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 Reviews

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

Antonin Dvořák: The Cunning Peasant (Šelma Sedlák)

What an enjoyable opportunity to encounter Dvořák’s sixth opera, Šelma Sedlák¸or The Cunning Peasant!

Idomeneo, Royal Opera

Whether biblical parable or mythological moralising, it’s all the same really: human hubris, humility, sacrifice and redemption.

Donizetti’s Les Martyrs — Opera Rara, London

Opera Rara brought a rare performance of Donizetti’s first opera for the Paris Opera to the Royal Festival Hall on 4 November 2014, following recording sessions for the opera.

Luca Pisaroni in San Diego

Bass baritone, Luca Pisaroni, known to opera lovers throughout the world for his excellence in Mozart roles, offered San Diego vocal aficionados a double treat on October 28th: his mellifluous voice, and a recital of German songs.

La bohème, ENO

Jonathan Miller’s production of La bohème for ENO, shared with Cincinnati Opera, sits uneasily, at least as revived by Natascha Metherell, between comedy and tragedy.

Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall - Liszt, Strauss and Schubert

Any Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau performance is superb, but this Wigmore Hall recital surprised, too. Boesch's Schubert is wonderful, but this time, it was his Liszt and Strauss songs which stood out. This year at the Wigmore Hall, we've heard a lot of Liszt and a lot of Richard Strauss everywhere, establishing high standards, but this was special.

Wexford Festival 2014

The weather was auspicious for Wexford Festival Opera’s first-night firework display — mild, clear and calm. But, as the rainbow rockets exploded over the River Slaney, even bigger bangs were being made down at the quayside.

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Plácido Domingo as Maurizio and Maria Guleghina as Adriana Lecouvreur [Photo by Marty Sohl courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
25 Feb 2009

Adriana Lecouvreur at the MET

There come nights in the opera season where gesamtkunstwerke won’t do — enough of epic masterpieces and supreme lyric outpourings of the human spirit!

Francesco Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur

Adriana: Maria Guleghina; Princesse de Bouillon: Olga Borodina; Maurizio: Plácido Domingo; Michonnet: Roberto Frontali; Prince de Bouillon: John Del Carlo. Conducted by Marco Armiliato.

Above: Plácido Domingo as Maurizio and Maria Guleghina as Adriana Lecouvreur

All photos by Marty Sohl courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

 

There are nights at the opera when we want to have fun. Francesco Cilea wrote Adriana Lecouvreur for such occasions, and such occasions there are in glorious plenty in the current Met revival of this sublime bit of kitsch. If that other grand operatic folderol La Gioconda, revived in the Met’s opening week last fall, had been cast with half the care or staged with half the expertise of this Adriana, it would have been a hit and not a yawn. For one thing, the title role in Gioconda should certainly be offered to Maria Guleghina, who performs Adriana with all the excitement (if not exactly the dependable legato) that both roles call for. She would give Gioconda the fire it conspicuously lacked last fall — the fire that makes a Gioconda — or an Adriana. Guleghina knows what melodrama is all about. When her Adriana, feverishly dying, cried, “Melpomene son io!” one did not quite believe it, but one did believe that Guleghina, as Adriana, believed it.

Guleghina does not have a reliable instrument. I’m trying to choose my words carefully here. Her voice is extraordinary — sometimes it bubbles over like some great Russian river in flood, whelming the landscape in solid sound, and at other times it blinks out just when you hoped you could rely on it. Her technique is not smooth when a quieter voice is called for, the exquisite thread of a Milanov or a Freni is not hers to command. She sings the great aria of her first appearance, “Io son l’umile ancella,” in separate bursts, divided voices, not as if she is explicating her theatrical technique (the text at this point) but as if there is a disjunction between the amount of breath she has summoned and the amount that arrives. This can unsettle, as it does in such other Guleghina signature roles as Verdi’s Abigaille and Lady Macbeth — but they both require a coloratura precision she does not have; Adriana does not, and is therefore a better role choice for her. She tosses herself about with abandon in the love scenes, but she is at the top of her form in the great confrontations with Olga Borodina’s Princesse de Bouillon, and when, at the climax of Act II, these two great ladies in full cry and spectacular silken costumes, panniers on display like the plumage of prehistoric birds in battle array, it is one of opera’s great scenes presented at the pitch of gladiatorial combat. Poisoned violets? I was surprised not to see blood and broken bones, picked clean by harpie teeth and claws.

Adriana_Met_02.pngOlga Borodina as The Princess de Bouillon and Plácido Domingo as Maurizio

Borodina, of course, is one of the great voices of our time and one of New York’s happiest acquisitions from the Russian vocal stable. Her Laura was a rare fine feature of the Gioconda, but the Princesse is a far more violent, desperate character — which suits her admirably. We hate the Princesse because she refuses to give up the man she loves, though he loves Adriana, and because she resorts to poison to keep him — but remember, she’s in the throes of first passion, after years of an arranged, aristocratic marriage, and Cilea spares her a dab of sympathetic treatment. In any case, Borodina’s singing is always passionate without losing track of musicianship. Her low tones are utterly Russian, but she has learned how to deploy them in Italian music (and French music) without Slavic accents, and her control in this hectic part was icily correct. When she wants a note to go here, it goes here, if there, it goes there, nowhere else, precisely pitched and just as loud or as soft as she desires it to be. This is not as common (especially among the ladies in the Italian repertory nowadays) as it might be, and I wish she’d give Guleghina a coaching session or two.

Adriana_Met_03.pngRoberto Fontali as Michonnet and Maria Guleghina as Adriana Lecouvreur

The original choice for Maurizio being transferred to the new Trovatore, the role was given to Plácido Domingo, originally set to conduct these performances. Maurizio was the role of his Met debut forty years ago, and everyone (not least Guleghina) was thrilled that he got through it decently — but let’s be frank, shall we? This was not a performance to thrill from any singer less beloved. Though his manner was able and gallant, his sound was dry and strangulated, his great martial aria of Act III rather painful than otherwise. When he sang Gherman in The Queen of Spades in 2004, he still sounded youthful as well as romantic; in this far lighter role he was no longer a pleasure to hear. Only by the final romantic duet with the dying Adriana had he warmed to some beautiful phrases; his sobs were heart-melting and will be, for me, perhaps, a satisfying last vocal effort from the tenor of the Traviata that first made me an opera fan forty-three years ago.

Roberto Frontali made a touching, satisfying Michonnet, and John Del Carlo charmingly (and loudly) occupied the role of the scheming Prince de Bouillon. Marco Armiliato kept a good pace in the pit, allowing the fragrant melodies of this fragile work to bloom sweetly under his care, and supporting the singers nimbly.

John Yohalem

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):