Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Dmitri Hvorstovsky (Photo: Pavel Antonov)
20 May 2007

Simon Boccanegra — Opéra national de Paris

Chief attraction of the Paris Opera’s new production of Simon Boccanegra was Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role.

Giuseppe Verdi: Simon Boccanegra
Opéra national de Paris, Opéra-Bastille, 10 May 2007

 

In all honesty the role is perhaps a little too large for his voice, especially in the cavernous acoustic of the Bastille, but he sings it attractively enough and in a few years I am sure he will develop the character with more weight and authority.

He was partnered more than adequately by the rest of the cast; as Amelia, Olga Guryakova’s singing was sweet if a little monochrome, and she looked lovely. Franz-Josef Selig showed some discomfort in the upper register but gave a believable performance. Evan Bowers was a slightly wooden Adorno and Franck Ferrari lacked presence as Paolo.

If none of the cast really made much of their characters, it was difficult to point the finger of blame at the singers. Rather, the problem lay squarely with Johan Simons’s ugly non-production, with designs by Bert Neumann. At the start, the Fieschi palace consisted of an orange platform topped by an enormous hoarding depicting the face of Fiesco; the Grimaldi abode was a glittering gold curtain in front of which the entire recognition scene took place, and from the council chamber scene onwards we were back to the orange platform, this time with Boccanegra’s picture instead of Fiesco’s. The council chamber had orange plastic chairs for one party, blue plastic chairs for the other — in a moment of unique tackiness the councilors picked them up to use as weapons against each other, like schoolchildren left unsupervised. There were no props, save for the aforementioned chairs and a big plastic bottle of mineral water for Boccanegra to drink from and be poisoned.

Even a misguided directorial concept would have been preferable to something which had no apparent sense of purpose or coherence at all.

Costumes (by Nina von Mechow and Philippe de Sant Mart Guilet) were little better, with everybody in a half-hearted attempt at modern dress; though he got off quite lightly during the prologue, poor Hvorostovsky spent the rest of the opera in a snazzy blue suit with an orange shirt and tie — in other words, matching the set, and looking every bit as cheap. All in all, there was really nothing to characterise the setting, nor to suggest who any of the characters actually were. The opera’s all-important class relationships went for nothing, there was hardly any meaningful interaction between the characters.

James Conlon conducted with commitment and energy for the most part, though Guryakova’s breath control was really put to the test by the exceptionally slow tempo of ‘Come in quest’ora bruna’. Other than some messy brass entries, the orchestra was on form.

The cast would surely have done better in a concert performance. As it was, I was left wondering how it was possible to make something so dull out of one of the most interesting, non-formulaic works in the Italian 19th-century repertoire.

Ruth Elleson © 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):