Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Royal Symphony

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

Soldier Songs in San Diego

David Little composed his one-man opera, Soldier Songs, ten years ago and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas of New Haven, Connecticut, premiered it in 2011. At San Diego Opera, the fifty-five minute musical presentation and the “Talk Back” that followed it were part of the Shiley dētour Series which is held in the company’s smaller venue, the historic Balboa Theatre.

Barber of Seville [Hollywood Style] in Los Angeles

On Saturday evening November 12, 2016, Pacific Opera Project presented Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville in an updated version that placed the action in Hollywood. It was sung in the original Italian but the translation seen as supertitles was specially written to match the characters’ Hollywood identities.

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

A Butterfly for the ages in a Butterfly marred by casting ineptness and lugubrious conducting.

Kiss Me, Kate: Welsh National Opera at the Birmingham Hippodrome

In 1964, 400 years after the birth of the Bard, the writer Anthony Burgess saw Cole Porter’s musical comedy Kiss Me, Kate, a romping variation on The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare’s comedy, Burgess said, had a ‘good playhouse reek about it’, adding ‘the Bard might be regarded as closer to Cole Porter and Broadway razzmatazz’ than to the scholars who were ‘picking him raw’.

Beat Furrer FAMA - Hörtheater reaches London

Beat Furrer's FAMA came to London at last, with the London Sinfonietta. The piece was hailed as "a miracle" at its premiere at Donaueschingen in 2005 by Die Zeit: State of the Art New Music, recognized by mainstream media, which proves that there is a market for contemporary music lies with lively audiences

Franz Schreker : Die Gezeichneten (Les Stigmatizés). Lyon

Franz Schreker Die Gezeichneten from the Opéra de Lyon last year, now on arte.tv and Opera Platform. The translation, "The stigmatized", doesn't convey the impact of the original title, which is closer to"The Cursed".

The Anatomy of Melancholy

Semper Dowland, semper dolens (Always Dowland, always doleful) was the title chosen by John Dowland’s for one of his consort pieces and the motto that he took for himself. Twice rejected for the position of musician at the court of Queen Elizabeth, he is reputed to have been a difficult, embittered man. Melancholy songs were the fashion of the day, but Dowland clearly knew dark days of depression first hand.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lalo: Fiesque (University College Opera)
23 Mar 2008

Lalo's Fiesque — University College Opera

UC Opera's reputation for showcasing rare large-scale works has been boosted this year with the UK premiere of this 1846 opera by Edouard Lalo after a Schiller play.

Édouard Lalo: Fiesque
University College Opera, London
10

Above: Fiesque (David Curry)

 

The opera, for political reasons at the time of its composition, was not given its world premiere until last 2006 when it was given in concert in Montpellier, closely followed by its stage premiere in Mannheim in 2007.

Set in 16th-century Genoa, it inhabits the same world as Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, though its dark and threatening atmosphere make it more reminiscent of Un ballo in maschera or La Gioconda. It certainly succeeds in evoking an Italian flavour more effectively than any other mid-19th-century French opera about Italy which comes to mind.

As the performance progressed, I wished I had familiarised myself with the synopsis rather more thoroughly at the outset. It seemed to be a tale of marital jealousy on one hand, and one of political intrigue on the other — with the two threads having little relevance to one another. Somehow I had missed the crucial detail that the wanton Julie, with whom the eponymous hero seems determined to break his marriage vows, is the daughter of the enemy and therefore a pivotal pawn in a political game.

Indeed, the dramatic structure of the piece is flawed; for example, the opening scene belongs to Fiesque's wife Leonore, who is lamenting her husband's apparent abandonment of her, but it's then several scenes before she makes another appearance. There are a lot of characters, and so many plot details that it is very difficult to remember anybody's motivation for their actions. To make matters worse, the plot hinges on Fiesque himself often acting in a seemingly erratic manner, which only adds to the confusion – in fact he's acting for the greater good, but the audience don't get let into the secret any sooner than his family or allies do. There is simply too much going on, too few threads holding it all together, and too much incongruity amongst the motley group of characters.

IMG_7064.pngThe revolution scene

Emma Rivlin's straightforward production serves it well, however, and UC Opera's amateur forces (making up the chorus, orchestra and comprimario roles) gave the best performance I have heard from them in several years. Under Charles Peebles's direction, there was little in the orchestral playing to remind the audience of the players' amateur status. Similarly the chorus, made up of lots of youthful, amateur voices, may not have a traditionally 'operatic' timbre but produced an impressive sound. The chorus was well-directed, too, especially in the revolution scene towards the end, where the highly-charged atmosphere was palpable and everybody looked involved.

As for the professional principals, the male leads were, for the most part, very strongly cast: Robert Davies was outstanding as Fiesque's political-ally-turned-nemesis, Verrina, and tenor David Curry gave an assured and polished account of the title role. Margaret Cooper's Leonore and Alison Crookendale's Julie both suffered from over-generous vibrato and one-dimensional character portraits (though to be fair, neither role has much to work with in terms of character development.)

Fiesque may not be a lost masterpiece, but UC Opera certainly made as persuasive a case for it as it is ever likely to get.

Click here for this production's program.

Ruth Elleson © 2008

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):