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

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

Capriccio at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Although performances of Richard Strauss’s last opera Capriccio have increased in recent time, Lyric Opera of Chicago has not experienced the “Konversationsstück für Musik” during the past twenty odd years.

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Fiona Murphy (Valencienne) & Alfie Boe (Camille de Rosillon) [Photo: Clive Barda courtesy of English National Opera]
27 May 2008

Merry Widow at ENO

In these days of 'concept' productions, it is rare that the curtain goes up on the first act of an opera and it looks exactly as one might reasonably expect it to.

Franz Lehár: Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow)

Hanna Glawari, The Merry Widow (Amanda Roocroft); Camille de Rosillon (Alfie Boe); Njegus (Roy Hudd); Baron Zeta (Richard Suart); Danilo (John Graham Hall); Valencienne (Fiona Murphy). Director: John Copley. Set Designer: Tim Reed. English National Opera.

Above: Fiona Murphy (Valencienne) & Alfie Boe (Camille de Rosillon)
All photos by Clive Barda courtesy of English National Opera.

 

However that is exactly what John Copley’s straightforward, pretty and — heaven forfend! - traditional staging of 'The Merry Widow' has to offer. Set around the time of the opera’s composition, the production has chocolate-box frocks, dashing uniformed officers, a full-blown 'Pontevedro in Paris' at Hanna’s home (complete with folk-dancers) and orange-flounced can-can girls at Maxim’s.

In the title role, Amanda Roocroft at first seemed rather matronly and ill at ease — perhaps her first-act costume was partly to blame — but came into her own from the second act onwards when she brought out Hanna’s wit, warmth and down-to-earth charm. Vocally there was a touch of strain in her top notes, and she was happier in the middle register, floating a beautiful Vilja-Lied.

Philip O'Brien, the second-cast Danilo, was making his company début at this performance, and like Roocroft he took a while to make something of his character. He grew in presence throughout the performance, and by the time he made his exit to Maxim’s at the end of Act 2 his charisma was sufficient to hold the audience’s sympathy.

When they finally got together, unfortunately, it lacked both credibility and passion - the connection between them was simply inadequate. Fortunately, Alfie Boe’s Camille was full of youthful ardour towards Fiona Murphy’s beautiful, vivacious Valencienne; these two were really the production’s life force, as engaging to watch as to hear.

Jeremy Sams’s clever (and sometimes very risqué) translation did not always come across clearly in the sung numbers. It was put to best effect in the spoken dialogue and the comic numbers, providing ample material for Richard Suart’s Baron Zeta and (especially) Roy Hudd’s endearing Njegus. Both are mainly speaking roles, though the biggest hit of the evening was Hudd’s showpiece number in Act 3. Daniel Hoadley (St Brioche) and Hal Cazalet (Cascada) provided an almost slapstick angle to the coomedy, sporting ludicrous “French” accents.

Oliver von Dohnanyi’s conducting seemed to revel in the rumbustious numbers but was almost leaden in the quicker, lighter passages, ill-serving the energetic choreography by Anthony Van Laast and Nichola Treherne.

080423_0065widow.pngAmanda Roocroft (Hanna Glawari)

Though it had its flaws, this was a highly entertaining evening, and the audience emerged from the theatre with a spring in its step. It was just a shame the house was not fuller: as classic operetta tends to pull in a substantially different audience from most of ENO’s fare, it is perhaps an audience that isn't used to paying ENO’s ticket prices, once on a par with other West End shows but nowadays substantially higher.

*****

As I had wanted very much to hear John Graham-Hall as Danilo, and had not been aware when booking that he was not due to appear on May 6th, I decided to return a few nights later in order to hear him. Although the role lies rather low for him, it surprisingly seems to fit him like a glove in other respects. Who would have thought this tall, pale-faced tenor — normally at home in 'character' roles — could be so rakishly attractive as the awkward playboy? And his chemistry with Roocroft was really touching.

080423_0295widow.pngRichard Suart (Baron Zeta) & John Graham-Hall (Count Danilo Danilowitsch)

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):