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

Jonathan Miller’s “Così” strikes gold again

When did “concept” become a dirty word? In the world of opera, the rot set in innocently, gradually.

Tucson Desert Song Festival Presents Artists from the Met and Arizona Opera

The Tucson Desert Song Festival consists of three weekends of vocal music in orchestral, chamber, choral, and solo formats along with related lectures and master classes.

Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle at the Barbican

Two great operas come from the year 1911 - Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Bela Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Both are masterpieces, but they are very different kinds of operas and experienced quite asymmetric performance histories.

Puccini’s Tosca at the Royal Opera House

Now on its ninth revival, Jonathan Kent’s classic Tosca for Covent Garden is a study in art, beauty and passion but also darkness, power and empire. Part of the production’s lasting greatness, and contemporary value, is that it looks inwards towards the malignancy of a great empire (in this case a Napoleonic one), whilst looking outward towards a city-nation in terminal decline (Rome).

ROH Return to the Roundhouse

Opera transcends time and place. An anonymous letter, printed with the libretto of Monteverdi’s Le nozze d’Enea con Lavinia and written two years before his death, assures the reader that Monteverdi’s music will continue to affect and entrance future generations:

London Schools Symphony Orchestra celebrates Bernstein and Holst anniversaries

One recent survey suggested that in 1981, the average age of a classical concertgoer was 36, whereas now it is 60-plus. So, how pleasing it was to see the Barbican Centre foyers, cafes and the Hall itself crowded with young people, as members of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra prepared to perform with soprano Louise Alder and conductor Sir Richard Armstrong, in a well-balanced programme that culminated with an ‘anniversary’ performance of Holst’s The Planets.

Salome at the Royal Opera House

In De Profundis, his long epistle to ‘Dear Bosie’, Oscar Wilde speaks literally ‘from the depths’, incarcerated in his prison cell in Reading Gaol. As he challenges the young lover who has betrayed him and excoriates Society for its wrong and unjust laws, Wilde also subjects his own aesthetic ethos to some hard questioning, re-evaluating a life lived in avowal of the amorality of luxury and beauty.

In the Beginning ... Time Unwrapped at Kings Place

Epic, innovative and bold, Haydn’s The Creation epitomises the grandeur and spirit of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

The Pearl Fishers at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its recent production of Georges Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles Lyric Opera of Chicago assembled an ideal cast of performers who blend well into an imaginative and colorful production.

New Cinderella SRO in San Jose

Alma Deutscher’s Cinderella is most remarkable for one reason and one reason alone: It was composed by a 12-year old girl.

La Cenerentola in Lyon

Like Stendhal when he first saw Rossini’s Cenerentola in Trieste in 1823, I was left stone cold by Rossini’s Cendrillon last night in Lyon. Stendhal complained that in Trieste nothing had been left to the imagination. As well, in Lyon nothing, absolutely nothing was left to the imagination.

Messiah, who?: The Academy of Ancient Music bring old and new voices together

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a Messiah. And, at the Barbican Hall, the Academy of Ancient Music reminded us why … while never letting us settle into complacency.

The Golden Cockerel Bedazzles in Amsterdam

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairy tale The Golden Cockerel was this holiday season’s ZaterdagMatinee operatic treat at the Concertgebouw. There was real magic to this concert performance, chiefly thanks to Vasily Petrenko’s dazzling conducting and the enchanting soprano Venera Gimadieva.

Mahler Das Lied von der Erde, London - Rattle, O'Neill, Gerhaher

By pairing Mahler Das Lied von der Erde (Simon O'Neill, Christian Gerhaher) with Strauss Metamorphosen, Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra were making a truly powerful statement. The Barbican performance last night was no ordinary concert. This performance was extraordinary because it carried a message.

David McVicar's Rigoletto returns to the ROH

This was a rather disconcerting performance of David McVicar’s 2001 production of Rigoletto. Not only because of the portentous murkiness with which Paule Constable’s lighting shrouds designer Michael Vale’s ramshackle scaffolding; nor, the fact that stage and pit frequently seemed to be tugging in different directions. But also, because some of the cast seemed rather out of sorts.

Verdi Otello, Bergen - Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, Lester Lynch

Verdi Otello livestream from Norway with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Garner with a superb cast, led by Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, and Lester Lynch and a good cast, with four choirs, the Bergen Philharmonic Chorus, the Edvard Grieg Kor, Collegiûm Mûsicûm Kor, the Bergen pikekor and Bergen guttekor (Children’s Choruses) with chorus master Håkon Matti Skrede. The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1765, just a few years after the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra : Scandinavian musical culture has very strong roots, and is thriving still. Tucked away in the far north, Bergen may be a hidden treasure, but, as this performance proved, it's world class.

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Gloria Banditelli
04 Jun 2008

Handel's Rodrigo — Ensemble San Felice, St John’s Smith Square, London

Handel’s Rodrigo, subtitled ‘Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria’ (Self-conquest is the greater victory) is one of the composer’s earliest operatic works, and rarely heard.

G. F. Handel: Rodrigo

Gloria Banditelli (Rodrigo), Laura Cherici (Esilena), Annamaria dell’Oste (Florinda), Leonardo De Lisi (Giuliano), Susanna Ricci (Evanco), Caterina Calvi (Fernando), Ensemble San Felice, Federico Bardazzi (cond.)

Above: Gloria Banditelli

 

It was extensively revised between the completion of the autograph score and its 1707 première in Florence, and large sections of both versions were subsequently lost. It would appear that the revisions for the Florence production were to the detriment of the piece, and thanks to the discovery in 1983 of a substantial amount of lost material from the autograph (as well as a certain amount of editorial license to recreate missing recitatives, and the loan of a couple of numbers from Handel’s other operas) Alan Curtis’s performing edition — given here in London by a Florentine ensemble as part of the Lufthansa Baroque Festival — is based on Handel’s original intentions.

The story is loosely based on that of an actual 8th-century Spanish king and conqueror, whose political victories were complicated by his apparent inability to be faithful to his wife. In the libretto (by Silvani, and originally set a few years earlier by Marc’Antonio Ziani) Rodrigo has seduced the impressionable young Florinda with the promise of a throne, consequently fathered her a child, and then reneged on his offer. She is left furious, disgraced and bent on revenge, while Rodrigo goes back to his rightful queen, the saintly but childless Esilena, who understandably is deeply distressed by the whole situation. Esilena’s constancy in the face of marital wrongdoing is, in the end, the salvation of all concerned (along with a convenient eleventh-hour plot development whereby Florinda gets a better offer and gives Rodrigo up for good).

Acts 2 and 3 contain some interesting and original numbers — a lovely lute serenade for the soprano secondo uomo, Evanco, and a fragment of a tenor aria (for Giuliano, Florinda’s brother) with a quirky bassoon obbligato, which is cut off by an advance in the plot just as it reaches the B section. The same cannot be said for the first act, where nearly every aria is one of anger, vengeance or war — each individual aria certainly gives the singer scope to demonstrate mettlesome coloratura technique, but an entire act full of identical numbers is rather tiresome, especially when there’s little variety in tessitura (the lowest voice in the cast being a tenor) and when only a couple of the voices were really worth such extended display.

The finest vocal performer by a long way was the soprano Laura Cherici who sang Esilena; her soft-grained tone had a liquid beauty which portrayed the wronged queen ideally, and her one fast aria was sung with exceptional flare. In the title role, the mezzo Gloria Banditelli was disappointing — her singing was accurate and attractive, but it was not a heroic voice. Here in London we are so blessed with regular access to good heroic Handelian mezzos that I fear we take them for granted.

Other than that, not a great deal of the singing was to be recommended; Annamaria dell’Oste’s Florinda was impressive in her agility and force of delivery, but she had a tendency to go sharp. In fact, there were intonation problems from the majority, and the contralto Caterina Calvi (in the virtually unnecessary role of Fernando) sounded as though she should have been at home with laryngitis, though no announcement was made to this effect. There was some exceptionally fine instrumental playing, however — especially from the continuo cellist and lutenist. Federico Bardazzi was the conductor.

Though Luciano Alberti’s semi-staging — against a backdrop of projected line-drawings of the original 1707 production — was fairly rudimentary, a fair amount of (dare I say somewhat misplaced) effort had obviously been made with Enrico Coveri Maison’s costume designs, which attempted to replicate the styles and shapes shown in the projected images. They were a typically early-18th-century take on costumes for an opera set in the 8th century, but coloured in a lurid array of much more modern cerises, turquoises and oranges.

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):