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

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sarah Tynan (Sophie) / Sarah Connolly (Octavian) [Photo © Clive Barda / ENO]
04 Jun 2008

Der Rosenkavalier at ENO

It is worth remembering that prior to the première of Strauss’s opera in 1911, the working title was ‘Ochs auf Lerchenau’.

Richard Strauss: Der RosenKavalier
English National Opera, London Coliseum, performance of 24 May

The Feldmarschallin (Janice Watson); Octavian (Sarah Connolly); Baron Ochs (John Tomlinson); Sophie (Sarah Tynan); Herr von Faninal (Andrew Shore); Annina (Madeleine Shaw); Valzacchi (Stuart Kale); Duenna (Janice Cairns); Singer (Dwayne Jones); Police Commissar (Nicholas Folwell); Notary (James Gower). Conductor Edward Gardner; Director/Designer David McVicar; Associate Set Designer Michael Vale; Costume Designer Tanya McCallin; Original Lighting Designer Paule Constable; Translation Alfred Kalisch

Above: Sarah Tynan (Sophie) / Sarah Connolly (Octavian)
All photos © Clive Barda / ENO

 

This might perhaps have been a fitting subtitle for ENO’s current production, given John Tomlinson’s tour de force of a performance. He appeared in ENO’s last two stagings (at least once alongside the current Marschallin, Janice Watson) but his Ochs never owned the stage quite like this. The glint in this gravelly bass’s eye is at once repulsive and endearing, and he makes something of every word of Alfred Kalisch’s slightly clunky English translation, a feat equalled only by the excellent Andrew Shore as Faninal.

080519_0537.pngJanice Watson (The Marschallin) / Sarah Connolly (Octavian)
This should be a good thing, and indeed it is, on its own terms. The downside is that Tomlinson plays his colleagues off the stage, and the impression that is left on the memory a couple of hours after curtain-down is of a brilliant, riotous Act 2. The erotic tumult of the opera’s opening, Octavian and Sophie’s mutual falling in love, and the Marschallin’s gracious sacrifice... all were wonderful at the time, but were all but obliterated by the memory of this extraordinary Ochs.

That is not to say that there was much evidence of weakness in the rest of the cast. Janice Watson’s Marschallin was not the glacial grande dame we often see, and let her mask slip at times — for a mere moment in the confrontation with Ochs in Act 3, her grace and poise yielded to a flash of unrefined hot-blooded fury. Here we saw a rare glimpse of the fiery spirit which surely attracted Octavian in the first place. Later, when she observed him with Sophie, the façade slipped in quite another direction.

Sarah Connolly’s Octavian was expansive of voice and full of youthful vigour, loose-limbed and confident in his unofficial temporary role as lord of the manor in the Feldmarschall’s absence. I had been doubtful about Connolly’s ability to play a youth, after the succession of Handelian warrior-heroes on which her career is founded, but she captured ideally the petulance and over-sensitivity of the selfish teenager behind this young aristocrat’s aristocratic pomp and chivalry.

It is good to hear the accomplished soubrette Sarah Tynan in a proper lyrical role such as Sophie; she looks lovely, is able to play the right age, and is a feisty little madam with or without Octavian’s assistance. Her silvery soprano sits ideally with the musical character of the scenes in which she sings, and is rightly as far the vocal opposite of Ochs as it is possible to be.

080517_0345.pngJohn Tomlinson (Baron Ochs) centre group

Rosenkavalier was, of course, Strauss’s answer to Figaro, and director David McVicar’s 2005 staging of Mozart’s work for the Royal Opera clearly took much inspiration from this production which originated at Scottish Opera in 1999. At times this Rosenkavalier seems full of McVicar clichés, but as it predates most of the work for which he’s now renowned, it should rightly be seen as an original. One such ‘cliché’ was the deconstructed rococo set, a single one used (with contrasting embellishments) for all three acts. Another, repeated in Figaro, was the attention to detail in the direction of a multitude of minor roles, servants, and non-singing characters. Harry Ward’s idiotic, mugging Leopold stood out, but from the Singer (Alfie Boe, replacing an indisposed Dwayne Jones) to the Milliner, all were clearly defined and full of personality. Stuart Kale’s Valzacchi was partnered by an exceptional Annina in Madeleine Shaw, currently on ENO’s Young Singers programme.

080519_0577.pngJohn Tomlinson (Baron Ochs) / Sarah Connolly (Octavian as ‘Mariandel’)

Sometimes, the concentration on detail is to the detriment of the bigger moments. The Marschallin’s exit after the trio is unsympathetically staged, with Janice Watson forced to edge her way clumsily through a side doorway that is too small for her immense dress, and lacks impact. Ed Gardner’s conducting, though sumptuous when required, is fairly conservative and supports rather than adds to the intricate character of the performance. But McVicar’s ability to make this lengthy and variably-paced opera flow so well — even with standard musical cuts opened out — is a credit to his dramatic intelligence.

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):