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

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.

La Fille du regiment, Royal Opera

Donizetti’s opera comique La Fille du regiment returned to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for its third revival.

Schoenberg and company

With Schoenberg, I tend to take every opportunity I can — at least since my first visit to the Salzburg Festival, when understandably I chose to see Figaro over Boulez conducting Moses und Aron, though I have rued the loss ever since.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Shkosa as Isabella_Amodio as Lindoro
11 Jun 2007

Italiana restored: Rossini’s afterthougts staged in Vicenza

Vicenza’s Teatro Olimpico, a jewel of Renaissance architecture inaugurated in 1585 and seating around 500, hosted in early June a run of three performances of Rossini’s Italiana in Algeri.

Above: Enkelejda Shkosa (Isabella) and Nicola Amodio (Lindoro)

All photos by Guido Turus

 

For the cognoscenti, a much anticipated experience, since the production was about the alternative version staged, under Rossini’s direct control, in the local Teatro Eretenio just three months after the world premiere in nearby Venice on May 22, 1813. Various period observers, including the French novelist Stendhal, witness to the craze sparked by Rossini’s oriental fantasy, resulting in many revivals during the mid-late 1810s. Extramusical circumstances may have played a role, too.

Regazzo-as-Mustafa%27-and-cho.png“Between 1530 and 1780 there were almost certainly a million and quite possibly as many as a million and a quarter white, European Christians enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast” [which extends from Morocco through modern Libya], reckons Prof. Robert C. Davis. Only in Algiers there were six “bagnos” (baths) hosting the human prey caught by Barbary pirates during their raids in the Mediterranean, and even as late in 1830, when the French took over Algiers, there were still 120 white slaves in the bagno.

Such historical background may qualify L’Italiana in Algeri, loosely based on a real-life incident involving a lady from Milan, as a conspicuous act of escapism from all-too-present horrors, while to modern audiences the shadow of the impalement stake, repeatedly waved in front (well, somewhere else) of poor Taddeo, only amounts to a bawdy phallic gimmick. Stage directors rarely miss the chance, and Damiano Michieletto was no exception this time. Besides red tables and modular cubic frames — variously recombined to conjure up Mustafa’s palace, gardens, a ship etc. — black wooden poles sprouted everywhere. (True, the imposing presence of Palladio’s three-dimensional sets is a hindrance to any stage designer, thus making minimalism an unavoidable choice at the Olimpico).

Italiana_Finale.pngOn the other hand, the acid lighting, the ghoul-like makeup of the eunuchs’ choir, Haly’s fiendish looks and Mustafa’s rabid behavior conveyed a disquieting atmosphere far from the stock reading of Rossini’s buffo masterpiece. Only in the finale, with the fugitive Italian slaves disguised as pizza cooks and green-white-red colors flying around in a reassuring happy end, some tribute to commonplace was paid. If mildly modernistic and apparently low-budget, the stage department thus contributed to boost the remarkable musical performance led by Giovanni Battista Rigon with relentless pulse and unfailing tempo choices. The Orchestra Filarmonia Veneta “G. F. Malipiero” sounded historically informed in its string section; so did the crisp woodwinds led by virtuoso oboist and deputy conductor Stefano Romani. Brasses and percussions (including a rarely-heard chapeau chinois or jingling-Johnny for Janissary local color) added a brazen touch in the tutti passages, particularly in the finales.

In the singing company, the up-and-coming Albanian mezzo Enkelejda Shkosa (Isabella) displayed buffo stamina alongside impressive coloratura, though her recent weight gain hardly contributed to the seductive requirements stipulated by her role. Despite a cold start, Lorenzo Regazzo was a mercurial and domineering Mustafà throughout. If only he could restrain from cheap effects in the style of third-rate German Kabarett, leading him to unnecessarily tampering with the pitch. Both Andrea Zaupa, a young and debonair Taddeo, and Chiara Fracasso as Zulma deserved unconditional praise for their beautiful instruments, mature vocal technique and acting skills. The same would apply to Luca dell’Amico’s Haly, were it not for a few campish poses imposed on him by costume designer Manuel Pedretti. Anna Laura Martorana (Elvira) and Nicola Amodio (Lindoro) took perhaps too many risks with belcanto passagework, but — given their young age — they may have the potential for further growth.

The main variants in the score involved Isabella’s role. Her substitute cavatina “Cimentando i venti e l’onde” is studded with exciting virtuoso intricacies right from the start, yet sounds less effective if compared to the soaring profile of the usual “Cruda sorte”, where the coloratura batteries are being gradually uncovered after a row of fiery quasi-spoken ejaculations. Interestingly, both alternative versions were written for the same singer: the Florentine alto (and Rossini’s mistress) Marietta Marcolini, then in her early thirties. In the aria “Per lui che adoro”, the core difference was about the accompanying solo instrument — a cello instead of a flute, the latter being introduced only after 1815. Actually, the lower texture seems to work better: it’s as much warm, pensive and sexually teasing as the plot requires.

Carlo Vitali

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):