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

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Ron Howard’s latest music documentary after The Beatles: Eight Days a Week and Made in America is a poignant tribute that allows viewers into key moments of Pavarotti’s career – but lacks a deeper, more well-rounded view of the artist.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

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):