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

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Monsters and Marriage at the Aix Festival

Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

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):