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

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

Antonin Dvořák: The Cunning Peasant (Šelma Sedlák)

What an enjoyable opportunity to encounter Dvořák’s sixth opera, Šelma Sedlák¸or The Cunning Peasant!

Idomeneo, Royal Opera

Whether biblical parable or mythological moralising, it’s all the same really: human hubris, humility, sacrifice and redemption.

Donizetti’s Les Martyrs — Opera Rara, London

Opera Rara brought a rare performance of Donizetti’s first opera for the Paris Opera to the Royal Festival Hall on 4 November 2014, following recording sessions for the opera.

Luca Pisaroni in San Diego

Bass baritone, Luca Pisaroni, known to opera lovers throughout the world for his excellence in Mozart roles, offered San Diego vocal aficionados a double treat on October 28th: his mellifluous voice, and a recital of German songs.

La bohème, ENO

Jonathan Miller’s production of La bohème for ENO, shared with Cincinnati Opera, sits uneasily, at least as revived by Natascha Metherell, between comedy and tragedy.

Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall - Liszt, Strauss and Schubert

Any Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau performance is superb, but this Wigmore Hall recital surprised, too. Boesch's Schubert is wonderful, but this time, it was his Liszt and Strauss songs which stood out. This year at the Wigmore Hall, we've heard a lot of Liszt and a lot of Richard Strauss everywhere, establishing high standards, but this was special.

Wexford Festival 2014

The weather was auspicious for Wexford Festival Opera’s first-night firework display — mild, clear and calm. But, as the rainbow rockets exploded over the River Slaney, even bigger bangs were being made down at the quayside.

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

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):