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

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

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):