Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs : Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

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.

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):