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

Cold Mountain, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia deserves congratulations on yet another coup. The company co-commissioned Cold Mountain, an opera by Jennifer Higdon based on Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Charles Frazier’s celebrated Civil War epic.

Christian Gerhaher Wolfgang Rihm Wigmore Hall

For their first of two recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber devised an interesting programme - popular Schubert mixed with songs by Wolfgang Rihm and by Huber himself.

Götterdämmerung in Palermo

There are not many opera productions that you would cross oceans to see. Graham Vick’s Götterdämmerung in Sicily however compelled such a voyage.

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Amanda Roocroft as Jenufa and Tom Randle as Steva Buryja [Photo by Robert Workman courtesy of English National Opera]
25 Mar 2009

Jenůfa — English National Opera, London Coliseum

Janáček enthusiasts in London have been spoiled this month: opening the day before English Touring Opera’s Katya Kabanova, David Alden’s staging of Jenůfa made a welcome return to the Coliseum following its original double Olivier Award-winning run in 2006.

Leoš Janáček: Jenůfa

Amanda Roocroft, Michaela Martens, Robert Brubaker, Tom Randle, Susan Gorton, Iain Paterson, Mairead Buicke. English National Opera. Eivind Gullberg Jensen, conductor. David Alden, director.

Above: Amanda Roocroft as Jenufa and Tom Randle as Steva Buryja

All photos by Robert Workman courtesy of English National Opera

 

One of the awards on that occasion was for Amanda Roocroft’s assumption of the title role, and it was thus a luxury to have her back here for the revival, heading a cast which was otherwise largely new. Clad neatly in bright blue, this sunny golden-haired Jenůfa is, from the outset, a contrast both with Charles Edwards’s Act 1 set, dominated by an ugly grey workshop against a pale sky, and with the gaudy immodesty of Števa’s hangers-on. Such is the impression made by her initial good cheer that it is all too painful to follow the effect of the series of personal tragedies that befall her. One would never think at the outset that this was a girl who would end up getting married in a plain black dress (against which her dead child’s red knitted cap is thrown into particularly poignant relief).

Roocroft’s singing, too, is full of light at the outset, but by the final curtain has given way to a measured, introverted luminosity. And in between — well, after hearing of the death of baby Števuška her voice is as drained and forlorn as the drab wallpaper in the Kostelnička’s living-room. She had a strong partner in the Norwegian conductor Elvind Gullberg Jensen — in his ENO debut — who showed unfailing sensitivity in these moments of personal reflection, even if he had a tendency to lose the shape of the music in the bigger, public scenes.

Jenůfa’s initial sunniness presents just as sharp a contrast with the Kostelnička, sung by the American mezzo Michaela Martens; though her singing was powerful and at times gut-wrenchingly intense, barely a word of the English translation (by Otakar Kraus and Edward Downes) was decipherable, and her tone had a tendency to spread out at the height of the second-act monologue. This production makes her rather severe; it is a shame we didn’t see more of the internal struggle with her own human nature as the realisation dawns that only she has the means to dispose of Jenůfa’s ‘problem’.

Robert Brubaker’s Laca is quite outstanding, so alive with repressed anger and frustration that he seldom even stands still. There was a wildness to some of the louder moments which concerned me slightly at the time, but which in hindsight I’m convinced must have been an intentional part of his characterisation; in the final moments of Act 3, his passionate declaration of love for Jenůfa was delivered in a full-blooded, secure, radiant fortissimo — and with both feet firmly on the ground. Thomas Randle was equally ideal as the irresponsible Števa, looking every inch the alpha male, his bright, cocksure tenor making every note count.

Jenufa_008.gifTom Randle as Steva Buryja and Mairead Buicke as Karolka

Iain Paterson (the only survivor other than Roocroft of the original 2006 run) was quite outstanding as the Foreman, every word delivered with precision and sensitivity — and Susan Gorton made much of Grandma Buryjovka, her wordless but telling reaction to the crass insensitivity of Karolka and family supplying a rare but welcome moment of comic relief in Act 3.

David Alden’s staging has a few incongruous details; neither the motorcycle on which Števa makes his first entrance, nor the colourfully-clad village girls who dance for Jenufa prior to her wedding, seem appropriate to the time and place. And the production bothered me more second time around than it did when new. In the dreary surroundings of a small industrial plant in the 1940s or thereabouts, the insistent staccato of the opening orchestral theme is accompanied by flashes of light from welding tools rather than the turning of a mill-wheel. The indoor setting of the second and third acts is no more attractive, with slabs of old cardboard keeping out the world in the place of closed shutters. Is the sadness, frustration and violence in these people’s lives an inevitable result of miserable surroundings, and not a product of their personal circumstances? It’s a valid interpretation, if not one that makes for visually striking stage pictures.

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):