Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Macbeth, LA Opera

On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.

COC’d Up Ariodante

Director Richard Jones never met an opera he couldn’t ‘change,’ and Canadian Opera Company’s sumptuously sung Ariodante was a case in point.

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

Toronto: Bullish on Bellini

Canadian Opera Company has assembled a commendable Norma that is long on ritual imagery and war machinery.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.



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):