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

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

A culinary coupling from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

What a treat the London Music Conservatoires serve up for opera-goers each season. After the Royal Academy’s Bizet double-bill of Le docteur Miracle and La tragédie de Carmen, and in advance of the Royal College’s forthcoming pairing of Huw Watkins’ new opera, In the Locked Room, based on a short story by Thomas Hardy, and The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have delivered a culinary coupling of Paul Hindemith’s The Long Christmas Dinner and Sir Lennox Berkeley’s The Dinner Engagement which the Conservatoire last presented for our delectation in November 2006.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

The poignancy of triviality: Garsington Opera's Capriccio

“Wort oder Ton?” asks Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The Countess answers with a question of her own, at the close of this self-consciously self-reflective Konversationstück für Musik: “Gibt es einen, der nicht trivail ist?” (“Is there any ending that isn’t trivial?”)

Netia Jones' new Die Zauberflöte opens Garsington Opera's 2018 season

“These portals, these columns prove/that wisdom, industry and art reside here.” So says Tamino, as he gazes up at the three imposing doors in the centre of Netia Jones’ replica of the 18th-century Wormsley Park House - in the grounds of which Garsington Opera’s ‘floating’ Pavilion makes its home each summer.

Feverish love at Opera Holland Park: a fine La traviata opens the 2018 season

If there were any doubts that it was soon to be curtains for Verdi’s titular, tubercular heroine then the tortured gasps of laboured, languishing breath which preceded Rodula Gaitanou’s new production of La traviata for Opera Holland Park would have swiftly served to dispel them.

Iestyn Davies and Fretwork bring about a meeting of the baroque and the modern

‘Music for a while/Shall all your cares beguile’. Standing in shadow, encircled by the five players of the viol consort Fretwork, as the summer storm raged outside Milton Court Concert Hall countertenor Iestyn Davies offered mesmeric reassurance to the capacity audience during this intriguing meeting of the baroque and the modern.

Works by Beethoven and Gerald Barry

As a whole, this concert proved a curious affair. It probably made more sense in the context of Thomas Adès’s series of Beethoven and Barry concerts with the Britten Sinfonia. The idea of a night off from the symphonic Beethoven to turn to chamber works was, in principle, a good one, but the sole Gerald Barry piece here seemed oddly out of place – and not in a productive, provocative way. Even the Beethoven pieces did not really seem to fit together especially well. A lovely performance of the op.16 Quintet nevertheless made the evening worthwhile.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Danielle de Niese as Poppea
19 Aug 2008

Prom 18 — L’Incoronazione di Poppea

Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s annual appearance at the Proms is always an eagerly-awaited event, but there is a varying degree of success with which the productions adapt from a full staging at Glyndebourne to a semi-staging suitable for the small platform and cavernous space of the Royal Albert Hall.

Prom 18 – L’Incoronazione di Poppea
Glyndebourne Festival

Danielle de Niese (Poppea), Alice Coote (Nerone), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Arnalta), et al., Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Emmanuelle Haïm (cond.)

Above: Danielle de Niese as Poppea
All photos by BBC/Chris Christodoulou

 

Richard Jones’s production of Macbeth last year, whose big blocks of set and full-chorus choreography didn’t made it to the Proms, ended up a shell of its former self, and the voices that had sounded impressively powerful in the intimate Sussex theatre were, if not lost, then at least diminished in effect when transferred to the Hall.

The fact that Robert Carsen’s production of L’incoronazione di Poppea was relatively austere to begin with, starting off at Glyndebourne with little more on stage than a big red curtain, meant that it was destined from the start to transfer successfully to the Proms, in a semi-staging by Bruno Ravella.

Alice Coote as NeroneAlice Coote as Nerone

The central relationship between Nerone and the upwardly-mobile sex kitten Poppea was portrayed quite unconventionally. The two began the opera drunk with lust and longing for one another, but as the drama progressed, it was clear that Nerone was gradually becoming aware that Poppea’s lust for power and position had overtaken any genuine love towards him. His resentment grows to the point that as he promises to make her Empress, he barely stops himself from striking her – and though he still cannot resist her, most of the final duet was sung from opposite sides of the stage, with the two hardly looking at one another. Poppea gets what she wanted, but for Nerone it’s an empty celebration.

As thought-provoking as it was to see their relationship from that angle it isn’t a concept that’s borne out by the music. From the very beginning, we are told in no uncertain terms that it is going to be a victory for Love over both Virtue and Fortune, and at the end the sinuous intertwining lines of ‘Pur ti miro’ are clearly a musical evocation of a couple united in erotic love. Though historical sources relate that Nero later killed Poppaea by kicking her in the stomach while pregnant, this is not something that casts a premonitionary shadow over Monteverdi’s score. It is not even an idea which sits well within this staging, given the constant presence of Cupid (Amy Freston) as a sort of master of ceremonies.

In other respects it was a lively performance, with the comic episodes brought off really sharply. The two Nurses were both sung by men in drag – Poppea’s nurse Arnalta was the larger-than-life tenor Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, while Ottavia’s nurse, sung by counter-tenor Dominique Visse, was a more subtle creation, all pursed lips and disdaining looks. The interchange between the Page (Lucia Cirillo) and the Damigella (Claire Ormshaw) was brought vividly to life.

Poppea_Glyndebourne_Proms1.pngScene from L’Incoronazione di Poppea

Musically, Emmanuelle Haïm and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment never let the lengthy score drag, and the cast was very strong, with Alice Coote’s smoky-voiced Nerone particularly striking. Besides Coote, the other vocal highlight was Tamara Mumford’s warm-voiced, impassioned Ottavia, even if Nerone’s complaint about her ‘barren frigidity’ raised a laugh thanks to Mumford’s advanced stage of pregnancy. The role of Poppea seems to lie well for Danielle de Niese’s soft-grained soprano, and she looks wonderful although she does have a tendency to overact. Only Paolo Battaglia, as Seneca, sounded dry and uneven, though I did find myself wondering, given the forces – a chamber orchestra and smallish voices – quite how successful I would have found the performance if I’d been sitting up in the rear of the Circle or standing in the Gallery.

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):