Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

G. F. Handel
04 Sep 2008

HANDEL: Belshazzar

Although performances of Handel’s more obscure large-scale works are relatively common in London, it is far less common that they are given in a venue as large and high-profile as the Royal Albert Hall, with a line-up of conductor and soloists that will attract a full house for a lengthy and static work on a hot summer evening.

G. F. Handel: Belshazzar

Paul Groves (Belshazzar), Rosemary Joshua (Nitocris), Bejun Mehta (Cyrus), Iestyn Davies (Daniel), Robert Gleadow (Gobrias). Choir of the Enlightenment. Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Sir Charles Mackerras (cond.)
Prom 41 — 16 August 2008

 

And yet it happened, and Handel’s 1744 oratorio Belshazzar with libretto by Charles Jennens was brought to vivid and entertaining life by the veteran Handelian maestro, Sir Charles Mackerras.

The real highlight was the singing of the Choir of the Enlightenment, which could hardly have been better. Unlike many of London’s high-profile professional choirs, they are selected on a concert-by-concert basis, allowing casting decisions to be made with regard to which singers will be right for the work in hand. The bright forwardness of the sound in their opening chorus, ‘Behold, by Persia’s hero made’, was refreshing indeed, setting the tone for the rest of the evening, and they performed with impeccable ensemble throughout, with clear dramatic definition between their various guises as the Babylonians, Persians or Jews. The chorus bass William Gaunt delivered a particularly fine solo recitative in the tiny role of Arioch. Only in the feast scene did the sound from the chorus sound too clean and English, rather short on Babylonian debauchery.

Paul Groves sang the title role with a pleasant enough tone, but it was rather monochromatic, and being primarily a Mozartian, he did not seem nearly as comfortable or well-versed in the Handel idiom as his fellow soloists. He was also the only one of the five soloists not to make any attempt at facial and physical acting to complement his vocal performance; Belshazzar is, after all, supposed to be a king, and a strong-willed one at that.

At the emotional heart of the oratorio is the struggle of Nitocris, Belshazzar’s mother, to oppose the son she loves and allow him to be conquered and killed by the invading Persians. Here we had the luxury of the lovely, unaffected sound, intelligent characterisation and expressive vocal colour of soprano Rosemary Joshua.

The countertenor Bejun Mehta was very strong but a touch strident as Cyrus, the leader of the Persian army, while fellow countertenor Iestyn Davies exuded calm and noble piety as Daniel, making a beautiful sound in the process. Although Gobrias is only a small role, it was given maximum value by the young bass Robert Gleadow, a graduate of the Royal Opera’s young artists’ programme, who delivered the almost pictorial falling scales of ‘Behold the monstrous human beast/Wallowing in excessive feast’ with dramatic relish.

Rembrandt-Belsazar.pngKing Belshazzar of Babylon by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Mackerras conducted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in an account of the score which was robust, energetic and taut. There were several cuts — some, evidenced by gaps in the numbering in the concert programme, scheduled well in advance; others seemingly trimmed later in the day as there were several numbers and parts of numbers printed in the programme but absent from the performed version. In any case, it wasn’t only Mackerras’s brisk tempi which made the concert fly by in a full half hour less than the scheduled running time.

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):