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

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

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):