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

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

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.)

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):