Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Giuseppe Verdi
16 Dec 2007

OONY Performs Verdi's I Due Foscari

After the triumph of his fifth opera, Ernani, Verdi could have gone on writing howling melodramas and made a mint.

Giuseppe Verdi: I Due Foscari

Opera Orchestra of New York, Carnegie Hall, 13 December 2007

Francesco Foscari: Paolo Gavanelli
Jacopo Foscari: Aquiles Machado
Lucrezia Contarini: Julianna Di Giacomo
Conducted by Eve Queler

 

But his sixth, I Due Foscari, indicates a new direction: inwards. Taken from a verse drama by Lord Byron, it’s a piece with little action in it. The three principals are not in opposition to each other – their antagonist is the ruthless machinery of the Venetian state; the opera concerns what goes on in their hearts, torn between love (of family, of country) and duty (to country, to unjust laws). Verdi did not yet have the musical chops to develop such internal conflicts, to create new layers for Italian opera – but that’s where he wanted to go, and in time, opera followed. Foscari, however, despite its wealth of melody, got kind of passed by. None of the tunes are well known and the leading roles are perilous – you need three big voices to pull the thing off.

In the history of Venice, a compleat oligarchy, the truly heroic figure is Venice. But human beings are drawn to individuals, and when stories come down to us from Venetian history, it is not state organs that elicit our sympathy. We sympathize with the oppressed, and with the conspirators who tried to disrupt the Venetian constitution – but Venice would not have become Venice if they had succeeded. Francesco Foscari, the longest-serving Doge of Venice (an almost powerless elected figurehead), after twice being refused permission to retire, was forced out of office against his will. He had also been forced to stand by when his son was wrongly accused of murder, tortured and exiled for it. That’s the story here: young Foscari complains (at the top of his tenor lungs), his wife resents (even louder), the old man bewails and, at last, drops dead.

Eve Queler chose Foscari (which she has presented a time or two before) for Opera Orchestra of New York’s one hundredth concert, and it was a joyful occasion on all counts. Venezuelan tenor Aquiles Machado, the accused Jacopo Foscari, is a Venezuelan tenor who has honorably sung such roles as Enzo at the Met. A little man with a big, brash voice of gleaming metal, he filled the room and made everyone smile, but there was little shading or subtlety. Jacopo should move us with his heartbreak not just his ardor.

He was very well matched by Julianna Di Giacomo as his wife, Lucrezia Contarini, one of Verdi’s hectic heroines, a dramatic coloratura like Abigaille in Nabucco or Odabella in Attila. (The Met’s producing Attila for the first time in a year or two, and they should keep her in mind.) Her voice, too, is huge and gleaming, and she has the coloratura, though the instrument is not ideally supported at the top. She had no troubles with strenuous Lucrezia, but she sang at only two levels, loud and louder, and there was little sign that she had other colors to her palette. Unless she learns how to characterize and how to manage soft singing, her future as a Norma, Anna Bolena or Verdi’s Hélène, the roles she seems to crave, is uncertain. Both these singers earned, and received, great enthusiasm.

The ovation of the evening, the performance that made people sigh as well as scream, was for Paolo Gavanelli’s Doge Francesco Foscari. His voice too is large, a rich, bluff smoky baritone with heart to it, and a sense of poetic phrasing. There were depths of feeling, of internal discussion, when he sang of his heartbreak, and we seemed to be an audience for that genuine discourse. It was easy to imagine him as Verdi’s other tormented baritone fathers, Rigoletto or Amonasro or Germont (which he has sung at the Met in years past), and everyone present would be eager to hear him in such roles.

As so often in Verdi, the baritone is the heart of this opera, and Queler chose the right man to make a case for the work. She did as well with the work’s thrilling, attention-grabbing prelude and several background choruses, though some of the orchestral work sounded a little scrappy. In any case, as at all the better Queler evenings, we came away with a better notion of the roots of the operatic canon, besides having made the acquaintance of several little-known singers we look forward to encountering again.

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):