Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Domenico Sarro: Achille in Sciro
15 Mar 2009

Domenico Sarro: Achille in Sciro

The birth and death dates of Domenico Sarro (1679 and 1744) are very close to those of his more illustrious contemporary, Antonio Vivaldi.

Domenico Sarro: Achille in Sciro

Achilles: Gabriella Martellacci; Lycomedes: Marcello Nardis; Teagene: Massimiliano Arizzi; Deidamia: Maria Laura Martorana; Ulysses: Francisco Ruben Brito; Nearco: Eufemia Tufano; Arcade: Dolores Carlucci. Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia. Bratislava Chamber Choir. Conductor: Federico Maria Sardelli. Director: Davide Livermore.

Dynamic CDS 571/1-3 [3CDs]

$57.49  Click to buy

If Vivaldi’s operas haven’t quite made the comeback that many of Georg Handel’s have in opera houses around the world, some excellent recordings have appeared in recent years, in particular on the Opus 111 label. Leave it to the enterprising Dynamic label to look beyond Vivaldi and exhume Sarro’s Achille in Sciro, a work unlikely to have been performed anywhere for over two and a half centuries.

A live recording from the 2007 Festival della Valle D’Itria, this Dynamic set shares the virtues and defects of many of the company’s other ventures into rare repertory - it revives an opera worth hearing, with a less than ideal performance. Based on a libretto by Pietro Metastasio, Achille in Sciro weaves a handful of characters through three hours of misguided passion, jealousy, betrayal, and cross-dressing, as Achille dallies in love while his Greek compatriots try to get him to sail off to war with Troy. Sarro’s music maintains an energetic creativity through the extended arias and occasional small group numbers. As with Vivaldi, rhythmic complexity dominates over harmonic development; still, the best of the numbers have appealing tunes. The score deserved respectful attention, which it gets from conductor Federico Maria Sardelli and the Orchestra Internazionale D’Italia, experienced hands in rare repertory.

The singers, on the other hand, create more ambivalent reactions. In the role of Teagane, counter-tenor Massimiliano Arizzi makes some very unpleasant sounds, and his act three aria, which probably should be a highlight, becomes eight minutes of distressful intonation and hootiness. Not that the mezzos in pants roles fare much better. In the smaller role of Nearco, Eufemia Tufano is only slighter more endurable than Arizzi. Gabriella Martellacci has the title role, and the booklet photographs reveal that she is a very feminine, attractive woman - helpful for the scenes of Achille disguised as a woman, but otherwise quite baffling. Her mezzo voice can reasonably pass for that of a proud warrior, given the conventions, but a heaviness weighs down the faster runs. Tenor Francisco Ruben Brito, singing Ulisse, barely manages his aria in act two, but the piping high notes in his final aria sound as if the singer were being goosed. A second tenor role, Licomede, goes to Marcello Nardis, who sounds painfully stretched anywhere outside a short middle range.

The best singing comes from Maria Laura Martorana as Deidamia, a soprano with a secure high range and ample agility. She appears a somewhat drab figure in the production photos of the booklet, but that may be the director’s concept of the character. The photos evidence some sort of updated concept, but the booklet note is sparse on details of this performance, focusing instead on the singers in the 1737 premiere and a lengthy description of the arias, which includes mystifying analysis such as this: “Nearco alternates emotion and sighs “Tace il labbro e parla il volto” … with fury…” Your reviewer listened closely, but could not identify any furious sighing.

With no likely competitors on the horizon, anyone interested in the contemporaries of Vivaldi and Handel should search out this recording of Achille in Sciro. With more attractive singing, the set would surely deserve a broader recommendation.

Chris Mullins

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):