Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola, whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

Billy Budd in Madrid

Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.

A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw

American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera, Nixon in China.

English song: shadows and reflections

Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.

A charming Pirates of Penzance revival at ENO

'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.

Johan Reuter sings Brahms with Wiener Philharmoniker

In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker

I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series programmes opening the New Year.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher in Lyon

There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.

A New Look at Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio

On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.

Giasone in Geneva

Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.

Falstaff in Genoa

A Falstaff that raised-the-bar ever higher, this was a posthumous resurrection of Luca Ronconi’s masterful staging of Verdi’s last opera, the third from last of the 83 operas Ronconi staged during his lifetime (1933-2015). And his third staging of Falstaff following Salzburg in 1993 and Florence in 2006.

Traviata in Seattle

One of Aidan Lang’s first initiatives as artistic director of Seattle Opera was to encourage his board to formulate a “mission statement” for the fifty-year old company. The document produced was clear, simple, and anodyne. Seattle Opera would aim above all to create work appealing both to the emotions and reason of the audience.

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal, Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy and with a clever twist,

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part I: Stölzl’s Psychedelic Parsifal

Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) consistently serves up superlatively sung Wagner productions. This Fall, its productions of Philipp Stölzl's Parsifal and Kasper Holten's Lohengrin offered intoxicating musical affairs. Annette Dasch, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Peter Seiffert reached for the stars. Even when it comes down to last minute replacements, the casting is topnotch.

Donna abbandonata: Temple Song Series

Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Psyche Entering Cupid's Garden by John William Waterhouse
21 Jun 2007

Lully’s Psyché at Boston Early Music Festival

There’s not much point in presenting Lully’s Psyché (in its North American premiere no less) unless you’re going to give it something vaguely like the grandeur Louis XIV could command in 1678.

Jean-Baptiste Lully: Psyché
Boston Early Music Festival, 15 June 2007

Above: Psyche Entering Cupid's Garden by John William Waterhouse

 

In a down-home way, Boston’s biennial Early Music Festival achieved this to a remarkable extent: instrumentalists and singers from the front ranks of antique performing practice led by BEMF’s longtime opera conductors, Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs, the staging glamorous but basic, with elaborate dance interludes that were always a significant part of (often the principal excuse for) opera in France, costumes worthy of a costume ball at Versailles, and elaborate stage machinery — there’s a whole lot of flying going on, and entrances are made from above as often as from the wings.

Opera is not a word Lully or his collaborators used for such pieces, and indeed at that point no one in France was quite sure what “opera” meant. Tragédie lyrique, a sung and acted drama, was the thing. Lully’s dignified and magical creations soon circulated about Western Europe. Much of the singing is declamation of stately rather than lyrical melody, a grand manner passed on via Rameau to Gluck, Berlioz and Poulenc. (Wagner made effective use of it too.) This can be unsettling to the average operagoer, accustomed to the song-like manner of Italian opera; but the appreciative audience at the jewel-box Cutler Majestic Theater, accustomed to the stylistic vagaries of older music, ate it up. What gave more pause is another enduring eccentricity of French style: the equal rights accorded to ballet. There are dances throughout Psyché, and the piece concludes with a good half hour of it. This was very prettily achieved in the court manner, but the Boston audience wearied about halfway through the long finale. This is not to fault Lucy Graham, the choreographer, who found exceptional variety in the fixed gestures and poses of court dance, and introduced several whimsical interludes, including a ten-minute “commedia dell’ arte” mimed by the traditional Italian figures. (The enormous and obviously devoted production team included a “Vocal and Gesture Coach.”)

The story is the late classical myth of Psyche (“Soul”), the mortal so beautiful that a jealous Venus vows to destroy her. Venus’s son (L’Amour in the French version), charged with the girl’s destruction, falls for her himself and carries her off to a magical palace where, however, she is forbidden to see what he looks like. Of course, she cheats (cf. Lohengrin and Bluebeard) — in Psyché, it’s because Venus tricks her into doing so — and he leaves her. To get him back, Psyche must descend to the Underworld to fetch Venus a box of beauty from its queen, Proserpine. Of course, she peeks into the box and is lost — but this time the gods relent, Jupiter promotes her to goddess, and all ends happily with the Soul mated to Divine Love. (The subtext, as program essays made plan, concerned the love affair of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan.)L'Amour et Psyché by François-Edouard Picot (1817)

Among the singers, as was only proper, the finest had the largest parts: Carolyn Sampson, the pretty Psyché, who sang and acted her long role with conviction and sweet, untiring tone, and Karina Gauvin, as Venus, the opera’s heavy, a role she acquitted with great verve. The episodic narrative included many charming episodes, wittily staged — for instance a marital spat between Gauvin and Colin Balzer, whose lyrical tenor seemed far too attractive for Vulcan, the hardworking smith-god: “You always side with lovers and against husbands,” he sang to her, and the joke was as good in 2007 as in 1678. Lully wrote the Furies — usually visualized as shrieking women — for three low male voices, and the production accordingly presented three men in black, seventeenth-century drag to berate the heroine for intruding upon the dead. L’Amour was acted and, for a line or two, sung, by a winged child actor in order to conform to Cupid’s traditional iconography, but for the wedding night the god magically adopted the form of a full-grown tenor the better to sing duets with. Of the mostly able singers in the many smaller roles, countertenor José Lemos as Silenus had a ravishing sound one would be eager to encounter again.

John Yohalem

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):