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

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Munich

Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to see three different productions within little more than a couple of months).

Janáček, The Makropulos Case, Bavarian State Opera

Opera houses’ neglect of Janáček remains one of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the ‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa, Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely hook most for life. From the House of the Dead might do likewise for someone of a rather different disposition, sceptical of opera’s claims and conventions.

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne

Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

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):