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

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.

A Merry Falstaff in San Diego

On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.

New Production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.

A Salome to Remember

Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.

L’Elisir d’Amore Goes On Despite Storm

On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

The Tempest, ROH
19 Mar 2007

The Tempest at Covent Garden

This year is Thomas Adés’ annus mirabilis. He’s the subject of a major, six-week retrospective at the Barbican, and, of course, will be a major presence at the Aldeburgh Festival.

Thomas Adés: The Tempest

Royal Opera House, London, 15th March 2007

 

There are also commemoratives in Paris and Oslo. This revival of the Tempest was almost completely sold out : in short, Adés most certainly has arrived in the mainstream.

Much of the appeal of this opera must lie in its sumptuous, spectacular staging. Bathed in jewel-coloured light, it evokes the sense of fantasy and unreality that is central to the plot. The eye is seduced by this fabulous magic, and the ear responds. The dischordant, difficult music doesn’t seem nearly as raw in the context of such beauty. This music may be modern but it’s based on a very traditional premise: that is should be dramatic. It most certainly is exciting — the overture that depicts the demonic storm teems with trumpet alarums, crashing cymbals and drum rolls. It’s so busy that it’s quite a shock to hear the words “Hell is empty”.

Cyndia Sieden’s Ariel is emblematic. Her image, swathed in luminescent neon green and black will be forever associated with the opera, however many future productions it receives. Her role is far more crucial to the action than the somewhat under-developed other characters. Ariel symbolises the elusive and quite unsettling magic on this bizarre island. Above all, she has the most unusual music. Its tessitura is cruelly high, and really does seem written for a non-human elemental. Few singers could manage this, and for hours at a time, and still act with complete charisma. This role will immortalise Sieden, for it won’t be easy to improve on.

Similar torture is inflicted on the other vocal parts, so much so that, despite their familiarity with this opera, even experienced singers like Philip Langridge and Simon Keenlyside were stretched by extremely high pitches, often reached by swoops upwards from the lower register. This is no criticism. The writing is completely counter-intuitive to “normal” vocal practice, for it imposes choppy, angular rhythms on syntax, breaking up what might be “normal” vocal lines. There may be duets and arias and set ensembles, here, but they serve as an extension of the orchestral writing, rather than being vocal star turns in themselves. Perhaps that’s the rationale behind the libretto, which is, frankly, ugly and facetious. Maybe we’re being asked to forget the words and listen instead to their musical effect. Alas, I’m not sure this is the case as there are supposedly clever jokes written in to lighten the atmosphere. In any case, the extreme demands on the singers meant that diction took second place to simply getting the notes right. This was less of a problem than might be expected, because musical logic here was antithetical to the text : meaning for the most part was conveyed through voice as used a supra-musical instrument, rather than through what was being sung. Adés himself conducted, so the reading was electric.

Luckily, Adés has given some of the best music to semi-abstract vocalise. Most people know the words to “Full Fathoms Five”, so Sieden’s incredibly long, high legato transcended text altogether, literally creating a “sea-change, into something rich and strange”. Particularly lustrous string writing gave way to simple, but poignant single triangle, evoking the distant bells. It really was a moment of wonder.

Keenlyside, as Prospero, and Langridge, as the King of Naples, characterised their parts well. Sadly, in this score, Miranda and Ferdinand are fairly wooden caricatures, without much depth. Spence spiced his singing with vivid nuance. Royal merely had to look beautiful. The genres, too, were well played, and the chorus was remarkably precise, in true Covent Garden tradition. Apart from Sieden, the revelation of the evening was Bostridge’s Caliban. In recital, Bostridge can be unpredictable, but in opera, when he’s consciously playing a “part”, his inhibitions evaporate. Here, he inhabited Caliban instinctively, creating him as a complex, sympathetic and deeply interesting figure. Now there’s a subject for an opera…? Vocal pyrotechnics and emotional range come naturally to Bostridge, inspiring great things from Hans-Werner Henze.

Should I have given the impression I didn’t like this opera, that isn’t the case. I learned it initially without having seen it in production, so my approach is accordingly influenced by it “as music”. This remarkable, atmospheric performance illuminated it for me immeasurably. This production has already been mounted in Strasbourg, and Copenhagen. Don’t miss it if you get a chance.

© Anne Ozorio 2007

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):