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 Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni [Victorian Opera]
15 Mar 2009

Don Giovanni — Victorian Opera

Each Australia state maintains its own opera company. The dominant company is Opera Australia, a permanent ensemble based at the Sydney Opera House but which originated in the Melbourne based National Theatre Opera Company in the 1940s.

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni

Michelle Buscemi: Zerlina; Andrew Collis: Leporello; Samuel Dundas: Don Giovanni; James Egglestone: Don Ottavio: Steven Gallop: The Commendatore; Anthony Mackey: Masetto; Tiffany Speight: Donna Elvira; Caroline Wenborne: Donna Anna. Victorian Opera. Richard Gill/Nicholas Carter: Conductors. Jean-Pierre Mignon: Director.

 

Headed by the Melba protégée soprano Gertrude Johnson the company grew in stature and by the 1950s featured expatriate singers such as Marjorie Lawrence (whose centenary passed on 17 February this year) as Amneris in Aida and another Melba protégée John Brownlee as Don Giovanni. The company gave joint seasons in Sydney with the National Opera of New South Wales. The Sydney company recruited many of the singers from Johnson’s company and, in 1956 as part of the larger Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust founded what is now Opera Australia. As a national company a requirement of Opera Australia’s funding is that it tour but performances outside of Sydney are almost exclusively to Melbourne for seasons between April and June and November and December each year.

Meanwhile companies established in other sates during the 1960s and in 1976 the Victoria State Opera formed and seasons by both companies continued until 1996 when financial difficulties caused the Victorian company to be absorbed by the national company and cease to exist. A decade later Victorian Opera was founded under the artistic direction of former Opera Australia staff conductor Richard Gill. Productions are modest to look at and use emerging singers but the musical preparation is scrupulous and the singers perform the roles rather than learn them as rarely-performing covers as trainees in a larger company would do.

French director Jean Pierre Mignon has long been resident in Australia where he established a theatre company that produced, among other things, Molière’s version of the Don Juan legend. Mignon’s production of the opera is reminiscent of Molière’s farce and the intimacy of the production allows for subtle comedy more than usual in the opera. The Don himself (Samuel Dundas), dressed in a gleaming white costume, the reverse of his true colours, is an arrogant and conceited young pup (that so young-looking a Don has notched up so many conquests beggars’ belief). Although his voice is still young and light toned, he uses it with great skill, projecting the text in very good Italian and giving it shape and nuance. He has a good grasp of the Don’s mercurial character too, physically handsome he also conveys the swaggering, aristocratic arrogance and, above all, the snake-eyed charm. With only two modest arias Don Giovanni’s persona lives through music involving other characters. Dundas savors these moments and is even more impressive in the recititative passages, making them carry the bulk of his characterization. An example is the brief scene with Zerlina (Michelle Buscemi) before their duet “La ci darem la mano” where he seems to taste the honey of his own words. Only the softest parts of the music, the opening phrase of “La ci darem” and the mandolin serenade need the elusive legato.

DonGiovanni_Melbourne2.png

Samuel Dundas (Don Giovanni) and Andrew Collis (Leporello) [Photo by Jeff Busby/Victorian Opera]

Zerlina’s music suits Buscemi’s silvery voice and she conveys Zerlina's gentle eroticism, ecstatically sighing the words “toccami qua” in ‘Vedrai, carino’ with same understanding as Dundas conveying Giovanni’s lust. Tiffany Speight sings regularly with Opera Australia and has established herself in the lighter Mozart roles. A splendid Zerlina she steps up to the dominant female character Donna Elvira. Speights’s radiant soprano easily encompassed the music including the often-difficult lower passages in the epilogue and elsewhere. She is a very subtle comedienne too, doomed by her unshakable obsession with the faithless Don her Elvira flusters like a frustrated schoolmistress. The Prague version of the opera was performed (eliminating Don Ottavio’s “Dalla sua pace” and Elvira’s “Mi tradi”) which is a pity as Speight would have crowned a spectacular performance had she been allowed “Mi Tradi”. As Don Giovanni’s sidekick Andrew Collis is another more experienced singer who creates an oily Leporello, the director relating him back to the character, Sganarelle, in Molière’s play. His ‘catalogue’ aria bubbles with vulgarity and just a hint of admiration for his master’s virility. With no sign of stage nerves, Dundas is a natural clown too and with Speight and Collis made the serenading scene in act two hilarious without undermining the beauty of the music.

Donna Anna’s music presented a challenge to Caroline Wenborne but she managed the difficult fioritura without any compromises. The fearful drama in "Or sai chi l'onore" was less evident but again her performance was musically intelligent. James Egglestone was equally adept at Don Ottavio's 'Il mio tesoro'. Pity his “Dalla su pace” was omitted as it would have suited his well supported and focused tenor voice. The vocal preparation of all of the soloists was obviously thorough and the intimate scale allowed for some dramatic details that would never work in a larger theatre. The Don, for example, gives Zerlina a flower which drops suggestively from her hand at the end of “La ci darem la mano” and is retrieved and re-used, like the Don's come-on lines, until it ends up planted in Elvira's hopeful cleavage.

Richard Roberts’s set is a marvel of economy, transforming from back streets to a Moorish palace and sinister tomb. Steeply raked and angled it suggested the endless corners Don Giovanni backs into and escapes from. Performed in the old National Theatre (named after Johnson’s enterprise and where a portrait of her, knife raised, as the Queen of the Night fearlessly protects what remains of her legacy) which seats 500 has the intimacy to put Mozart’s masterpiece under a microscope. With a small chorus it was played and sung without perhaps the greatest refinement but with undoubted professionalism and a constant feeling for the excitement of the story and the music.

3, 5, 7, 10, 12 & 14 March, followed by a metropolitan and regional Victorian tour between 28 March and 25 April 2009

Michael Magnusson

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):