Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

Arizona Opera Ends Season in Fine Style with Fille du Régiment

On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera ended its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.

Il turco in Italia, Royal Opera

This second revival of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 2005 production of Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia seems to have every going for it: excellent principals comprising experienced old-hands and exciting new voices, infinite gags and japes, and the visual éclat of Agostino Cavalca’s colour-bursting costumes and Christian Fenouillat’s sunny sets which evoke the style, glamour and ease of La Dolce Vita.

The Siege of Calais
——
The Wild Man of the West Indies

English Touring Opera’s 2015 Spring Tour is audacious and thought-provoking. Alongside La Bohème the company have programmed a revival of their acclaimed 2013 production of Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) and the composer’s equally rare The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo).

The Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor

Mary Zimmerman’s still-fresh production is made fresher still by Shagimuratova’s glimmering voice, but the acting disappoints

Voices, voices in space, and spaces: Thoughts on 50 years of Meredith Monk

When WNYC’s John Schaefer introduced Meredith Monk’s beloved Panda Chant II, which concluded the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk & Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, he described it as “an expression of joy and musicality” before lamenting the fact that playing it on his radio show could never quite compete with a live performance.

St. John Passion by Soli Deo Gloria, Chicago

This year’s concert of the Chicago Bach Project, under the aegis of the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, was a presentation of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Nazan Fikret (Flora) [© Neil Libbert]
11 Dec 2007

The Turn of the Screw at ENO

Not long ago, English National Opera declared an intention to capitalise on its name and history by placing greater emphasis on English works.

Benjamin Britten: The Turn of the Screw

English National Opera, London
30 November 2007

Above: Nazan Fikret (Flora)
All photos © Neil Libbert

 

We have already seen Purcell's 'King Arthur' and Vaughan Williams's 'Sir John in Love' (with the same composer's 'Riders to the Sea' to follow next season) but the composer playing the largest part in this revival of the English operatic repertoire is Benjamin Britten. The operas covered so far – 'Billy Budd' and 'Death in Venice' – have proved some of ENO's greatest successes of the last two seasons, and this latest co-production of 'The Turn of the Screw' with the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg (where it premiered in 2006), is no exception.

Director David McVicar, always good at exploring themes of corrupted innocence, views the story's central ambiguities from an unusual angle by attributing the evil forces to the children rather than the ghosts. Rather than being innocents possessed by an evil force, or blank slates ripe for the overworkings of the Governess's imagination, these two children were quite clearly the principal malevolent influence in this drama, and the source of the ghosts' powers from the start. In front of Mrs Grose they were little angels, but whenever her back was turned they were engaging in subversive rites: turning Flora's doll into a pig, digging a grave for the same doll while singing their cherubic Benedicite, and – in Miles's case – making sexual advances towards the Governess.

And yet McVicar still threw in a note of doubt; for example, the schoolroom scene between the Governess and Miss Jessel was not a dialogue, as it is often played, but two independent monologues, suggesting that neither woman has a greater foothold in reality than the other. Chillingly, despite the obviously menacing character of the children, the audience was still seduced into siding with them. The characters' relationships with one another and with the audience are carefully and intricately designed, but somehow the audience never feels overtly manipulated – just disturbed.

The silent cast of walk-on servants, fast becoming one of McVicar's production trademarks, were ever-present as scene-shifters, and went some way towards addressing the issue of creating a suitably intimate, claustrophobic atmosphere in a theatre the size of the Coliseum. When the giant sliding windows of the set shifted, the creakiness – which was, I suspect, unintentional – served only to crank up the atmosphere, to which Garry Walker's taut conducting was an ideal musical counterpart.

George Longworth (Miles*) / Rebecca Evans (Governess)George Longworth (Miles (press night performance)) / Rebecca Evans (Governess)

Rebecca Evans sang beautifully as the Governess, though her diction was far from clear; the honeyed sweetness of her voice and liveliness of her demeanour made for a particularly unsettling contrast with the children's poised coldness and the monochrome darkness of the set and costumes. Timothy Robinson's Quint, was lean, hungry, feeding off Miles's energy; Cheryl Barker's Miss Jessel used the intensity of her presence to suck the warmth out of the atmosphere whenever she was on stage. Singing her first Mrs Grose, Ann Murray's characterisation and diction were excellent even if her mezzo really is very shrill on top these days. The two children – the excellent second-cast Miles, 12-year-old Jacob Moriarty, and Guildhall undergraduate Nazan Fikret as a Flora in fairly advanced adolescence – were really first-class.

The result was an evening which left a chill in the air and, for the right reasons, a nasty taste in the mouth.

Ruth Elleson © 2007

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):