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

Baroque at the Edge: London Festival of Baroque Music, 12-20 May 2017

On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.

OPERA RARA AUCTION: online auction for opera lovers worldwide

On Thursday 19th January, opera lovers around the world started bidding online for rare and prized items made available for the first time from Opera Rara’s collection. In addition to the 26 lots auctioned online, 6 more items will be made available on 7 February - when online bidding closes - at Opera Rara’s gala dinner marking the final night of the auction. The gala will be held at London’s Caledonian Club and will feature guest appearances from Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury.

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

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):