Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

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):