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

Das Rheingold, Opera North

Das Rheingold is, of course, the reddest in tooth and claw of all Wagner’s dramas - which is saying something.

Peter Grimes in Princeton

The Princeton Festival presents one opera annually, amidst other events. Its offerings usually alternate annually between 20th century and earlier operas. This year the Festival presented Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, now a classic work, in a very effective and moving production.

Scintillating Strauss in Saint Louis

If you like your Ariadne on Naxos productions as playful as a box of puppies, then Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the address for you.

Saint Louis Takes On ‘The Scottish Opera’

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis took forty years before attempting Verdi’s Macbeth but judging by the excellence of the current production, it was well worth the wait.

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

On June 16, 2016, Los Angeles Opera with Beth Morrison Projects presented the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's Anatomy Theater at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT).

Shalimar in St. Louis: Pagliaccio Non Son

In its compact forty-year history, the ambitious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has just triumphantly presented its twenty-fifth world premiere with Shalimar the Clown.

Jenůfa, ENO

The sharp angles and oddly tilting perspectives of Charles Edwards’ set for David Alden’s production of Jenůfa at ENO suggest a community resting precariously on the security and certainty of its customs, soon to slide from this precipice into social and moral anarchy.

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

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.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

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.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

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.

Musings on the “American Ring

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.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

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.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

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.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

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.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

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.

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

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.

Holland Festival: Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, Amsterdam

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 wife.

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):