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

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

Samantha Hankey wins Glyndebourne Opera Cup

Four singers were awarded prizes at the inaugural Glyndebourne Opera Cup, which reached its closing stage at Glyndebourne on 24th March. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup focuses on a different single composer or strand of the repertoire each time it is held. In 2018 the featured composer was Mozart and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompanied the ten finalists.

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):