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

Der fliegende Holländer, Bavarian State Opera

‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’ It is, perhaps, a line quoted too often; yet, even though it may not have been entirely accurate on this occasion, it came to my mind. Its accuracy might be questioned in several respects.

Evergreen Baby in Colorado

Central City Opera celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Ballad of Baby Doe with a hip, canny, multi-faceted new production.

Lean and Mean Tosca in Colorado

Someone forgot to tell Central City Opera that it would be difficult to fit Puccini’s (usually) architecturally large Tosca on their small stage.

Die Walküre, Baden-Baden

A cast worthy of Bayreuth made for an unforgettable Wagnerian experience at the Sommer Festspiele in Baden-Baden.

Des Moines’ Elusive Manon

Loving attention to the highest quality was everywhere evident in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Manon.

Falstaff in Iowa: A Big Fat Hit

Des Moines Metro Opera had (almost) all the laughs in the right places, and certainly had all the right singers in these meaty roles to make for an enjoyable outing with Verdi’s masterpiece

Die Fledermaus, Opera Holland Park

With the thermometers reaching boiling point, there’s no doubt that summer has finally arrived in London. But, the sun seems to have been shining over the large marquee in Holland Park all summer.

Nice, July 14, and then . . .

J.S. Bach’s cerebral Art of the Fugue in Aix, Verdi’s massive Requiem in Orange, Ibn al-Muqaffa’ ‘s fable of the camel, jackal, wolf and crow, Sophocles’ blind Oedipus Rex and the Bible’s triumphant Psalm No. 150 in Aix.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

The champagne corks popped at the close of this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House, with Prince Orlofsky’s celebratory toast forming a fitting conclusion to some superb singing.

Prom 2: Boris Godunov, ROH

Bryn Terfel is making a habit of performing Russian patriarchs at the Proms.

Des Moines’ Gluck Sets the Standard

What happens when just everything about an operatic performance goes joyously right?

Des Moines: Jewels in Perfect Settings

Two years ago, the well-established Des Moines Metro Opera experimented with a 2nd Stages program, with performances programmed outside of their home stage at Simpson College.

First Night of the Proms 2016

What to make of the unannounced decision to open this concert with the Marseillaise? I am sure it was well intended, and perhaps should leave it at that.

La Cenerentola, Opera Holland Park

In a fairy-tale, it can sometimes feel as if one is living a dream but on the verge of being awoken to a shock. Such is life in these dark and uncertain days.

Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno in Aix

The tense, three hour knock-down-drag-out seduction of Beauty by Pleasure consumed our souls in this triumphal evening. Forget Time and Disillusion as destructors, they were the very constructors of the beauty and pleasure found in this miniature oratorio.

Pelleas et Mélisande in Aix

Three parallel universes (before losing count) — the ephemeral Debussy/Maeterlinck masterpiece, the Debussy symphonic tone poem, and the twisted intricacies of a moldy, parochially English country estate.

Siegfried, Opera North

This, alas, was where I had to sign off. A weekend conference on Parsifal (including, on the Saturday, a showing of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Parsifal film) mean that I missed Götterdämmerung, skipping straight to the sequel.

Götterdämmerung, Opera North

The culmination of Opera North’s “Ring for Everyone”, this Götterdämmerung showed the power of the condensed movement so necessary in a staged performance - each gesture of each character was perfectly judged - as well as the visceral power of having Wagner’s huge orchestra on stage as opposed to the pit.

Le nozze di Figaro, Glyndebourne

Michael Grandage's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, which was new in 2012, returned to Glyndebourne on 3 July 2016 revived by Ian Rutherford.

Cosi fan tutte at the Aix Festival

Said and done the audience roared its enjoyment of the performance, reserving even greater enthusiasm to greet stage director Christophe Honoré with applauding boos and whistles that bespoke enormous pleasure, complicity and befuddlement.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

The Royal Albert Hall, Home of the Proms!, Image © BBC
22 Oct 2007

Opera at the BBC Proms 2007

Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s guest appearance is an annual fixture at the Proms, and this year the work of choice was Verdi’s Macbeth, in a semi-staged performance on July 24th based on Richard Jones’s new production for this year’s Festival.

The Royal Albert Hall: Home of the Proms!
Image © BBC

 

The opera was done in a hybrid edition in which the familiar 1865 score gives way to the 1847 finale following ‘Pietà, rispetta, amore’, thus keeping all the later version’s best music and gaining a more theatrical, less ‘operatic’ ending.

Indeed, it had been a theatrically-compelling staging — at its Glyndebourne home. However its bulky sets and large-scale choreography simply wouldn’t have been viable in the limited dimensions and exposed nature of the Royal Albert Hall platform. Consequently Geoffrey Dolton’s semi-staged adaptation retained little of the original, and had it not been for the tartan costumes which provided such a clear indication of family allegiances, it might as well have been given in concert.

On its own terms, however, the musical performance was very strong, led by Vladimir Jurowski whose conducting had rhythmic delicacy and dramatic sweep. Voices which sound thrillingly huge in Glyndebourne’s intimate and forgiving acoustic can struggle to make an impression in the cavernous Royal Albert Hall, but as Lady Macbeth, Sylvie Valayre was notable here for her strength and lyricism, and Stanislav Shvets for a portentous yet introverted account of Banquo. Strong performances too came from Andrzej Dobber in the title role, and Peter Auty as a young Macduff who is matured by his personal tragedy.

On to August 12th and this season’s operatic highlight: a concert performance of Götterdämmerung, the culmination of the first “Ring cycle” in the Proms’ 113-year history - in reality, performances of the four operas by four different companies over the space of four years. After visits from Simon Rattle with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Antonio Pappano with a semi-staged adaptation from the Royal Opera, and Christoph Eschenbach with the Orchestre de Paris, the baton was handed to Donald Runnicles and the Proms “house band”, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, for the final instalment in a concert performance.

It was a terrific ensemble effort by all concerned, speaking volumes about Runnicles’ rapport with the orchestra. Christine Brewer (a regular guest performer with the BBCSO) was a radiant, committed Brünnhilde. Stig Andersen gave a muscular performance as Siegfried albeit with a couple of botched top notes, and John Tomlinson’s Hagen was a triumph of characterisation and malevolent stage presence. Of the supporting cast, the Scottish mezzo Karen Cargill gave a notably excellent performance as Waltraute; her focused, dramatic sound and expansive phrasing will surely stand her in good stead for similar repertoire in the future. Only the Norns — Andrea Baker, Natascha Petrinsky and Miranda Keys — sounded as though they had not been employed with the success of the ensemble in mind, and even this is no reflection on the individual singers.

This performance was a great achievement and, like all successful Wagner performances, succeeded in making six hours go by in the blink of an eye.

August 20th brought a performance of Duke Bluebeard’s Castle by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Christoph von Dohnányi, in a concert whose first half featured Webern’s orchestration of part of Bach’s ‘Musical Offering’ and a recently-assembled concert suite from Thomas Adès’s 1995 opera Powder Her Face. Contemporary music, even going back as far as Bartók, simply doesn’t seem to pull in the crowds at the Proms; the hall was almost empty. This cannot have done much for the morale of the orchestra or soloists, but this Bluebeard performance would surely have been disappointing in any case. Charlotte Hellekant was miscast as Judit, her glacial poise giving no indication of the warmth she promises to bring to her chilly new home. Correspondingly there was scant evocation of this in the orchestral playing, and little sense of the richly-drawn individual musical worlds to be found behind each of the seven doors. The orchestral balance was all wrong too, swamping Falk Struckmann’s intelligent, generous-voiced Bluebeard.

In the final week of the season, James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra visited for two evenings — an orchestral concert as well as a concert performance of Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. This performance fell on September 6th, the day Luciano Pavarotti died, and the performance was dedicated to his memory.

Vocally the highlight was Yvonne Naef’s glorious mezzo in her fevered, introverted account of ‘D’amour l’ardente flamme’, but elsewhere there were a few problems. As Faust, Marcello Giordani had a tendency to strain, while as Méphistophélès, the veteran José van Dam sounded a touch threadbare. The real strengths in the principal ensemble lay elsewhere; the dynamic between Faust and Méphistophélès was well-developed, and the characters were finely-drawn and well rounded. This was, after all, a late date in the orchestra’s tour calendar, so the opera (or rather the ‘dramatic legend’) came to London fully ripe. This experience was evident too in the disciplined and vivid singing of the chorus, and in the wonderful orchestral playing especially in some of the solo woodwind.

Ruth Elleson © 2007

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):