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



Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni and Isabel Bayrakdarian as Zerlina [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
26 Apr 2009

Don Giovanni at the MET with Peter Mattei

I returned to Don Giovanni firstly because I had never heard Peter Mattei sing, and friends had called him the greatest Don G since Siepi.

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni: Peter Mattei; Donna Anna: Erin Wall; Donna Elvira: Barbara Frittoli; Don Ottavio: Pavol Breslik; Zerlina: Isabel Bayrakdarian; Leporello: Samuel Ramey; Masetto: Joshua Bloom; Commendatore: Raymond Aceto. Conducted by Louis Langrée. Metropolitan Opera, performance of April 20.

Above: Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni and Isabel Bayrakdarian as Zerlina [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]


(Who else has been in that league? Treigle? Kwiecien? Pape? No one who’s sung it at the Met — as those three have not.)

Mattei is certainly a commanding figure, quite as tall as Erwin Schrott, though not at all good looking, and with — Mattei again — a large, handsome, easily produced sound that fills the Met and falls caressingly on the ear. His serenade was indubitably the evening’s high point, but the furious energy of the Champagne Aria was also a thrill. He can be intimate and suave to four thousand seats — no mean feat, and a major requirement for a successful Giovanni at the Met, but he does not slight the demonic factor. If Giovanni is too charming, if we find ourselves liking this creep, the moral message of the opera falls by the wayside, but if Giovanni is nothing but a thug (as, for instance, Bryn Terfel portrayed him — and also Ruggiero Raimondi in Joseph Losey’s movie), then we find the behavior of all the other characters inexplicable. Women (other than Anna, who hates him from first to last) should be charmed by this rogue until they realize their consent, and that only once, is the only thing that interests him. Some women are turned on by thugs — but two thousand?

Mattei pays attention to the full character: In the scene on the staircase at the evening’s opening, he was rather more obviously trying not merely to rape the unconquered Donna Anna, but also to keep his face averted so that she will not see it — an awkwardness in this production that Scrott failed to make convincing, and in which Mattei was ably abetted by Erin Wall. His occasional shock at seeing himself in the stage-height mirror — director Marthe Keller’s way of luring him to a doom of his own narcissism — indicated a self-doubt that Erwin Schrott never displayed — Schrott was just happy to see his handsome face any chance he got. Many moments that Schrott seemed to pass off casually — or use for opportunities to display his body — were part of the opera again in Mattei’s presentation.

This was a performance that left me wishing for more first-rate singers around Giovanni. The ladies began well, but faded. Erin Wall, the Donna Anna, a fine actress and a pretty woman with a secure soprano capable of expressing anger without growing hard or unwieldy, was first rate in the opening scene and “Or sai che l’onore,” and only ran into trouble in “Non mi dir,” that treacherous pit for any soprano, where the runs and twirls demanded more effort than, at that point in the evening, she still had in her. Barbara Frittoli, as the madcap Donna Elvira, was rather too sensuous all evening for this repressed, indignant figure (this may be the director’s miscue), but she sang Act I beautifully, and the crepuscular trio in Act II was poignant. Her “Mi tradi” was a shock — not a note securely placed, pitch all over the place, whole phrases haywire: an ugly business. Isabel Bayrakdarian, a puzzling singer, seemed to twitter her way through Zerlina — during “La ci darem” I thought she was singing triplets where Mozart had not written any, but no, it was just an unusually wide and quick vibrato. This was okay in “La ci darem,” but rather undercut the simple sincerity that should mark her two arias sung to Masetto. Too — this is Keller’s fault, not the singer’s — surely a peasant girl with a chance to marry a nobleman will want to be alone with him in his “casinetta” and not rip his clothes off in the street, behavior that will surely render subsequent marriage unlikely. (Rational behavior is not the average opera director’s strong point, is it?)

GIOVANNI_Frittoli_and_Matte.gifBarbara Frittoli as Donna Elvira and Peter Mattei as Don Giovanni [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]

Samuel Ramey perforce presented a Leporello who has been serving the family for generations (he looks and sounds old enough to be Giovanni’s grandfather), rather than the companion in lurid high jinks we have had in this production from Ildebrando D’Arcangelo and René Pape. Leporello is a buffo figure, whose music does not call for many sustained notes, so Ramey got through it tidily enough — but the core of the voice being irredeemably shot, every sustained note he did attempt was unpleasant to hear. This was all the sadder in that an ideal Leporello sound, dark and thrilling, was coming from Joshua Bloom, the young and spirited Masetto, who should really be promoted to the other role as soon as may be. At least Ramey’s appearance as Leporello left the Commendatore, a role he has occasionally disgraced, to the competent Raymond Aceto.

Don Ottavio was sung by Pavol Breslik, a Slovakian tenor who had made his New York debut the previous week. He is young and attractive, and his voice too is attractive — but either it’s a size too small for the Met or he has not yet got the hang of projecting it there. There was a nice sheen to his tone, but an audible strain to his line all evening — he is not a Met natural, as Messers Mattei and Bloom certainly are.

Known Mozartean quantity Louis Langrée conducted a swift-moving, delicately flavored Don Giovanni, danceable when dancing was at hand, dark when darkness fell in the score, and at all times careful to give the singers room and pace. One wished he had a second-act cast worthy of his efforts.

My sympathies for Mattei and Langrée were all the greater in that I, too, was surrounded by idiots, hummers, snorers, moaners, whisperers, people explaining the plot to their dates, laughing excessively at the titles, and fiddling with their Blackberries.

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):