Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Petrenko Directs Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis

The quick rise to prominence and thin catalog of recordings by Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko, outgoing General Music Director of the Bayerische Staatsoper and incoming chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, renders each of his forays into the classic repertoire significant. Last Sunday morning, the Bayerisches Staatsorchester gave the first of three performances of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis under his direction.

Faust in Marseille

We sat, bewildered, all of us, watching (enduring) Gounod’s sweet little tear jerker as a nasty drug trip. Except for the Australian Marguerite it was an all French cast and they all gamely played along, the sophisticated verse of Offenbach’s librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carré clearly sailing out over an abrasive pit.

Down in flames: Les Troyens, Opéra de Paris

Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens with Philippe Jordan conducting the Opéra National de Paris. Since Les Troyens headlined the inauguration of Opéra Bastille 30 years ago, we might have expected something special of this new production. It should have been a triumph, with such a good conductor and some of the best singers in the business. But it wasn't.

Andrew Davis conducts Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ at Hoddinott Hall

A weekend commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) entitled Berlioz: The Ultimate Romantic was launched in style from Cardiff’s Hoddinott Hall with a magnificent account of L’enfance du Christ (Childhood of Christ). The emotional impact of this ‘sacred trilogy’ seemed to gain further weight for its performance midway between Christmas and Easter, neatly encapsulating Christ’s journey from birth to death.

Love Songs: Temple Song Series

In contrast to the ‘single-shaming’ advertisement - “To the 12,750 people who ordered a single takeaway on Valentine’s Day. You ok, hun?” - for which the financial services company, Revolut, were taken to task, this Temple Music recital programme on 14th February put the emphasis firmly on partnerships: intimate, impassioned and impetuous.

Philip Glass: Akhnaten – English National Opera

There is a famous story that when Philip Glass first met Nadia Boulanger she pointed to a single bar of one of his early pieces and said: “There, that was written by a real composer”. Glass recalls that it was the only positive thing she ever said about him

Rachvelishvili excels in ROH Orchestra's Russian programme

Cardboard buds flaming into magic orchids. The frenzied whizz of a Catherine Wheel as it pushes forth its fiery petals. A harvest sky threshed and glittering with golden grain.

Lucrèce Borgia in Toulouse

This famed murderess worked her magic on Toulouse’s Théâtre du Capitole stage, six dead including her beloved long lost son. It was Victor Hugo’s carefully crafted 1833 thriller recrafted by Italian librettist Felice Romano that became Donizetti’s fragile Lucrezia Borgia.

Amanda Majeski makes a stunning debut at Covent Garden in Richard Jones's new production of Kát’a Kabanová

How important is ‘context’, in opera? Or, ‘symbol’? How does one balance the realism of a broad social milieu with the expressionistic intensity of an individual’s psychological torment and fracture?

Returning to heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

The Cardinall’s Musick invited us for a second time to join them in ‘the company of heaven’ at Wigmore Hall, in a recital that was framed by musical devotions to St Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary.

Diana Damrau’s Richard Strauss Residency at the Barbican: The first two concerts

Listening to these two concerts - largely devoted to the music of Richard Strauss, and given by the soprano Diana Damrau, and the superlative Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the second - I was reminded of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s observation that German music would be unthinkable without him.

De la Maison des Morts in Lyon

The obsessive Russian Dostoevsky’s novel cruelly objectified into music by Czech composer Leos Janacek brutalized into action by Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski beatified by Argentine conductor Alejo Pérez.

La Nuova Musica perform Handel's Alcina at St John's Smith Square

There was a full house at St John’s Smith Square for La Nuova Musica’s presentation of Handel’s Alcina.

Ermonela Jaho is an emotively powerful Violetta in ROH's La traviata

Perhaps it was the ‘Blue Monday’ effect, but the first Act of this revival of Richard Eyre’s 1994 production of La Traviata seemed strangely ‘consumptive’, its energy dissipating, its ‘breathing’ rather laboured.

Vivaldi scores intriguing but uneven Dangerous Liaisons in The Hague

“Why should I spend good money on tables when I have men standing idle?” asks a Regency country squire in the British sitcom Blackadder the Third. The Marquise de Merteuil in OPERA2DAY’s Dangerous Liaisons would agree with him. Her servants support her dinner table, groaning with gateaux, on their backs.

Porgy and Bess at Dutch National Opera – Exhilarating and Moving

Thanks to the phenomenon of international co-productions, Dutch National Opera’s first-ever Porgy and Bess is an energizing, heart-stirring show with a wow-factor cast. Last year in London, co-producer English National Opera hosted it to glowing reviews. Its third parent, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will present it at a later date. In the meantime, in Amsterdam the singers are the crowing glory in George Gershwin’s 1935 masterpiece.

Il trovatore at Seattle Opera

After a series of productions somehow skewed, perverse, and/or pallid, the first Seattle Opera production of the new year comes like a powerful gust of invigorating fresh air: a show squarely, single-mindedly focused on presenting the work of art at hand as vividly and idiomatically as possible.

Opera as Life: Stefan Herheim's The Queen of Spades at Covent Garden

‘I pitied Hermann so much that I suddenly began weeping copiously … [it] turned into a mild fit of hysteria of the most pleasant kind.’

Venus Unwrapped launches at Kings Place, with ‘Barbara Strozzi: Star of Venice’

‘Playing music is for a woman a vain and frivolous thing. And I would wish you to be the most serious and chaste woman alive. Beyond this, if you do not play well your playing will give you little pleasure and not a little embarrassment. … Therefore, set aside thoughts of this frivolity and work to be humble and good and wise and obedient. Don’t let yourself be carried away by these desires, indeed resist them with a strong will.’

Burying the Dead: Ceruleo offer 'Baroque at the Edge'

“Who are you? And what are you doing in my bedroom?”

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):