Recently in Performances
Baritone Gareth John is rapidly accumulating a war-chest of honours. Winner of the 2013 Kathleen Ferrier Award, he recently won the Royal Academy of Music Patrons’ Award and was presented the Silver Medal by the Worshipful Company of Musicians.
This second revival of Jonathan Miller’s La bohème was the first time I had caught the production.
It’s Verdi’s bicentenary year and Rolando Villazón has two new CDs to plug — titled somewhat confusingly, ‘Villazón: Verdi’ and ‘Villazón’s Verdi’, the latter a ‘personal selection’ of favourite numbers performed by stars of the past and present.
Nicola Luisotti and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra climbed out of the War Memorial pit, braved the wind whipped bay and held spellbound an audience at Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Auditorium at UC Berkeley.
Utterly mad but absolutely right — Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos started the Glyndebourne 2013 season with an explosion. Strauss could hardly have made his intentions more clear. Ariadne auf Naxos is not “about” Greek myth so much as a satire on art and the way art is made.
“Man is an abyss. It makes one dizzy to look into it.” So utters Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, repeating what was also a recurring motif in the playwright’s own letters.
National Opera Company of the Rhine has marked this year’s Benjamin Britten celebration with a remarkably compelling, often gripping new production of the seldom-seen Owen Wingrave.
Once upon a time, Frankfurt Opera had the baddest ass reputation in Germany as “the” cutting edge producer of must-see opera.
Productions of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto can serve as a vehicle for individual singers to make a strong impression and become afterward associated with specific roles in the opera.
Just in case we were not aware that the evening’s programme was ‘themed’, the Britten Sinfonia designed a visual accompaniment to their musical exploration of night, sleep and dreams.
Poor Aida! She never seems to have anything go her way.
Is it possible to upstage Jonas Kaufmann? Kaufmann was brilliant in this Verdi Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House, London, but the rest of the cast was so good that he was but first among equals. Don Carlo is a vehicle for stars, but this time the stars were everyone on stage and in the pit. Even the solo arias, glorious as they are, grow organically out of perfect ensemble. This was a performance that brought out the true beauty of Verdi's music.
The big names were absent: Duparc, D’Indy, Debussy, Ravel
and while Fauré, Chausson, Roussel and several members of Les Six put in an appearance, in less than familiar guises, this survey of French song of the early 20th century and interwar years deliberately took us on a journey through infrequently travelled terrain.
Composed between 1718 and 1720, Handel’s Esther is sometimes described as the ‘first English Oratorio’, but is in fact a hybrid form, mixing elements of oratorio, masque, pastoral and opera.
Hector Berlioz's légende dramatique, La Damnation de Faust, exists somewhere between cantata and opera. Berlioz's flexible attitude to dramatic form made the piece unworkable on the stages of early 19th century Paris and his music is so vivid that you wonder whether the piece needs staging at all.
St. John’s Smith Square was the site of Elizabeth Connell’s final London concert, intended as a farewell to London on her moving to Australia. It was rendered ultimately final by her unexpected death.
With the building of the Suez Canal, Egypt became more interesting to Western Europeans. Khedive Ismail Pasha wanted a hymn by Verdi for the opening of a new opera house in Cairo, but the composer said he did not write occasional pieces.
Back for its fourth revival, David McVicar’s 2003 production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte has much charm, beauty and artistry.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro has a libretto by Lorenzo daPonte based on the French play La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (The Crazy Day or the Marriage of Figaro) by Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799).
For its world class Easter Festival, Baden-Baden mounted a Die Zauberflöte that owed more to the grey penitential doldrums of Lent than to the unbridled jubilance of re-birth.
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