Recently in Reviews
Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler at the Wigmore Hall, London, an intriguing recital on many levels. Goerne programmes are always imaginative, bringing out new perspectives, enhancing our appreciation of the depth and intelligence that makes Lieder such a rewarding experience. Menahem Pressler is extremely experienced as a soloist and chamber musician, but hasn't really ventured into song to the extent that other pianists, like Brendel, Eschenbach or Richter, for starters. He's not the first name that springs to mind as Lieder accompanist. Therein lay the pleasure !
It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.
With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.
Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.
If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”
Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?
Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.
On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.
Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.
Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.
Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.
The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s ﬁrst great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.
The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.
This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.
Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’
Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.
13 Feb 2009
Donizetti's Don Pasquale from the Ravenna Festival
The CEO of the Ravenna Festival, one Cristina Mazzavillano Muti, understandably takes top billing at the top of this DVD booklet's three - count 'em, 3! - pages of credits for the Festival, not counting the single page of credits for the production of Donizetti's Don Pasquale itself.
Mrs. Muti also gets a respectful if oddly-phrased nod from the production’s director, Andrea De Rosa: “The director thanks to CRISTINA MAZZAVILLANI MUTI [caps from the original] for her continuous and unique carefulness she dedicated to the project.” Wonder what made her carefulness “unique”? Beyond her ability, that is, to snag as conductor one Riccardo Muti.
Filmed for TV at the Teatro di Tradizione Dante Alighieri for the 2006 Ravenna Festival, director Rosa’s Pasquale appears to be set at the time of the opera’s composition, judging by Gabriella Pescucci’s somber formal dress for the men. Set designer Italo Grassi erected wood-paneled doors for entrances and exits; otherwise, the stage backdrop is black cloth. While not high on visual appeal, the drab presentation actually plays well enough, as Don Pasquale’s comedy has always had its troubling aspect, with the title character certainly deserving of some comeuppance but not necessarily the mean-spirited actions of Malatesta and Norina. Pasquale furiously kicks out his nephew Ernesto after the younger man has rejected his uncle’s choice for his bride. Malatesta, ostensibly Pasquale’s friend, concocts a scheme to make Pasquale regret this disinheritance by tricking Pasquale into a marriage with Norina, Ernesto’s true love, who plays along by acting a total shrew. When the trick is exposed and the sham marriage annulled, Pasquale forgives his nephew out of relief.
Donizetti’s charming and tuneful score provides the spoonfuls of sugar to help this somewhat sour comedic medicine go down, and conductor Muti gets sharp, colorful playing from the youthful Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini. Apart from Claudio Desderi’s Pasquale, a youthful cast fits the generational profile of the characters very well. Malatesta shouldn’t be too much older than his “sister,” Norina, and Mario Cassi looks like a successful young gentleman, very much a more professional cousin to Rossini’s Figaro. Cassi’s smooth baritone provides the show’s best singing. Desderi starts hoarse and never clears up, though he acts well, keeping in balance Pasquale’s ridiculousness and essential humanity.
Francisco Gatell makes a handsome Ernesto, but the voice is undistinctive. As actress, Laura Giordano excels as Norina, here an almost literal spitfire who seems to get almost a sadist’s pleasure out of her part in the scheme. In faster music, Giordano’s instrument does well enough; the rest of the time, she has a pinched tone and a fast vibrato that upsets the melodic line.
Your reviewer gratefully acknowledges that the subtitles introduced an unfamiliar word to him, “temerarious.” The DVD prompts a language selection with the first screen, but that doesn’t turn on the subtitles in the selected language, oddly enough.
So the orchestral playing trumps the singing in terms of quality, and the intimacy of the small theater’s stage helps the drama come across despite the unimpressive physical production. Not a great Don Pasquale, but a decent one, so be sure to “thanks [sic] to CRISTINA MAZZAVILLANI MUTI.”