Recently in Performances
In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.
With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past
Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.
Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.
The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.
Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of
the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to
say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for
the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.
Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.
Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found
myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.
This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been
supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th
birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to
England aged 12.
Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.
Ever since a friend was reported as having said he would like something in
return for modern-dress Shakespeare (how quaint that term seems now, as if
anyone would bat an eyelid!), namely an Elizabethan-dress staging of Look
Back in Anger, I have been curious about the possibilities of
‘down-dating’, as I suppose we might call it. Rarely, if ever, do
we see it, though.
Leading a very muscular Dutch Radio Philharmonic, Principal Conductor Markus
Stenz brilliantly delivered Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with a superb
Florian Boesch in the lead and a mesmerising Asmik Grigorian as Marie his
There can’t be that many operas that start with an extended solo for
double bass. At Holland Park, the eerie, angular melody for lone bass player
which opens Pietro Mascagni’s Iris immediately unsettled the
relaxed mood of the summer evening.
George Souglides’ set for Will Tuckett’s new production of
Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri at Garsington would surely
have delighted Liberace.
Calixto Bieito is always news, Carmen with a good cast is always news. So here is the news.
Distinguished theatre director Michael
Boyd’s first operatic outing was his brilliant re-invention of
Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo for the Royal Opera at the Roundhouse
in 2015, so what he did next was always going to rouse interest.
Although Bohuslav Martinů’s short operas Ariane and Alexandre bis date from 1958 and 1937 respectively, there was a distinct tint of 1920s Parisian surrealism about director Rodula Gaitanou’s double bill, as presented by the postgraduate students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
The eyes of the opera world turned recently to Dresden—the city where Wagner premiered his Rienzi, Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser—for an important performance of
Lohengrin. For once in Germany it was not about the staging.
Having been privileged already to see in little over two months two great productions of Die Meistersinger, one in Paris (Stefan Herheim) and one in Munich (David Bösch), I was unable to resist the prospect of a third staging, at Glyndebourne.
‘Mack does bad things.’ The tabloid headline that convinces Rory
Kinnear’s surly, sharp-suited Macheath that it might be time to take a
short holiday epitomizes the cold, understated menace of Rufus Norris’s
production of Simon Stephens’ new adaptation of The Threepenny
Opera at the Olivier Theatre.
19 Jun 2007
La Clemenza di Tito – English National Opera
An increasing lack of substance and imagination behind ENO’s season scheduling means that a revival of a theatrically impressive recent production of a repertoire piece is to be welcomed, especially when that production comes with a cast of superior calibre.
Mozart’s late masterpiece is one of the most serious operas I have seen David McVicar direct,
and although this production contains plenty of allusions to his distinctive directorial style, it is to
his credit that he does not try his trademark trick of trying to turn the piece into a black comedy.
His interpretation here is truthful and largely gimmick-free. The choreography (originally by
Leah Hausmann, revived by Kai’a Lane) and sets (by Yannis Thavouris) are Japanese-inspired,
and beautiful in their simplicity. The curved walls of the set move on and off in graceful arcs,
creating light-and-shade effects, while the stage direction has a fluid, balletic quality. It helps that
there are so few people on stage; the chorus sing from the pit, so the large stage is populated only
by soloists and dancers.
Many of the cast returned from the original run. Paul Nilon repeated his impressively sung
account of the title role, but there is still a feeling that he hasn’t found a great deal of complexity
within the character. Emma Bell’s vocal performance as Vitellia was once again grippingly
dramatic, though some of her characterisation verged on caricature (the most vengeful of her
recitatives even raised a laugh from the audience).
New to the cast, Alice Coote was announced as suffering from a chest infection and although she
showed a little vocal fatigue, she sang Sesto with remarkable breath control and sense of line.
She also brought a refreshing sense of cohesion to the character development: ‘Parto, parto’ was
no blazing showpiece but an impassioned piece of extended dialogue, all very much in context.
In fact, all the scenes between Sesto and Vitellia.had an unusually palpable sense of dramatic
As Annio, Anne-Marie Gibbons gave an amiable and charming performance though her singing
was a little monochromatic, and her voice was mismatched with Sarah-Jane Davies’s weightier
In the pit, Edward Gardner kept the ensemble tight but the performance lacked energy and drive,
especially in the more turbulent passages.
Ruth Elleson © 2007