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

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

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):