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

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

Soldier Songs in San Diego

David Little composed his one-man opera, Soldier Songs, ten years ago and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas of New Haven, Connecticut, premiered it in 2011. At San Diego Opera, the fifty-five minute musical presentation and the “Talk Back” that followed it were part of the Shiley dētour Series which is held in the company’s smaller venue, the historic Balboa Theatre.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Robert Murray as Tamino [Photo by Richard H Smith courtesy of English National Opera]
08 Feb 2009

Magic Flute at ENO

‘Back by popular demand’ claimed ENO’s publicity material for the 21-year-old production which had its supposed swan-song last season – though it remains questionable whether the company ever really intended to get rid of it.

W.A. Mozart: The Magic Flute

Tamino: Robert Murray, Michael Bracegirdle (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); Pamina: Sarah-Jane Davies, Mairéad Buicke (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); Papageno: Roderick Williams, Toby Stafford-Allen (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); Papagena: Amanda Forbes; Sarastro: Robert Lloyd, Graeme Danby (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); The Queen of the Night: Emily Hindrichs, Laure Meloy (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); Speaker: Graeme Danby, James Gower (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); Monostatos: Stuart Kale; First Lady: Kate Valentine; Second Lady: Susanna Tudor-Thomas; Third Lady: Deborah Davison; First Priest / First Armed Man: Christopher Turner; Second Priest / Second Armed Man: James Gower. The English National Opera. Conductor: Erik Nielsen, Stephen Higgins (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12). Original Director: Nicholas Hytner. Revival Director: Ian Rutherford. Designer: Bob Crowley.

Above: Robert Murray as Tamino

All photos by Richard H Smith courtesy of English National Opera

 

Although Nicholas Hytner’s staging takes more of a ‘family entertainment’ approach than some more psychologically searching productions, with overt jokes and a pantomime-villain Monostatos, it is one of the company’s greatest assets; a well-established rite of passage for many of ENO’s promising young singers, an ideal first night at the opera for a child or adult beginner, and the sort of show which it seemingly isn’t possible to dislike.

ENO_TheMagicFlute-105.pngRobert Lloyd as Sarastro and Sarah-Jane Davies as Pamina

On this occasion, Sarah-Jane Davies and Robert Murray were well-cast and well-partnered as Tamino and Pamina. Davies sang in the last revival here, and she has become a really lovely Mozartian singer, her beautifully controlled soprano subtly imbued with pathos and emotion. Murray’s elegant tenor was ideal for the high-born, high-minded youth, and he was eloquent in his delivery of the English words. It was a shame that both seemed nervous and tentative in their characterisation.

As the Queen of the Night, Emily Hindrichs’s small, brittle and cleanly-placed soprano was initially impressive, but in the Act 2 spoken dialogue her rage had little sense of a noblewoman’s wounded pride, and she came across merely as petulant and shrill. Her subsequent aria had some lapses in accuracy. Robert Lloyd – a rare sight on this stage, having spent so much of his distinguished career at the Royal Opera – brought gravitas and a fatherly presence to Sarastro, with bottom notes of rich velvet.

Jeremy Sams’s gently humorous colloquial dialogue was delivered in a wide range of regional accents, some more real than others. In the case of the Three Ladies (guest principal Kate Valentine and chorus-members Susanna Tudor-Thomas and Deborah Davison) whose glamorous feather-trimmed midnight-blue costumes demand a certain amount of upper-class bearing, the use of various accents was a misjudgement; I wondered whether perhaps one of the three had been unable to disguise a genuine accent, and the other two had been obliged to affect accents of their own to compensate.

Papageno was played once again as a genial Yorkshireman by the very likeable Roderick Williams, though through no fault of his own he had trouble living up to his job description on this occasion. Two of the four real white doves, whose behaviour when they appear on stage during the Bird-catcher’s Song is usually impeccable, got uncharacteristically overexcited and decided it might be fun to evade capture. It took an additional pair of hands and a good two or three minutes to round them up, amid much audience mirth. The joys of live theatre!

ENO_TheMagicFlute-31.pngEmily Hindrichs as The Queen of Night and Robert Murray as Tamino

If the birds were intent on demonstrating the wisdom of the oft-repeated advice never to work with children or animals, trebles Charlie Manton, Louis Watkins and Harry Manton were here for the defence. They were quite the finest trio of boys I can recall hearing, perfectly in tune and impeccably vocally matched.

Conductor Erik Nielsen (Kapellmeister of the Frankfurt Opera), in his house debut, was rather stately and mannered in a heavily Baroque-inflected overture, but from then on his reading had a poised and even pacing that never dragged.

ENO_TheMagicFlute-122.pngSarah-Jane Davies as Pamina with the Three Spirits (Charlie Manton, Louis Watkins & Harry Manton)

The company has been strangely quiet on the subject of whether the staging has now been officially retired, or whether it has been granted a more permanent reprieve. But now that opera companies have a bigger challenge than ever in competing for audience spending power, it would surely be a waste to scrap such a sure-fire hit as this. It keeps those doves in work, anyway...

Ruth Elleson © 2009

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):