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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Nancy Fabiola Herrera as Carmen
22 Feb 2008

Carmen, The Metopolitan Opera

Dread and disgruntle are the emotions natural to the fan of any special singer when he arrives at the opera house to learn she has withdrawn from the performance and been replaced by an unknown.

Georges Bizet: Carmen
The Met: February 19, 2008

Carmen: Nancy Fabiola Herrera; Don Jose: Marcelo Álvarez; Micaela: Krassimira Stoyanova; Escamillo: Lucio Gallo. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. Conducted by Emmanuel Villaume.

Above: Nancy Fabiola Herrera as Carmen
Photo by Marty Sohl courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera.

 

Shrouds mantle the vaults of heaven; the gilt and sparkle of the opera house seem to mock the gray mood.

Let me explain why I was eager to hear Olga Borodina’s Carmen again: She starred in a close-to-perfect series of performances of the opera a few years ago, ably partnered by Roberto Alagna (such a piteous child when he finally got the message in the last act, “Tu ne m’aimes plus?” and then leaped for her throat) and Rene Pape (the sexiest of all possible toreros).

At that performance I felt I was seeing Bizet’s Carmen for the first time — seeing the character as Bizet conceived her, as she is almost never performed. She was not a sexpot. She couldn’t be bothered to deal with masculine fantasies. She walked in on her way to work, sneered at the idiotic, amorous male chorus, sang a song (why not? She had a great voice), noticed the pretty soldier on the sidelines and tossed him a flower — for the hell of it. She was a Carmen who didn’t care if we were staring or not. Most Carmens work far too hard — they shove their poitrines in every face, they hoist their dresses to display their legs, their world is all about sex. Not Borodina — her world was all about doing what she wanted to, with whoever cared to join her — and snapping her fingers at those who would not. In Act II, when Frasquita and Mercedes pushed themselves in Escamillo’s face, this Carmen sang “L’amour,” pensively (and in that low, dusky, impossibly sensuous Borodina voice) — she wasn’t singing about love to attract Escamillo’s attention, she was brooding about it to herself. And that was just what did attract his attention. Was Jose going to kill her? All right — he was going to kill her. But he would not keep her from being herself out of something so alien as fear.

That was Carmen. A real, a credible, an adorable Carmen — precisely because she did not care if we adored her or not. She was herself. And with Borodina’s voice.

But last week something fell on Borodina’s foot, and she did not sing on February 19.

Her replacement was Nancy Fabiola Herrera, a singer unknown to me. Herrera’s Carmen was no last-minute exercise; it’s a finished portrait, everything in place, comfortable on the enormous Met stage, no matter how many choristers and herds of farm animals Franco Zeffirelli clutters it with. Not really a surprise, as Ms. Herrera was scheduled to take the role next week. Its nuances were hardly strange to her.

CARMEN_Alvarez_as_Don_Jose_.pngMarcelo Álvarez as Don Jose (Photo by Beatriz Schiller courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera.)

She is a handsome young woman with a handsome voice, a pleasing quality in the lower notes and no break. She can certainly sing it, plus she can act and dance, and plays castanets as well as any Carmen since Teresa Berganza. (I’m told she has zarzuela training.) But her Carmen was a cliché: the spitfire flirt. She sang her arias prettily enough, but she was trying to please. Of a deeper, more self-conscious Carmen there was no sign until the fortune-telling of Act III, when she withdrew into herself. She was not so pretty any more, a dark and brooding quality came over her voice, she seemed to withdraw into herself and become one with the music; the opera began to seem to be her story.

Just then, however, she came up against a rival worthy of her steel — Krassimira Stoyanova, one of the great singing actresses of our time, whom the Met has squandered on the role of Micaela. (She will be our Donna Anna next year, however; I’m expecting fireworks.) Stoyanova sang the aria beautifully, but it was her confrontation with Jose and Carmen that made us sit up straighter: she wasn’t just defeated in love, she was angry at what lust had done to the man she loved, angry at Carmen (at whom she barely deigned to look) and furious at Jose. These lines are throwaway; in most performances one hardly notices them; in this Carmen all three performers were electric, their confrontation crackled.

These later acts were Marcelo Álvarez’s best as well. A burly man, he is not flattered by Jose’s uniform; as a thuggish smuggler, whatever Carmen might say, he seems perfectly at home, capable of any violence. This made up for a weak, ill-supported account of the Flower Song. Lyric moments are not, evidently, Álvarez’s forte; when he must be passionate, he is an interesting singer. Someday, not too far off, an Otello — but just now, I wouldn’t want to hear him in the love duet of that opera until he has worked on his lyric phrasing. Just now, when he tones down the passion in order to plead, he merely sounds weak.

His madness in the final scene was less pitiable, less human than Alagna’s, but effective. He and Herrera seem to have worked on this: they did a neat little bullfighting dance, a paso doble as it were, when he came at her with his knife and she dodged, fearlessly and, with a glance of contempt, walked past him — exposing her back — daring him to do his worst. It was a thrilling conclusion, and drew a standing ovation.

Lucio Gallo was the least impressive toreador I can recall, and not merely because he is too fat to evade a slow, blind yak — his singing is without personality, pretty notes phoned in. You did not notice him; you were surprised that anyone noticed him. He has no stage gifts, and the Met appears to have stuck him in at the last minute, when they changed a run of Hoffman for Carmen late last spring, hoping it would all fall into place. I’m guessing the Met also did not think through the casting of seven-foot-tall John Hancock as Dancaire opposite four-foot Jean-Paul Fouchécourt as Remendado — I exaggerate, slightly — but they seized the opportunity for some delicious Mutt-and-Jeff muggery. When they nudge each other, as comrade smugglers will, speculating on the same female rear end, what different acts (we ponder) do they imagine performing? Jeffrey Welles sang a worthy Zuniga. (Why not give him Escamillo? Or Hancock? Neither has the physique du role, but they could both put it over with flair.)

Emmanuel Villaume conducted; the opening prelude was unsatisfactory, all crash-bang-boom and cliché. The preludes to the other acts were more satisfactory, more breathable, and he was gracious to the singers, both familiar and (in Ms. Fabiola’s case) unfamiliar.

The Zeffirelli Zoo Story production (horses, burros, dogs) holds up well, but I object to his having set the opera — three acts of which are supposed to take place in the riverside plain of Seville — in mountainous Granada, solely because the sets (especially for Act II) thus become more scenic. Let Spain be Spain.

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):