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

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

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):