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

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.

A Merry Falstaff in San Diego

On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.

New Production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.

A Salome to Remember

Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.

L’Elisir d’Amore Goes On Despite Storm

On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Alessandro Scarlatti
21 Oct 2008

Alessandro Scarlatti: Il Trionfo della Santissima Vergine Assunta in Cielo

“One can easily imagine -- Berkeley professor Donald J. Grout wrote in 1979 -- a Scarlatti oratorio occasionally being sung in church or in concert […], but it is more difficult (though perhaps not quite impossible) to imagine a Scarlatti opera being staged at a modern opera house”.

Alessandro Scarlatti: Il Trionfo della Santissima Vergine Assunta in Cielo

A Festival Contemporaneamente Barocco production
Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, Siena, October 11, 2008

Above: Alessandro Scarlatti

 

Indeed, among the giants of Baroque music immediately prior to Bach and Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti has long been the most appreciated composer in the academia, although his works were performed less than his successors’. Now the pendulum, largely thanks to Grout himself, has swung so far that even Alessandro Scarlatti’s lovely oratorios are staged both at opera houses and in churches.

Despite the lamentable shutdown, half a decade ago, of the Scarlatti Festival in the composer’s native Palermo, interest in digging up his forgotten vocal works remains strong in Italy. One spearhead in the process is Fabio Biondi and his ensemble Europa Galante, whose 2004 recording of the Oratorio per la Santissima Trinità (Oratorio for the Most Holy Trinity) is a must for Baroque collectors. Another is the Siena-based ensemble Il Rossignolo, which this year chose Il Trionfo della Santissima Vergine Assunta in Cielo (The Triumph of the Most Holy Virgin Received into Heaven) as the centerpiece for the first instalment of “Festival Contemporaneamente Barocco”, a much promising series featuring a variety of events connected to music, drama and cultural heritage at large.

The church of Sant’Agostino, among the innumerable historic landmarks in downtown Siena, enjoys the distinction of an 18th-century interior redesign by Luigi Vanvitelli, the same architect who projected the royal palace at Caserta by Naples, the Italian response to Versailles. Vanvitelli’s grand style provided the proper framework for Scarlatti’s Trionfo, a sacred drama which had no less than five productions between 1703 and 1710, in Rome and elsewhere, each time with a different title and changing contents. Such a success was probably due to the high social standing of its librettist -- none less than cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, a distinguished patron of the arts who counted Scarlatti, Corelli and Handel among his many protégés.

The libretto he wrote for Scarlatti, however, is a rather dreary one. Not much happens other than a clever discussion among the disembodied principals (The Bride and The Bridegroom, Love and Eternity) on Catholic dogma about the Blessed Virgin. A sparse touch of drama is provided by allusions to the then-ongoing War of Spanish Succession and the general yearning for peace.

Martellacci-(Eternita')_Vaj.pngAlto Gabriella Martellacci as Eternity (left) and soprano Silvia Vajente as the Virgin Mary

It took director Alessio Rosati a good deal of imagination to sexy-up the script for the benefit of a contemporary audience, hardly conversant with either theology or early-modern history. Rosati’s flamboyant costumes for Love and Eternity, inspired by the French engraver Nicolas de Largillière, were a major resource. The mesmerizing body language of their characters conveyed by turns hope, thoughtfulness, mourning and pride, up to armed confrontation with overlong swords tainted with blood. It was all on a hyperbolic scale, more godly than human.

In contrast, the Bride and the Bridegroom (both played by women) wore timeless white robes and enacted the tender gestures of any married couple, even as they were symbols of the Almighty and the Virgin Mary. When asked about the rationale for that, Rosati ruled out any allusions to same-sex marriages, maintaining instead that he had in mind such a time-honored theological concept as God’s Motherhood. Fascinating, if a bit esoteric. A swarm of silent buth otherwise extremely active kids (God’s children?) added a touch of innocence; very few antics -- such as a throne, a spring mattress, some floating veils and little else -- rounded up the minimalist staging, which, in the end, was balanced and attuned to the music’s pace.

The score actually contains in its scarce hour-and-a-half duration a real bel canto treasure chest, with many up-tempo major-key arias and an astounding variety of formal devices: siciliano and tarantella rhythms, ostinato bass lines, chromaticism, ubiquitous obbligato string solos and a finely wrought duet for the finale. Not less impressive is the instrumental writing. An unusually rich orchestral palette, including trumpets, oboes and a flute, enhances the concise but compelling introductions to both acts in the abridged form of concerto grosso, as well as a number of martial flourishes (quite predictable for this oratorio in times of war) and brief incidental ritornellos, to end up with several of Scarlatti’s signature showstoppers: arias featuring voice-and-trumpet or voice-and-cello runaways. The mercurial cellist Jean-Marie Quint and gentle Marica Testi at the flute provided moments of virtuoso panache in the many obbligato passages stipulated by Scarlatti for their instruments. Both as a whole and in separate sections, the orchestra bravely accompanied the singers under the joint lead of its founder, virtuoso harpsichordist Ottaviano Tenerani, and of its young first violin Luca Giardini. The latter’s energetic bowing, combined with rapid embellishments and sensitive phrasing, was admirable throughout.

Trionfo-SSma-Vergine-Assunt.pngFinal scene

In the singing company, sopranos Maria Costanza Nocentini as an authoritative Bridegroom and Silvia Vajente as a shy and passionate Bride displayed elaborate coloratura, firm intonation, clarion tones easily piercing the church’s immense space. The rocky female alto Gabriella Martellacci (Eternity) and her male counterpart Francesco Ghelardini (Love) built an equally delectable contrast of vocal personalities: majesty and dignified disdain on her side, sensuous mellowness with a shade of effeminacy on his.

Before it comes to some postmodern arguing about gender bending, it should be noted that the original cast was entirely made up of castrati from the Papal chapel…

Carlo Vitali

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):