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

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Rolando Villazón (Don Carlo) and Marina Poplavskaya (Elisabetta) in Don Carlo at ROH
23 Jun 2008

Don Carlo at Royal Opera House

In the latter part of last year, the casting for Nicholas Hytner’s new production of Don Carlo — in the five-act Italian version — looked to be on shaky ground.

Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo

Don Carlo (Rolando Villazón), Elisabetta di Valois (Marina Poplavskaya), Rodrigo (Dimitris Tiliakos/Simon Keenlyside), Philip II (Ferruccio Furlanetto), Princess Eboli (Sonia Ganassi), Tebaldo (Paula Murrihy/Pumeza Matshikiza), Conte di Lerma (Nikola Matišic), Flemish Deputies (Jacques Imbrailo/Krzysztof Szumanski/Kostas Smoriginas/Daniel Grice/Darren Jeffery/Vuyani Mlinde), Grand Inquisitor (Eric Halfvarson), Monk (Robert Lloyd), Voice from Heaven (Anita Watson). Conductor Antonio Pappano. Director Nicholas Hytner. Designs Bob Crowley. Lighting Mark Henderson.
Performance of 6 June 2008.

Above: Rolando Villazón (Don Carlo) and Marina Poplavskaya (Elisabetta) in Don Carlo at ROH
All photos by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of Royal Opera House

 

Almost as soon as the 2007/08 season’s details had been published, Angela Gheorghiu decided that the role of Elisabetta di Valois was not for her after all and left Covent Garden’s casting department the challenge of finding a suitable replacement. Soon afterwards Rolando Villazón, the star Mexican tenor destined for the role of Carlo, took a sabbatical on medical advice and cancelled a clutch of international engagements including his planned appearance as Nemorino in the Royal Opera’s L’elisir d’amore.

Anyhow, Villazón returned from his break, the company engaged its former Young Artist Marina Poplavskaya as Elisabetta, the production sold out as soon as it went on sale, and everything appeared to bode well.

Poplavsaya_Elisabetta.pngMarina Poplavskaya as Elisabetta

On the evidence of this opening night, Villazón is not yet back to full vocal health. When he is on form, he delivers some thrillingly ardent singing, but elsewhere he is frustratingly inconsistent with cracked notes and intonation problems. The Fontainebleau scene was shoddily sung to the extent that it was tempting to leave at the first interval. And Villazón’s nervy, angsty dramatic interpretation had a tendency to reduce the young prince’s struggles with forbidden love and conflicting political duties to the petty tantrums of a moody adolescent.

Villazon_Don_Carlo.pngRolando Villazón as Don Carlo

Poplavskaya is potentially a great talent (as evidenced by her outstanding Rachel in last season’s concert performance of La Juive) but sadly the role of Elisabetta di Valois is really beyond her, at least for now. The absence of a full Italianate lirico-spinto tone is perhaps not the end of the world, but her obvious vocal fatigue towards the end of the performance presents a serious problem in a role whose major aria takes place in the final scene. The paleness of her pearly, ‘covered’ soprano is matched by an onstage persona that is far too much the ice maiden, even in the opening scene where we should surely be able to see the spark of youth and vitality that has so captivated the impetuously youthful Carlo.

My comments thus far have perhaps made the whole effort sound disastrous. Fortunately this was not the case. As Posa, Simon Keenlyside gave a world-class performance; human, honest and noble. Ferruccio Furlanetto’s brittle Filippo and Eric Halfvarson’s terrifying Grand Inquisitor each exuded such gravitas of presence that their confrontation was truly gripping. The bells and oppressive Catholic glitz of the auto-da-fé scene packed a real punch, with special praise due to the chorus, while conductor Antonio Pappano seems to have the measure of the piece.

Villazon_Keenlyside.pngRoland Villazón (Don Carlo) and Simon Keenlyside (Rodrigo)

Sonia Ganassi’s Eboli was decently-sung in a superficial sort of way, with a big personality and lots of showy fireworks, but her voice and her portrayal seemed to lack an emotional centre. Like Villazón and Poplavskaya, her voice seems a size too small.

The production bears many of Hytner’s hallmarks: uncomplicated situations and character interactions in front of handsome sets in colours evoking the time and place of the setting. The intricate detail used in the individual flats and costumes of Bob Crowley’s designs never takes away from the sense of an elegant visual simplicity. The snow-covered forest of Fontainebleau has a particularly elegant beauty. It is a good-looking, solid staging, and eminently revivable; it seems churlish to complain that it plays things rather safe. Hytner got some boos from the stalls on opening night, which was quite baffling — there were none of the usual triggers which incite audiences to dislike a new production so vehemently.

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):