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

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

Billy Budd in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera’s Billy Budd confirms once again that Britten’s reworking of Melville’s novella is among the great masterpieces of the repertory. It boasted an exemplary cast in an exemplary production, and enlightened conducting.

Dear Marie Stopes: a thought-provoking chamber opera

“To remove the misery of slave motherhood and the curse of unwanted children, and to secure that every baby is loved before it is born.”

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):