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

Hibiki: a European premiere by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Proms

Hibiki: sound, noise, echo, reverberation, harmony. Commissioned by the Suntory Hall in Tokyo to celebrate the Hall’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 50-minute Hibiki, for two female soloists, children’s chorus and large orchestra, purports to reflect on the ‘human reverberations’ of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 and the devastation caused by the subsequent tsunami and radioactive disaster.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

Janáček: The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Grimeborn

A great performance of Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared can be, allowing for the casting of a superb tenor, an experience on a par with Schoenberg’s Erwartung. That Shadwell Opera’s minimalist, but powerful, staging in the intimate setting of Studio 2 of the Arcola Theatre was a triumph was in no small measure to the magnificent singing of the tenor, Sam Furness.

Khovanshchina: Mussorgsky at the Proms

Remembering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this Proms performance of Mussorgsky’s mighty Khovanshchina (all four and a quarter hours of it) exceeded all expectations on a musical level. And, while the trademark doorstop Proms opera programme duly arrived containing full text and translation, one should celebrate the fact that - finally - we had surtitles on several screens.

Santa Fe: Entertaining If Not Exactly (R)evolutionary

You know what I loved best about Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?

Longborough Young Artists in London: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

For the last three years, Longborough Festival Opera’s repertoire of choice for their Young Artist Programme productions has been Baroque opera seria, more specifically Handel, with last year’s Alcina succeeding Rinaldo in 2014 and Xerxes in 2015.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Full-throated Cockerel at Santa Fe

A tale of a lazy, befuddled world leader that ‘has no clothes on’ and his two dimwit sons, hmmmm, what does that remind me of. . .?

Santa Fe’s Trippy Handel

If you don’t like a given moment in Santa Fe Opera’s staging of Alcina, well, just like the volatile mountain weather, wait two minutes and it will surely change.

Santa Fe’s Crowd-Pleasing Strauss

With Die Fledermaus’ thrice familiar overture still lingering in our ears, it didn’t take long for the assault of hijinks to reduce the audience into guffaws of delight.

Santa Fe: Mad for Lucia

If there is any practitioner currently singing the punishing title role of Lucia di Lammermoor better than Brenda Rae, I am hard-pressed to name her.

Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen at Grimeborn

Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can be a difficult opera to stage, despite its charm and simplicity. In part it is a good, old-fashioned morality tale about the relationships between humans and animals, and between themselves, but Janáček doesn’t use a sledgehammer to make this point. It is easy for many productions to fall into parody, and many have done, and it is a tribute to The Opera Company’s staging of this work at the Arcola Theatre that they narrowly avoided this pitfall.

Handel's Israel in Egypt at the Proms: William Christie and the OAE

For all its extreme popularity with choirs, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt is a somewhat problematic work; the scarcity of solos makes hiring professional soloists an extravagant expense, and the standard version of the work starts oddly with a tenor recitative. If we return to the work's history then these issues are put into context, and this is what William Christie did for the performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 1 August 2017.

Sirens and Scheherazade: Prom 18

From Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, to Bruch’s choral-orchestral Odysseus, to Fauré’s Penelope, countless compositions have taken their inspiration from Homer’s Odyssey, perhaps not surprisingly given Homer’s emphasis on the power of music in the Greek world.

Discovering Gounod’s Cinq Mars: Another Rarity Success for Oper Leipzig

Oper Leipzig usually receives less international attention than its Dresden, Munich or Berlin counterparts; however, with its fabulous Gewandhaus Orchestra, and its penchant for opera rarities (and a new Ring Cycle), this quality hotspot will be attracting more and more opera lovers. Leipzig’s new production of Gounod’s Cinq Mars continues this high quality tradition.

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A new La clemenza di Tito at Glyndebourne

Big birds are looming large at Glyndebourne this year. After Juno’s Peacock, which scooped up the suicidal Hipermestra, Chris Guth’s La clemenza di Tito offers us a huge soaring magpie, symbolic of Tito’s release from the chains of responsibility in Imperial Rome.

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

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):