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

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

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):