Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

La Bohème, Manitoba

Manitoba Opera’s first production in nine years of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème still stirs the heart and inspires tears with its tragic tale of bohemian artists living — and loving — in 1840s Paris.

Arizona Opera Presents Don Pasquale in Tucson

On April 12, 2014, Arizona Opera opened its series of performances of Donizetti's Don Pasquale in Tucson. Chuck Hudson’s production of this opera combined Commedia dell’arte with Hollywood movie history.

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

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):