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

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

Donizetti’s Poliuto at Glyndebourne could well become one of of the great Glyndebourne classics.

Carmen by ENO

Dystopic vision of Carmen, brought to life by vibrantly gripping performances

Pacific Opera Project Presents Ariadne auf Naxos

Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented a production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Ebell Club with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers.

Varispeed pushes the possibilities of opera forward with Robert Ashley’s Crash

Six people, dressed in ordinary clothing, sitting in a row at desks adorned only with microphones and glasses of water, and talking for ninety minutes: is it opera?

Rising Stars in Concert, Lyric Opera of Chicago

The spring concert of Rising Stars in Concert, sponsored by and featuring current members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, showcased a number of talents that will no doubt continue to grace the stages of the world’s operatic theaters.

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

New York Opera Exchange’s production of Carmen from May 8th to 10th highlighted that which opera devotees have been saying for years: Opera, far from being dead, is vibrant and evolving.

‘Where’er You Walk’: Handel’s Favourite Tenor

I have sometimes lamented the preference of Ian Page’s Classical Opera for concert performances and recordings over staged productions, albeit that their renditions of eighteenth-century operas and vocal works are unfailingly stylish, illuminating and supported by worthy research.

The Pirates of Penzance, ENO

Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s 1999 film starring Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent, dramatized the fraught working relationship of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan; it won four Oscar nominations (garnering two Academy Awards, for costume and make-up) and is a wonderful exploration of the creative process of bringing a theatrical work to life.

Manitoba Opera: Turandot

There’s little doubt that Puccini’s Turandot is a flawed, illogical fairytale. Yet it continues to resonate today with its undying “love shall conquer all” ethos, where even the most heinous crimes may be forgiven by that which makes the world go ‘round.

Mariachi Opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina Comes to San Diego

On April 25, 2015, San Diego Opera presented it’s second Mariachi opera: El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) by Jose “Pepe” Martinez, Leonard Foglia and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Bedřich Smetana: Dalibor, Barbican Hall

Jiří Bělohlávek’s annual Czech opera series at the Barbican, London, with the BBC SO continued with Bedřich Smetana’s Dalibor.

Orlando Explores Art Without Boundaries

R.B. Schlather’s production of Handel’s Orlando asks the enigmatic question: Where do the boundaries of performance art begin, and where do they end?

The Virtues of Things

A good number of recent shorter operas, particularly those performed in this country, made a stronger impression with their libretti than their scores.

Król Roger, Royal Opera

It has taken almost 89 years for Karol Szymanowski’s Król Roger to reach the stage of Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera Celebrates 50 Years of Great Singing

San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.

Hercules vs Vampires: Film Becomes Opera!

In the early sixties, Italian film director Mario Bava was making pictures with male body builders whose well oiled physiques appeared spectacular on the screen.

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

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):