutsiuk would be given the role of Sergei, who as a mock operatic lover does a lot of powerful singing throughout the opera, while Akimov, an obviously stronger singer, would be cast as Zinovy, a weakling who barely gets two scenes in before being dispatched into the next world (and down into the cellar) by his wife. As the production progressed, however, I came to appreciate this brilliant piece of operatic casting. Lutsiuk’s Sergei was deliciously disgusting; his voice, figure, gestures, and facial expressions virtually oozed slime. Meanwhile, having Akimov, a powerhouse tenor with a ringing metallic timbre, portray an insecure, impotent, pathetic little man brought forth an equally delicious irony of all style and no substance.

The performance of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District closed a rather unusual tour for the Kirov this year: the company eschewed heavy Russian drama for two Italian comedies, Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims and Verdi’s Falstaff. While the Shostakovich provided a taste of the former, the tour as a whole reminds us once again that the Kirov is capable of much more than the Philips Russian opera recordings, great as they are. Indeed, Gergiev’s troupe seems determined lately to defy any possibility of being viewed as an example of parochial exotica, and wants to be seen instead as the first-class European opera theater that it is. Whether or not one loves their Italian (or their German, for that matter – speaking of the Cardiff production of the Ring Cycle reviewed recently on this site), the Kirov is no longer just a “Russian theater.” As a new resident of the Washington DC area, I look forward to whatever the next five years of the company’s residency here bring. And of course, I will keep you posted!

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):