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 Reviews

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Matilde di Shabran ROH 2008 [Photo by Catherine Ashmore]
19 Nov 2008

Matilde di Shabran at Covent Garden

The rare Rossini opera which brought Juan Diego Flórez to international attention in Pesaro in 1996 was thrown together by the composer at the last minute to meet a deadline in February 1821, with a plot from one source and characters from another, and bits of the score filled in by Pacini.

G. Rossini: Matilde di Shabran

Aleksandra Kurzak (Matilde Di Shabran), Juan Diego Florez (Corradino), Mark Beesley (Raimondo), Vesselina Kasarova (Edoardo), Marco Vinco (Aliprando), Alfonso Antoniozzi (Isidoro), Enkelejda Shkosa (Contessa D'Arco), Carlo Lepore (Ginardo), Robert Anthony Gardiner (Egoldo), Bryan Secombe (Rodrigo). The Royal Opera. Carlo Rizzi, conductor.

Above: Aleksandra Kurzak as Matilde di Shabran and Juan Diego Flórez as Corradino [Photo by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of The Royal Opera House]

 

Musically and structurally, it is unusual; not only does the first act last over two hours, with a full forty-five minutes before either of the major principals put in an appearance, but there's barely a solo aria in the piece; the score consists almost entirely of duets and ensembles. At Covent Garden over a decade later, the prospect of such an opera (mounted as a star vehicle for Flórez) was enough to provoke a certain amount of trepidation despite the house being sold out months in advance.

But the opera's principal message is a familiar one: no man stands a chance when pitted against a talented and resourceful woman. It's an idea reminiscent of two of the composer's better-known operas, L'italiana in Algeri and Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Matilde drives the point home so unequivocally that rather than feeling formulaic it comes across at times as a Rossinian self-parody. The characters are two-dimensional and limited in range, especially Flórez's character, the tyrannical Corradino whose motiveless misogyny is such that he barricades himself away from the world to avoid having to deal with women, but who melts like a lovesick puppy the second he's confronted by the feisty Matilde. There's plenty of catty business between Matilde and the Contessa d'Arco (the noblewoman with her own legitimate claim on Corradino), pathos from Corradino's young prisoner Edoardo and the father who is searching for him, and a convenient ending made possible by the verbal cunning of an omnipresent itinerant poet called Isidoro.

As Matilde comprehensively conquers the war-hungry Corradino, so the young Polish soprano, Aleksandra Kurzak, upstaged the mega-star tenor whose availability was responsible for the opera's rescue from obscurity. Kurzak brought an air of confident modernity to Rossini's heroine, with a pert, confident stage presence and pinpoint accuracy in the fiendish coloratura which she delivered with a crystalline tone. The flexibility in Flórez's upper register was as show-stopping as ever, but the small size of his voice was shown up by the strength of the female leads (not just Kurzak, but Enkelejda Shkosa as a fiery Contessa d'Arco) and he sounded a little dry at times. His music just doesn't have the same potential as the women's; he's not even destined to be the voice that stays in the memory at the end of the night, as Matilde concludes with a triumphant rondo a show in which Corradino has had no real solo at all.

Matilde_723.pngCarlo Lepore as Ginardo, Alfonso Antoniozzi as Isidoro and Juan Diego Flórez as Corradino [Photo by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of The Royal Opera House]

In the trouser-role of Edoardo, Vesselina Kasarova was disappointing, her top register sounding disjointed from the rest of her voice, though it's always a warm sound, and the reunion with father Raimondo (Mark Beesley) was very affecting – a serious sub-plot in an opera which is otherwise a sharp comedy. Alfonso Antoniozzi was endearing as the poet Isidoro, and those in the minor roles all contributed to a surprisingly well-integrated ensemble performance considering the opera's hybrid pedigree.

Mario Martone's production was constrained by Sergio Tramonti's austere set design, consisting of two enormous concentric spiral staircases snaking up into the flies, and a ramp leading up to an aperture at the back. Though it gave three dimensions to the movement on stage, it was excessively limiting, not to mention colourless. It was left to the principal singers to maintain interest throughout a long evening, a feat which they more than achieved with snappy assistance from Carlo Rizzi in the pit. But really – with this classy a vocal cast – it would have worked just as well as a concert.

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):