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

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Mark Padmore on festivals, lieder and musical conversations

I have to confess, somewhat sheepishly, at the start of my conversation with Mark Padmore, that I had not previously been aware of the annual music festival held in the small Cotswolds town of Tetbury, which was founded in 2002 and to which Padmore will return later this month to perform a recital of lieder by Schubert and Schumann with pianist Till Fellner.

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Giovanni Simon Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Gergiev, Mariinsky

Sergei Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op 74, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus. One Day That Shook the World to borrow the subtitle from Sergei Eisenstein's epic film October : Ten Days that Shook the World.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

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):