Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

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):