Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

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.



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):