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

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.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

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.

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.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Bryn Terfel as the Dutchman [Photo by Clive Barda courtesy of The Royal Opera House]
27 Feb 2009

A restrained Flying Dutchman at the Royal Opera House, London

This Der fliegende Holländer was eagerly awaited as it hasn’t been heard at the Royal Opera House, London, since 2000. With Bryn Terfel’s return to Covent Garden as the Dutchman guaranteed a full house.

Richard Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Bryn Terfel (The Dutchman), Hans-Peter König (Daland), Anja Kampe (Senta), John Tessier (Steersmann), Claire Shearer (Mary), Torsten Kerl (Erik), Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, London. Marc Albrecht (conductor), Tim Albery (director), Renato Balsadonna (chorusmaster)

Above: Bryn Terfel as the Dutchman

All photos by Clive Barda courtesy of The Royal Opera House

 

Terfel’s admirers would not have been disappointed. His voice boomed with authority, impressive for its strength, even when he had to sing dragging a heavy rope across the stage and wade through the real water at the front of the platform. Terfel’s vocal power always impresses, and he has done interesting Dutchmen elsewhere. However, in this production, by Tim Albery, he was not called upon to develop the character. Not long ago, Albery presented Boris Gudonov as stolid, mild-mannered bourgeois. This Dutchman was no more ravaged than Daland. When the women and Daland’s sailors call out to the doomed souls on the haunted ship, they face the audience and shine lights into the auditorium. When the Dutchman’s crew do appear, they’re neatly dressed in uniform, as if they’d never been to sea. Maybe there’s some deep meaning in this, but it could have been thought through with more focus.

Dutchman_Kampe_ROH09.pngAnja Kampe as Senta

The performance was more interesting, though, for what it brought out in the music. That glorious overture is a marvel of dramatic scene-painting, setting the mood for the entire opera. How it’s staged reflects on the whole production. Here it unfolded against a backdrop of green light and projected images of rain, with shadowy figures flitting from left to right. This was interesting, but hardly enough to sustain interest for that period of time. Nor did it vary, although the score itself is characterized by distinct developmental phases. This was disappointing because Marc Albrecht’s conducting shaped these changing themes very clearly, for they define the duality that is fundamental to the whole opera.

Albrecht’s approach revealed the underlying structure. Wagner wields leitmotivs like weapons. By juxtaposing the sailor’s cheery love songs with the savagery of the music associated with the storm and the Dutchman, he draws contrasts, between stability and chaos. Particularly brilliant are the crosscurrents in Act Three, throwing the music of the village against the music of the haunted sailors. This act depicts a “storm on land”, just as the first depicts a storm at sea. Keeping the different ensembles distinct is important here, and takes some sophistication. But the Royal Opera House Chorus excels in intricate ensemble. At last the production sprang to life, animated by the sheer vitality of the singing.

Dutchman_Chorus_ROH09.pngA scene from Der fliegende Holländer with Anja Kampe (Senta) in the foreground

Indeed, the role of the chorus in this opera is sometimes underplayed since attention usually centres on the Dutchman and on Senta. The influence of Weber still hung heavily on Wagner. Some of these choruses are reminiscent of Der Freischütz, another tale of demonic forces. Thus Albrecht’s vignette-like focus reflects episodic “aria” opera tradition rather than the overwhelming sweep of late Wagner in full sail. Der fliegende Holländer is only the first stage of the saga.

Bryn Terfel may have been the big draw, but perhaps this production will be remembered as the moment Anja Kampe made her name. Anyone who can steal a scene from Terfel is worth listening to. From Kampe’s small frame emanated a voice of great power, enhanced by an understanding of Senta’s role. Even before she meets the Dutchman, she fantasizes about him. The other women work in a factory, but Senta is by nature a non-conformist, drawn to the wildness that the Dutchman symbolises. No wonder she knows right away she wants him, not Erik. Senta is the prototype of Wagner’s later heroines who equate love with death, and who find fulfilment in redeeming others. This does reflect in many ways Wagner’s own predicaments, but the archetype becomes wilder and more cataclysmic. Kampe probably has the ability to make much more of such heroines in the future, given the productions that make more of the extreme intensity - madness, even - in these roles. She’s singing Isolde at Glyndebourne this summer, which will be something to look forward to.

Anne Ozorio

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):