Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

The Gardeners: a new opera by Robert Hugill

‘When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot,/ Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,/ And flowers will shine in this now barren plot/ And fame upon it through the years descend:/ But many a heart upon each simple cross/ Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.’

Richard Jones's Boris Godunov returns to Covent Garden

There are never any real surprises with a Richard Jones production and Covent Garden’s Boris Godunov, first seen in 2016, is typical of Jones’s approach: it’s boxy, it’s ascetic, it’s over-bright, with minimalism turned a touch psychedelic in the visuals.

An enchanting Hansel and Gretel at Regent's Park Theatre

If you go out in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. And, it will be no picnic! For, deep in the broomstick forest that director Timothy Sheader and designer Peter McKintosh have planted on the revolving stage at Regent’s Park Theatre is a veritable Witches’ Training School.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Ekaterina Siurina (Susanna) and Simon Keenlyside (Count) [Photo copyright Ken Howard courtesy of Metropolitan Opera]
12 Nov 2007

Le Nozze di Figaro – Metropolitan Opera

Le Nozze di Figaro, in 1786, was the longest and most elaborate opera buffa ever composed and (though it is seldom given complete) is still the longest you are likely to see in the regular repertory.

W. A. Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro – Metropolitan Opera
10 November 2007

Ekaterina Siurina (Susanna), Anja Harteros (Countess), Kate Lindsey (Cherubino), Marie McLaughlin (Marcellina), Bryn Terfel (Figaro), Simon Keenlyside (Count), Maurizio Muraro (Don Bartolo), Greg Fedderly (Don Basilio); conducted by Philippe Jordan.

Above: Ekaterina Siurina (Susanna) and Simon Keenlyside (Count)
All photos © Ken Howard courtesy of Metropolitan Opera

 

There are so many variables that a critic can easily find something to object to. A Countess short of breath in “Porgi amor,” with which (no warm-up) she opens Act II; a Cherubino too feminine for adolescent male outpourings; a Count insufficiently virile for his masculine vanity (the engine that drives the plot) to be credible; a Marcellina too young to be Figaro’s mother (Beaumarchais turns Oedipus into farce here, showing how close tragedy and comedy really are); a lackluster conductor; a “concept” staging that ignores half the plot; an ugly set; an incompetent fandango or leap from the window – there is always (as Gilda Radner would say) something. Attending the Met’s Figaro in a year when few world-famous names have signed on for it, the manipulator of the poison pen whets his fangs in malicious anticipation.

At the matinee of November 10, the Met fooled me: until the last two minutes of the staging (and then it was Jonathan Miller’s unaltered original direction that let me down, not anything the performers did), Le Nozze was as near perfect as you are likely to get, and none of those obvious lapses occurred. Anja Harteros sang both the Countess’s arias flawlessly and was, in addition, a radiant beauty whose neglect by any husband puzzled everyone and made him look an oaf. She won the ovation of the afternoon – even for one who missed the angelic quality Kiri Te Kanawa brought to the Countess’s final lines of forgiveness. (The opera – and buffo in general – is primarily about forgiveness for everybody’s human imperfections – which is why the original, imperial audience found it easy to overlook the revolutionary subtext.) Ekaterina Siurina, a plump Russian tidbit, as Susanna sang a radiant “Deh vieni non tardar” and a “Venite, inginocchiatevi” with the proper giggly bounce. Kate Lindsey is a real find – her Cherubino looked like an adolescent boy, a very pretty one to be sure but with an arrogant chin and a “street” sort of strut that made this cocksure kid a credible threat to the older males. She sang gloriously too. Marie McLaughlin made an ardent but not preposterous Marcellina – for once one regretted the omission of her aria – and Anne-Carolyn Bird, though a bit tall, sang a sweet Barberina.

Harteros_Countess.png Anja Harteros as the Countess

Among the men, Bryn Terfel naturally stood out in the title role. I did not like his Figaro when the production was brand new – he seemed so anxious to show what an actor he was that he huffed and puffed and groaned and grimaced instead of singing; Mozart took a back seat to Beaumarchais. He has calmed down considerably over the years, and though still a bouncing buffo-man with plenty of time for comedy (if his pretence of jumping off the balcony is not quite believable), he now sings the arias at a less frenetic pace, with more of the elegance they require and reward. Simon Keenlyside played the Count as an elegant fop, forever tossing his curls and pratfalling on the polished floors, but this never interfered with his musical authority. Maurizio Murano’s blowhard Bartolo, Greg Fedderly’s slithy Basilio, and Patrick Carfizzi’s lumpish Antonio earned most of the day’s laughs.

Philippe Jordan is a young Swiss who conducts with zest and delight, as if he wanted to grab you by the ears and prove this is a masterpiece with charms you never suspected – hardly necessary with Figaro, but what I mean is, he takes none of it for granted, he is thrilled by the music and eager to share.

Siurina__Terfel_and_Keenlys.pngEkaterina Siurina (Susanna), Bryn Terfel (Figaro) and Simon Keenlyside (Count)

And what did I object to about the conclusion? In the Met’s rush to get the Countess into a new and glittery gown for the finale, no one has thought (and Mr. Miller years ago did not think) to have her show the ring to the Count, revealing to him that she is the mysterious lady he made love to in the dark. The audience knows this, and Figaro and Susanna know it, but the Count does not, and his heartfelt, aristocratic apology is inexplicable if he doesn’t. The laws of farce are immutable: If you do not tie all the knots, the machine unravels. It’s such an easy piece of business to fix – and so satisfying when it’s fixed. Patch it up, Met.

John Yohalem

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):