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

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

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):