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

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

The Gardeners: a new opera by Robert Hugill

‘When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot,/ Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,/ And flowers will shine in this now barren plot/ And fame upon it through the years descend:/ But many a heart upon each simple cross/ Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.’

Richard Jones's Boris Godunov returns to Covent Garden

There are never any real surprises with a Richard Jones production and Covent Garden’s Boris Godunov, first seen in 2016, is typical of Jones’s approach: it’s boxy, it’s ascetic, it’s over-bright, with minimalism turned a touch psychedelic in the visuals.

An enchanting Hansel and Gretel at Regent's Park Theatre

If you go out in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. And, it will be no picnic! For, deep in the broomstick forest that director Timothy Sheader and designer Peter McKintosh have planted on the revolving stage at Regent’s Park Theatre is a veritable Witches’ Training School.

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):