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

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17. Perfection, as one would expect from arguably the finest Rameau interpreters in the business, and that's saying a lot, given the exceptionally high quality of French baroque performance in the last 40 years.

Adriana Lecouvreur Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.

Rossini is Alive and Well and Living in Iowa

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Gergiev : Janáček Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

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.

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):