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

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Extravagant Line-up 2017-18 at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany

The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus

The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.

Mahler Symphony no 8 : Jurowski, LPO, Royal Festival Hall, London

Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.

Rameau's Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques: a charming French-UK collaboration at the RCM

Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.

St Matthew Passion: Armonico Consort and Ian Bostridge

Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he embodied a perfect Rodolfo.

New opera Caliban banal and wearisome

Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its less-than-tragic plight.

Two rarities from the Early Opera Company at the Wigmore Hall

A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

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):