Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.

La Vestale, La Monnaie, Bruxelles

In the first half of the 19th century, Spontini’s La Vestale was a hit. Empress Josephine sponsored its premiere, Parisians heard it hundreds of times, Berlioz raved about it and Wagner conducted it.

Shattering Madama Butterfly Stockholm

An intelligent updating and outstanding performance of the title role lead to a shattering climax in Puccini's Japanese opera



José Cura as Canio and Nuccia Focile as Nedda in Leoncavallo's
07 Apr 2009

Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci at the MET

The current revival of Cav and Pag at the Met went off like clockwork, with all the comfort and reliability that implies for a repertory house and all the success these tried and true verismo stalwarts merit.

Pietro Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana
Ruggero Leoncavallo: Pagliacci

Cavalleria Rusticana — Santuzza: Ildikó Komlósi; Mamma Lucia: Jane Bunnell; Lola: Ginger Costa Jackson; Turiddu: José Cura; Alfio: Alberto Mastromarino.

Pagliacci — Nedda: Nuccia Focile; Canio: José Cura; Tonio: Alberto Mastromarino; Silvio: Christopher Maltman.

Conducted by Pietro Rizzo. Metropolitan Opera, performance of April 2.

Above: José Cura as Canio and Nuccia Focile as Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

All photos by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera.


No one was under par but there were very few surprises, few thrills or chills. But each opera did conceal one surprise — one shock — one small but significant vocal revelation — that made the evening other than ordinary fare.

The spotlight on the curtain just before it rose on Franco Zeffirelli’s almost too-accurate Sicilian mountain village drew from us soft gasps of alarm, but it was just an announcement that José Cura, though suffering from a cold, would be singing both leading tenor roles in any case. (Domingo, his mentor, used to make such announcements all the time in the ’70s.) In the event, his opening serenade did indeed sound labored — but when was the last time you heard any tenor, even in the pink of health, sing that aria of sated love with an easy, leggiero line? For the rest of the night he was fine, a bit gruff — as he usually is — and with no ringing at the top, which some might miss. It’s a perfectly decent way to put these parts over. Gigli fans will mourn, but he’s been dead a long time.

Cav_Pag_Met.gifIldikó Komlósi as Santuzza and José Cura as Canio in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

I was interested in the ladies of the evening. Ildikó Komlósi sang the most mellow-sounding Herodias of my experience last fall — no eldritch screamer but a chic, handsome hostess having trouble controlling her adolescent daughter — and I wondered how that enjoyable take on Strauss would translate to Mascagni’s tormented peasant. Komlósi is a fine actress, and hurled herself about the story and the stage, but her essentially lyric instrument (though she also sings Amneris and Eboli, which call for power) did not at first warm to its task, to the expression of desperation — Santuzza is always on the verge of hysteria, she says nothing calmly, she opens her mouth and her whole anguished life is in her utterances. Komlósi’s beautiful voice and Germanic (okay, Hungarian) vibrato are pleasing, but she did not become intense until the duets with Cura and Alberto Mastromarino’s dry, not very threatening Alfio pushed her to forget herself and go wild. Santuzza has tripped up many experienced singers; I did not feel she had it quite down, but she is a voice and an artist of interest.

No part is too small for Jane Bunnell to make it interesting — on such character performers do repertory companies rely, and her dignified Mamma Lucia was a pleasure. But then out came Lola, a youngster from the Met’s Lindemann Young Artists’s Program, one Ginger Costa Jackson, tall, slim, very pretty, a bit too whorish about the sashay (an error made by too many Lolas — she’s a respectable wife in a prudish small town, and no one but Santuzza suspects she’s anything else), but — the voice! No light mezzo here (as one is used to), but a deep, penetrating, perfectly produced contralto with exciting colors. She would make quite an effect in a range of Handel roles, trouser or otherwise.

CAV-Bunnell-and-Cura_6211.gifJane Bunnell as Mamma Lucia and José Cura as Canio in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

The lady in Pagliacci — there’s only one, remember — was Nuccia Focile, a charming soubrette in the past (an adorable Despina in Cosí fan tutte), who sang a mediocre Nedda, the voice unsupported, the coloratura imprecise in both “Stridono lassu” and the play-within-the-play. The only time she rose to the demands of this curious, death-defying figure was during her impassioned love duet with Silvio — and here was the evening’s second surprise: Christopher Maltman. This striking and sexy British baritone, a noted lieder singer as well as a Billy Budd and a specialist in Mozart roles, filled the house with an easy, dark, focused, thrilling baritone and was an equally thrilling actor. Too, he sang with the most perfect Italian enunciation of the night. This is a voice with star quality and a rare musical intelligence, a singer one is eager to hear again in a dozen roles or in recital. Beside him, Cura and Mastromarino, the evening’s Canio and Tonio, sounded effective but ordinary — they wrung no sobs from me.

Pietro Rizzo had a firm hand on the dramatic flow of the evening in the pit; the resonant celli seemed especially to flower, and I clearly heard echoes of Wagner in Pagliacci, whenever Tonio was conniving. The Zeffirelli staging with all its animals and all its children and all its gradual dawn and sunset lighting changes and all its clowning extras gives audiences a notion of what grand opera used to be about, and why young directors have been so eager to change it. A ringing Canio, a gutsy Santuzza and a real Nedda would make it for me.

John Yohalem

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):