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

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

Die Frau ohne Schatten at Munich

It was fascinating to see — and of course, to hear — Krzysztof Warlikowsi’s productions of Die Gezeichneten and Die Frau ohne Schatten on consecutive nights of this year’s Munich Opera Festival.

Dulwich Opera’s Carmen

Dulwich Opera Company’s Carmen was a convincingly successful show.  This was mainly due to succinct musical direction and rigorous dramatic direction.  It also meant that the proximity of the action was a fascinating treat, and by the artists being young, and easy on the eye.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sarah Coburn (Photo: © George Mott/Glimmerglass Opera)
16 Aug 2007

Haydn’s L’Anima del Filosofo (Orfeo ed Eurydice) — A rare performance at Glimmerglass this summer, as part of their “Orpheus” 2007 Festival Season

On a cold winter’s day in Vienna, just before Christmas 1790, Mr. Haydn dined with Mr. Mozart for the last time.

F. J. Haydn: L’Anima del Filosofo
Above: Sarah Coburn (Photo: © George Mott/Glimmerglass Opera)

 

Within a year the younger man would be dead, and the older would be in London putting the finishing touches to an opera that never saw the light of day in full public performance until, in 1951 it was staged in Florence with Maria Callas, Boris Christoff and Tygge Tyggeson in the leading roles. This is just part of the strange story of an opera that nearly never was, because although Haydn was fully paid in advance for his version of the Orfeo and Eurydice legend by the London-based impresario and violinist Johann Peter Salomon, it became the victim of politics and critical machinations that finally prevented it from opening at all.

Haydn was happy enough with the project (being paid in advance must have helped) and described the libretto, by Carlo Badini, as “entirely different from that of Glück’s”. What he didn’t say was that said Badini was also famed for his destructive gossip and very influential critical writings which could literally make or break a theatre’s reputation at that time. In this writing of the famous tale, the story starts with Eurydice fleeing the unwanted attentions of her father’s favoured suitor for her, and becoming the focus of Orfeo’s love; however, by the end of Act One she is dead from a snake-bite. The rest of the four acts concern Orfeo’s struggle to retrieve her from Hades, his famous error, and in this version of the tale, his eventual destruction by the Bacchae women, enraged by his avowed shunning of women’s love following his final loss of Eurydice.

There were only 3 main roles in the opera that Haydn wrote — Orfeo, written for leading tenor of the time Giacomo Davide who was described later as possessing “a clear and flexible voice, with an extensive falsetto”, Eurydice, sung by soprano Rosa Lops and the Genio (an oracle/soothsayer figure) who was apparently to be sung by a not-very-good castrato of the time, possibly one Signor Dorelli. Confusingly, by the time the opera came to rehearsal, there was another role included in the MS — that of Creonte, father of Eurydice. Sadly, despite getting to dress-rehearsal, local politics prevented the King’s Theatre from opening on time and Haydn never saw his opera open to the public.

It is no wonder then that this particular operatic version of the famous myth fell into that huge abyss of “forgotten” works as the late18th century geared itself up for the immense musical developments on the horizon. Yet, it is a jewel of its time, with some stunning music as well as dramatic vigour and this 2007 Glimmerglass concert performance has been looked forward to for some time by those who remember or have heard, either Callas in ’51, the 1967 live recording by Dame Joan Sutherland and Nicolai Gedda at the Edinburgh Festival, or of course the more recent revival by Cecilia Bartoli.

However, it was rather a disappointment to find that circumstances and time constraints had yielded some pretty savage cuts here on the shores of Lake Otsego. Michael Macleod, the new General and Artistic Director, explained that he had been anxious to do something meaningful on the traditional Sunday morning slot on Gala Weekend in this his first year at the helm of the Festival Opera. What better than to maintain the ethic of Glimmerglass and make more good music with a little known take on the myth, and better still, a work by one of his great loves, Haydn? Sadly, the time available between the 11 am start and the afternoon matinee at 3 pm of the staged L'Orfeo by Monteverdi meant that the concert performance was truncated with huge swathes of recitative removed. The story was moved on succinctly but prosaically by an on-stage Narrator, and several arias also cut.

What was left seemed more a showcase for soprano Sarah Coburn, an opportunity this technically elegant singer took full advantage of. She sang the arias of Eurydice and the Genio (the latter's big number “Al tuo seno fortunate” being eerily reminiscent of Mozart's Queen of the Night’s) with precision (mostly) and vocal poise. Not exciting, but obviously well-read and produced with only fleeting glances at the score before her. Equally effective was the baritone of young Corey Crider as Creonte. Much less successful was the Orfeo of tenor Norman Shankle, who appeared both nervous and under-prepared, his hands (and eyes) never far from the printed music, and his production sounding unsure and tentative, at best. This curate’s egg of a production was held together by some nice idiomatic playing by the Opera Orchestra, with special mention going to the flutes, under the shared batons of Antony Walker and Anne Manson.

Mr. MacLeod explained afterwards that the reason for the split duties for the conductors was part of a process of selection for vacant post of the Festival’s next Music Director. Whatever the reason, it was a rather novel experience for the audience as the two conductors had two very different styles, although it was hard to split them on the resultant sound.

The performance is repeated on the 19th August.

© Sue Loder 2007

For tickets (limited availability): Glimmerglass Opera Box Office (607) 547-2255 and more information from the website: http://www.glimmerglass.org/Haydn.html

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):