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

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Glyndebourne Festival Opera at the Proms

For its annual visit to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Glyndebourne brought its new production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, an opera which premiered 200 years ago.

Béatrice and Bénédict at Glyndebourne

‘A caprice written with the point of a needle’: so Berlioz described his opera Béatrice and Bénédict, which pares down Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to its comic quintessence, shorn of the sub-plots, destroyed reputations and near-bloodshed of Shakespeare’s original.

Der fliegende Holländer, Bavarian State Opera

‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’ It is, perhaps, a line quoted too often; yet, even though it may not have been entirely accurate on this occasion, it came to my mind. Its accuracy might be questioned in several respects.

Evergreen Baby in Colorado

Central City Opera celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Ballad of Baby Doe with a hip, canny, multi-faceted new production.

Lean and Mean Tosca in Colorado

Someone forgot to tell Central City Opera that it would be difficult to fit Puccini’s (usually) architecturally large Tosca on their small stage.

Die Walküre, Baden-Baden

A cast worthy of Bayreuth made for an unforgettable Wagnerian experience at the Sommer Festspiele in Baden-Baden.

Des Moines’ Elusive Manon

Loving attention to the highest quality was everywhere evident in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Manon.

Falstaff in Iowa: A Big Fat Hit

Des Moines Metro Opera had (almost) all the laughs in the right places, and certainly had all the right singers in these meaty roles to make for an enjoyable outing with Verdi’s masterpiece

Die Fledermaus, Opera Holland Park

With the thermometers reaching boiling point, there’s no doubt that summer has finally arrived in London. But, the sun seems to have been shining over the large marquee in Holland Park all summer.

Nice, July 14, and then . . .

J.S. Bach’s cerebral Art of the Fugue in Aix, Verdi’s massive Requiem in Orange, Ibn al-Muqaffa’ ‘s fable of the camel, jackal, wolf and crow, Sophocles’ blind Oedipus Rex and the Bible’s triumphant Psalm No. 150 in Aix.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

The champagne corks popped at the close of this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House, with Prince Orlofsky’s celebratory toast forming a fitting conclusion to some superb singing.

Prom 2: Boris Godunov, ROH

Bryn Terfel is making a habit of performing Russian patriarchs at the Proms.

Des Moines’ Gluck Sets the Standard

What happens when just everything about an operatic performance goes joyously right?

Des Moines: Jewels in Perfect Settings

Two years ago, the well-established Des Moines Metro Opera experimented with a 2nd Stages program, with performances programmed outside of their home stage at Simpson College.

First Night of the Proms 2016

What to make of the unannounced decision to open this concert with the Marseillaise? I am sure it was well intended, and perhaps should leave it at that.

La Cenerentola, Opera Holland Park

In a fairy-tale, it can sometimes feel as if one is living a dream but on the verge of being awoken to a shock. Such is life in these dark and uncertain days.

Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno in Aix

The tense, three hour knock-down-drag-out seduction of Beauty by Pleasure consumed our souls in this triumphal evening. Forget Time and Disillusion as destructors, they were the very constructors of the beauty and pleasure found in this miniature oratorio.

Pelleas et Mélisande in Aix

Three parallel universes (before losing count) — the ephemeral Debussy/Maeterlinck masterpiece, the Debussy symphonic tone poem, and the twisted intricacies of a moldy, parochially English country estate.

Siegfried, Opera North

This, alas, was where I had to sign off. A weekend conference on Parsifal (including, on the Saturday, a showing of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Parsifal film) mean that I missed Götterdämmerung, skipping straight to the sequel.

Götterdämmerung, Opera North

The culmination of Opera North’s “Ring for Everyone”, this Götterdämmerung showed the power of the condensed movement so necessary in a staged performance - each gesture of each character was perfectly judged - as well as the visceral power of having Wagner’s huge orchestra on stage as opposed to the pit.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Derek Lee Ragin
04 Dec 2007

Beyond The Media Avatar

Imagine a mild December night, with some three hundred people queueing for a concert ticket on Siena’s horseshoe-shaped Piazza del Campo.

Recital by Derek Lee Ragin, alto; Il Rossignolo (with original instruments)

Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, December 1st, 2007

A Festival Contemporaneamente Barocco preview production

 

Past the stately gates of the medieval city hall, a breath-taking sight: the Sala del Mappamondo, a large hall studded with the old regalia of the proud Tuscan Republic that once competed with Florence over supremacy of Europe’s financial markets. Images of saints and sinners; angels, bankers, friars and warriors frescoed by Simone Martini, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Sano di Pietro — names echoing like clarions. And the clarions are actually there, arranged within crystal shelves: precious originals of the long trumpets whose copies still resound twice in a year for the Palio horse race. From Autumn 2008, this is planned to become one more regular series, a so-called “Festival Contemporaneamente Barocco” storming a variety of historic venues in the city — including two recently-restored opera houses, the cathedral, the university and more — with events connected to opera, music, drama and cultural heritage at large.

To Italian concertgoers who missed the seldom chance to hear him live, countertenor Derek Lee Ragin is a sort of media avatar, the lower half of Farinelli’s voice as heard in the gorgeous soundtrack of a (quite despicable) 1994 feature film on the legendary Neapolitan castrato. The upper one, as largely spread at that time, was provided by the Polish soprano Ewa Mallas Godlewska, with a French computer digitally processing both halves into the virtual reconstruction of a voice which, around 1725, could boast a range of two octaves and a fourth (from A to D’’’) — and later extended by a few more pitches downward, thus to around three octaves! (However, there is no surviving evidence in the scores that Farinelli ever used all of them in any single piece…).

Ragin_Siena.png

As to Ragin, his voice sounds most effectively in the range just around the middle C up to a tenth above. It might have grown darker in years, yet without losing the appeal of an other-wordly color, something of an alto of warm polish and purity, all of a sudden opening up towards high notes generally forbidden to the male falsetto. At those dizzying pitches, he doesn’t either squeak or resort to a metallic compression that betrays strain, like many among his peers tend to, but emerges with a lustrous full-pressure resonance, apparently with some major support from the chest. If only he could smooth the transition between both ranges, you would call him a monster; nevertheless, he remains a singer of superior class and versatility, equally at ease in Baroque arias, contemporary music and the Negro spiritual. Add to that a technical refinement matching the stipulations of early Bel Canto style. His opening messa di voce in “Alto Giove”, from Porpora’s Polifemo, pierced the gloomy instrumental atmosphere like a sunbeam from a cloudy sky — a terrific effect. One more piece from Farinelli’s suitcase repertoire — “Ombra fedele anch’io”, set by the castrato’s profligate brother Riccardo Broschi in his opera Idaspe — was lamentably shortened of its second section and subsequent da capo. A pity indeed, considered Ragin’s heart-rending delivery of the first plaintive section, featuring a good deal of appoggiaturas and inter-registral leaps in slow tempo. Before that, a pair of Handel cantatas (Mi palpita il cor, HWV 132d and Lungi da me, HWV125b) displayed bravery in fast syllabic passages, meaningful switching between staccato and legato, polished fast trills, evidence of dramatic sensitivity in the recitatives. By the way, Ragin’s Italian diction was more than acceptable throughout, reaching a peak in the favorite encore “Ombra mai fu” from Xerxes, whose notorious text clumsiness often fires jokes among native hearers.

Rossignolo%2BRagin.png

Besides providing a spirited accompaniment to Ragin’s vocal solos, the resident period band “Il Rossignolo” (a gentle archaism for nightingale) showed off with notable panache in the fillers: a four-parts sonata and a concerto for the same forces by Telemann, plus Vivaldi’s Concerto for recorder, RV 106. All of the players emerged in turns for their individual merits and deserve quotation: harpsichordist-cum-conductor Ottaviano Tenerani and flautist Marica Testi for their assured elegance of phrasing, the mercurial cellist Ludovico Minasi for his bold strokes, Luca Giardini, a young violinist in growing international demand, both for finery of sound and fanciful embellishments. Oboist Martino Noferi, a promising virtuoso on the baroque oboe, didn’t perform equally well on the recorder. He should probably choose for the better opportunity, sooner or later.

Carlo Vitali

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):