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

David McVicar's Andrea Chénier returns to Covent Garden

Is Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chenier a verismo opera? Certainly, he is often grouped with Mascagni, Cilea, Leoncavallo and Puccini as a representative of this ‘school’. And, the composer described his 1876 opera as a dramma de ambiente storico.

Glyndebourne presents Richard Jones's new staging of La damnation de Faust

Oratorio? Opera? Cantata? A debate about the genre to which Berlioz’s ‘dramatic legend’, La damnation de Faust, should be assigned could never be ‘resolved’.

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

Kurt Weill’s Street Scene

Kurt Weill’s “American opera,” Street Scene debuted this past weekend in the Kay Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with a diverse young cast comprised of students and alumni of the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Macbeth in Istanbul
14 Nov 2007

Macbeth in Istanbul

Attending the opera may not be the first thing you think of when visiting Istanbul, but opera is to be found (if less well advertised than the local Bach Festival) at the Ataturk Cultural Center on Taksim Square, the heart of modern Istanbul.

Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth
Istanbul State Opera and Ballet, Ataturk Center, 23 October 2007

Perihan Nayır Artan (Lady), Murat Güney (Macbeth), Hüseyin Likos (Macduff), Gökhan Ürben (Banquo). Conducted by Markus Baisch. Production by Yekta Kara.

 

Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, loved opera, ballet and theater and recommended them strongly – along with such Western artifacts as the Roman alphabet, the panama hat, and votes – and scarfless hair – for women. He saw the theater as a key to entering the modern world – and isn’t it?

You will know you have come to the right place on Taksim because colorful posters for the opera season cover the wall to the left of the Ataturk Center. (Tickets are sold at a kiosk to the right of the building.) The Center was built in 1969 and is sedately modern, neither flamboyant nor hideous – 1969 was a dull time for international architecture from New York to New Delhi. The auditorium is comfortable and of a comfortable size.

A Turkish friend who sings himself spoke unkindly of opera in his native land, but I thought, if their Macbeth is as good as the Forza del Destino (or Moč Sudbine) I heard in Zagreb seven years ago – honest, idiomatic, provincial Verdi starring the stoutest woman in Croatia, lovely voice, no top notes, and only the basso embarrassing – then I’ll enjoy myself. It was my last night in Istanbul, and much as I delight in Turkish folk music, I longed for an evening free of the Middle Eastern wail. To my great pleasure, what I got was honest, idiomatic, provincial Verdi, in a production set on telling the story, not some director’s interpretation of the story, with an all-Turkish cast who knew how to sing Italian opera and did so, led by a soprano with a lovely voice (including the top) who was easily the stoutest woman I saw in Turkey.

Perihan Nayır Artan knew her business. Passionate in her entrance without fudging the coloratura, keyed up during the duet, her pretty voice abruptly hard at such moments as “Dammi al ferro,” when she demands Macbeth give her the bloody daggers, and convincingly lost in an inner hell during the sleepwalk, when the voice floated, contradicting the horrors she sang of. I’d like to hear her Aida someday. Murat Güney gracefully sang a somewhat distanced Macbeth, regretful but not exactly tormented as his world falls apart, still a warrior despite an aluminum sword that bent at the first blow. Tenor Hüseyin Likos, Macduff, seemed ready for Verdi’s shriller leading roles like Radames and Manrico. After a few rough spots in the overture, Markus Baisch kept the orchestra pumping if not exactly eldritch in this score’s often highly original use of winds and strings to produce uncanny – in 1847, unprecedented – effects.

Yekta Kara’s production was basic but not risible. (From house photos, I gather the real money is saved to dazzle in Arabian Nights operas like Mozart’s Sihirli Flüt and S. Ada’s Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. They also give Mozart’s Seraglio every summer – in the Topkapi seraglio.) Special effects were minimal, but the story was clearly and effectively told. The witches wore white – appearing to be surgical nurses, with bloody aprons they lent to Banquo’s murderers. The men were in black and only Lady M got to wear a color – guess which. The direction rather privileged the witches, who were shown manipulating all the other characters, even in scenes where they do not usually appear (Lady M’s cabaletta invoking “ye spirits that tend on mortal thoughts” and also, their fingers dripping blood down a wall, during “Le luce langue”). The witches handed Macbeth paper and pen to write home, delivered the letter, rescued Fleance, undermined victorious Malcolm, and sang the lines behind the apparitions in the cauldron scene – forces of chaos, enemies to all human effort. This, I think, gives them too much power and takes it from Macbeth – in Shakespeare, he is clearly the author of his own misfortunes, committing his crimes though imaginatively aware of how how disastrous this choice will be. In Kara’s production, he has an alibi – the devil makes him do it – and thus his own character becomes less interesting.

The words were easily comprehensible to anyone familiar with opera Italian, but there were no surtitles – which may be why the story was so clearly told. There was also no prompter’s box – instead lines were hissed from stage right. This would annoy hell out of me in Wagner or Mozart, but in a creep show like Macbeth, it rather added to the atmosphere.

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):