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

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

Samantha Hankey wins Glyndebourne Opera Cup

Four singers were awarded prizes at the inaugural Glyndebourne Opera Cup, which reached its closing stage at Glyndebourne on 24th March. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup focuses on a different single composer or strand of the repertoire each time it is held. In 2018 the featured composer was Mozart and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompanied the ten finalists.

Handel's first 'Israelite oratorio': Esther at the London Handel Festival

It’s sometimes suggested that it was the simultaneous decline of the popularity of Italian opera seria among Georgian audiences and, in consequence, of the fortunes of Handel’s Royal Academy King’s Theatre, that led the composer to turn his hand to oratorio in English, the genre which would endear him to the hearts of the nation.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Domenico Cimarosa
04 Jun 2008

Il Matrimonio Segreto in Brooklyn

Opera producers in quest of headlines, unable to make them from the limited number of Mozart operas available (all of them far too familiar) but equipped with the flood of attractive young singers trained to sing Mozart in conservatories (because singing Mozart does not harm young voices, and singing Verdi and Wagner before 30 — better yet, 40 — often will), sometimes turn to Mozart’s contemporary, Cimarosa, and his Il Matrimonio Segreto, to get attention.

Domenico Cimarosa: Il Matrimonio Segreto
BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) Harvey Theater, performance of May 30.

Carolina: Heidi Stober, Elisetta: Georgia Jarman, Fidalma: Fredrika Brillembourg, Paolino: Chad A. Johnson, Il conte Robinson: Jonathan Best, Geronimo: Conal Coad. Members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic conducted by Paul Goodwin. Directed by Jonathan Miller.

 

The piece is obscure enough to be news (outside music schools, it’s rarely given more than once in twenty years). None of its arias or ensembles are especially well known (or worthy of that distinction), but all are pleasant enough to pass the time, and the whole piece is so sprightly that at the world premiere, after a celebratory banquet, the emperor said, “Sing me an encore. In fact, do the whole piece again” — and they did. (This is the same emperor who hadn’t much cared for Clemenza di Tito a few months before.)

Myself, still unable to hum any of Matrimonio after four exposures over the years, I’d prefer a bolder choice: Paisiello, Martin y Soler, Salieri, Simone Mayr. They all wrote light operas (and not so light operas) for the same discriminating audience as Mozart and Cimarosa, and their works, famous then, are far less well known today. I’ve heard several, all worthy. Too, like Cimarosa, they tell us interesting things about why Mozart stands out from the pack, and where Rossini and the future of Italian opera came from.

Matrimonio Segreto is a cross between the buffo tradition (its characters are traditional commedia dell’ arte figures) and the comedy of manners — the libretto was derived from Garrick’s play The Clandestine Marriage. When, in Jonathan Miller’s production (devised for Glyndebourne in 1992, but cheap to revive), Colin Coad as Girolamo, with his buffo belly, confronts Simon Best as Lord Robinson, with his aristocratic English slouch, we know just where we are: that feature of both genres, two pompous fellows fiercely at cross purposes. Mozart had set such moments; Rossini and Donizetti would make capital of them as well. Money, honor, snobbery and love contend for victory, and honor gets the worst of it, as usual. That might be the difference between tragedy and comedy: in the former, affronts to honor end in bloodshed; in the latter, they produce laughter. Only a genius like Mozart could mix these genres and produce delight.

Miller’s production has the virtue of simplicity — taken to excess, in that a unit set (in a highly unattractive color for the residence of a wealthy man hoping to catch a noble son-in-law) does not really serve the plot’s situations well. Miller has chosen to go for knockabout comedy (lustful lady jokes, burp jokes) at the expense of other considerations, and far too much of the laughter was due to the excessive colloquialism of the surtitles — but the purpose is to entertain, and the time goes swiftly. (I did enjoy the moment — at the height of the plot’s confusion, with all the characters yelling at once — when the English milord peeped up at the titles to find out what on earth was going on.)

In brief: A wealthy old merchant, Girolamo, has two daughters; his secretary, Paolino, hopes to arrange an aristocratic marriage for the elder, snobby Elisetta, so that the old man will be pleased enough to approve Paolino’s marriage to the younger, pretty Carolina — which marriage has already taken place, secretly. But when Lord Robinson arrives, he falls for Carolina himself and refuses to take Elisetta, even offering to forgo a dowry. Adding to the confusion, Girolamo’s rich, widowed sister, Fidalma, has a thing for Paolino. The confusion is somehow drawn out for two melodious acts (you can see just where Desi and Lucy would put the commercials), whereupon Lord R, checking the surtitles, declares he so loves Carolina that, to ensure her happiness, he will marry her sister. As you can see: many opportunities for duets and trios at cross-purposes are present. But Rossini had not yet invented the grand buffo concertato, so Cimarosa’s scenes do not conclude with those satisfying explosions of mutual confusion and recrimination that seem so typically buffo to us.

The experienced but little known cast of the BAM performances gave pleasure as both singers and actors. Heidi Stober’s was the only name familiar to me — her sweet soprano (and face and figure) were all that a Carolina requires, but her voice also has a velvet, caressing quality that could take her places. Georgia Jarman sang the more bravura role of Elisetta, whose jilted hopes produce flights of parody-heroic coloratura in the manner of Donna Elvira. The voice is pretty, the flounces effective, but her ornamentation was not as precise as I’d have liked. Fredrika Brillembourg sang the thankless part of Aunt Fidalma, but her attractive and easy mezzo and stately figure suggest she would be impressive as Handel’s Cornelia or Mozart’s Sesto.

The comedians — whose lengthy resumes suggest long but insular careers — expertly inhabited the pretensions and asininities required of buffo clowns. Coad’s Girolamo, a father only a buffo heroine could love (and no one could obey), bristled and strutted and held down the bass line. Jonathan Best seemed — appropriately for an English milord in an Italian opera — to have strayed out of his natural element, tossing bits of stage Brit slang into the recitative and even the duets, and staring about the theater bemused as if he couldn’t imagine where he was. His Briticisms were well received, as was the sheer fun he seemed to be having, whether he was flirting with the right girl or the wrong. Chad A. Johnson, the Paolino, listed quite an array of lead roles in his program bio, but his wispy tenor did not seem worthy of any of them. Happily his role is the least important in the opera, and he may have been suffering from the pollen-ridden atmosphere.

Paul Goodwin got a pick-up bunch of musicians from the Brooklyn Philharmonic into unflaggingly lively shape for a pit band. The only awkwardness came from the timpani, off pitch and far too assertive (had there been no time to test balances in the tiny Harvey Theater?) during the opera’s delicious overture. This was most regrettable but, happily, the drums are not heard again after the curtain rises: they proclaim a portentous evening and then do not take part in it.

John Yohalem

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):