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

Adriana Lecouvreur Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.

Rossini is Alive and Well and Living in Iowa

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Gergiev : Janáček Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Miriam Ryen as the Queen of the Night and Jennifer O’Loughlin as Pamina (Volksoper Wien, 1 May 2007)
30 May 2007

Die Zauberflöte at the Volksoper

Serpents, abduction, magic flutes, a sacred priesthood and, of course….love, are a few of the elements Mozart used to comprise his mason-influenced collaboration with Emanuel von Schikaneder.

W.A. Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Wiener Volksoper, 1 May 2007

Above: Miriam Ryen as the Queen of the Night and Jennifer O’Loughlin as Pamina

 

The Wiener Volksoper’s 2007 production of Die Zauberflöte is rich with visual effects, including a large mechanical dragon that emerges from the depths of the stage, a vibrant rotating set complete with “living” statues who are elevated high above the stage; a gargantuan telescope and fire set the scene for what was unfortunately a mediocre production, other than a few glimmering aspects.

The Overture was well-effected but somewhat mechanical and it lacked in the necessary colours and shading that Mozart’s music demands. Conductor, Elisabeth Attl seemed to have little influence over the orchestra that in some moments seemed to be just going through the motions. The three ladies, sung by Edith Lienbacher, Sulie Girardi, and Andrea Bönig looked fabulous in matching gowns and hats (and later clad in leather and tattoos) complete with walking canes, however their singing was often strident and in what should be a unified harmonic ensemble there were inconsistencies in unity.

Die Königin der Nacht (Queen of the Night) was eloquently sung by Miriam Ryen, who had a brilliant and laser-like upper tessitura and beautiful agility in her coloratura passages, however the orchestra often overpowered her and thus obscured her musicality. Her Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen was visually exciting with an electric red sky from which hung an enormous crescent moon. Some intonation problems affected her performance of this aria, that also lacked the tremendous rage that Mozart expected here.

Papageno was performed by Mathias Hausmann who possesses a lovely burnished baritone to match his consummate dramatic abilities. His Der Volgelfänger bin ich ja was not only amusing, but sung with much inflection and attention to detail. Unfortunately, the following entrance by Daniel Behle, as Tamino, left much to be desired. His Dies Bildinis ist bezanbernd schön lacked the brilliant sound that the aria requires and his acting was somewhat superficial throughout the opera. One wondered if he was really in love with Pamina or not.

Pamina’s entrance was visually wonderful, as she was dragged in by Monostatos (played by Wolfgang Gratschmaier) in a large net. American Soprano, Jennifer O’Loughlin’s Pamina was artistically beyond the rest of her cast. She effected every entrance with lovely spinning tones in a deep golden hue in her middle voice, and her musicality was well-suited to the lyricism Mozart demanded of a superb Pamina. The orchestra, however, was highly insensitive to Ms. O’Loughlin’s middle and lower registers and failed to match her musical nuances. A sensitive and believable actress, her Ach, ich Fühl’s es ist verschwunden was luscious and effected with impeccable diction, and well-floated pianissimi that give credit to her vocal technique.

Lars Woldt, in the role of the Sprecher, possessed a strong and well-projected voice, and his presence added to the overall dramatic impetus of the production. In addition, Kaiser Nkosi’s Sarastro opened Act II with strong dramatic and vocal qualities. His middle register was a lovely purple hue, however he lacked resonance in his lower tessitura, an unfortunate detail that affected the strength of Sarastro’s character.

Jennifer O’Loughlin and the Wiener Sängerknaben

Some of the most comical moments to which the audience responded belonged to Papageno and Papagena (comedically played alla Lucille Ball by Renée Schüttengruber). Complete with hot pink wig, and the whiniest fabricated voice, Papagena stole Papageno’s heart, and the audience’s as well. If anything stood out in this production it was the musicality and unity of the “Three Boys” who were played by the Wiener Sängerknaben. Mozart’s opera is imbued with many numerical elements in groups of three and these trios (the three spirits, the three ladies, and three priests in the temple) should be unified textually and harmonically. The three boys were perhaps the most precise musically and kudos go out to them for stealing the show. Although a visually interesting production, the orchestra often marred the musicality of the singers, and most bothersome was how members of the orchestra got up and left the pit during the opera and then returned to later, not only disturbing the dramatic action but also creating a general lack of continuity in the musical fabric.

Mary-Lou Vetere-Borghoff
PhD (ABD), M.A., Mus.B

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):