Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

 Heather Buck (The Queen of Night) / Andrew Kennedy (Tamino)
28 Oct 2007

The Magic Flute — English National Opera

Despite rumours to the contrary, English National Opera’s advertising material claims that this 12th revival of Nicholas Hytner’s popular production of ‘ The Magic Flute’ will be the last. Though it’s arguably better to get rid of a production in...

W. A. Mozart: The Magic Flute

English National Opera, 6 October 2007

Above: Heather Buck (The Queen of Night) / Andrew Kennedy (Tamino)
All photos © ENO and Robert Workman

 

Despite rumours to the contrary, English National Opera’s advertising material claims that this 12th revival of Nicholas Hytner’s popular production of ‘ The Magic Flute’ will be the last. Though it’s arguably better to get rid of a production in its prime rather than when it’s been done to death, it will be a sad loss. The staging has been popular with all sectors of ENO’s audience, as a result of its balance, clarity, wit and visual beauty. This staging more than any other has given me continual pause for thought over the years, leading me to better understanding of the piece.

The ‘ serious’ characters are well-rounded and balanced; after all, they are all supposed to be in some way human. The Queen of the Night is drawn in particularly fine detail; she believes that she’s acting for the good, or why would she afford Tamino the protection of the flute and the guidance of the three boys? Heather Buck’s threatening coloratura was like an explosion of simmering anger and frustration on top of a soft, warm-hued centre, not an all-guns-blazing outpouring of evil. Sarastro, too, has something to learn; as he gets to know Pamina better, he loses arrogance that he never knew he had, and comes to respect a woman as an equal.

Andrew Kennedy was a noble Tamino with lovely tone, though his oddly distorted vowel sounds are becoming increasingly irritating. Sarah-Jane Davies matched him well as Pamina, singing a beautifully poised ‘Ach, ich fühls’ (‘Now I know that love can vanish’). Brindley Sherratt’s Sarastro was perhaps a little weak on the bottom notes, but gave an imposing, centred performance, and Matthew Rose is such a fine Speaker that I long to hear him as Sarastro.

Roderick Williams was a congenial Papageno with considerable charm, delivering Jeremy Sams’s English dialogue in an approximation of a Yorkshire accent. Talking of accents, his disguised Papagena is conventionally played in this production as an elderly Irish tea-lady, which proved a verbal challenge too great for the Swedish soprano Susannah Andersson. Once she was out of ‘ character’ and into the duet, her diction was perfect and she sang very sweetly.

Magic_Flute_ENO_2007_2.pngSarah-Jane Davies (Pamina) / Brindley Sherratt (Sarastro) / Andrew Kennedy (Tamino)

The chorus were on form and Martin André conducted with delicacy and lyricism, but the greatest joy of this production remains the staging. The live doves summoned by Papageno’s pipes; the flood of green light when Tamino is wandering in the woodland; the bears tamed by the flute; the majestic white pillars of the Temple of Wisdom and its glorious interior golden screens with cut-out hieroglyphics; Papageno’s marital nest full of baby birds. Given ENO’s tendency to replace serviceable and popular stagings of core repertoire with misguided ‘concept’ productions, could they not be persuaded to keep this lovely piece of musical theatre for a few seasons longer? I hope so.

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):