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

Cast announced for Bampton Classical Opera's 2017 production of Salieri's The School of Jealousy

Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Handel's Partenope: surrealism and sensuality at English National Opera

Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a lesson in Patience

A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.

Tara Erraught: mezzo and clarinet in partnership at the Wigmore Hall

Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.

Opera Across the Waves

This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful producers of opera.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.

A Winter's Tale: a world premiere at English National Opera

The first production of Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera, based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is clearly a major event in English National Opera’s somewhat trimmed-down season. Wigglesworth, who serves also as conductor and librettist, professes to have been obsessed with the play for more than twenty years, and one can see why The Winter’s Tale, with its theatrical ‘set-pieces’ - the oracle scene, the tempest, the miracle of a moving statue - and its grandiose emotions, dominated as the play is by Leontes’ obsessively articulated, over-intellectualized jealousy, would invite operatic adaptation.

Wexford Festival Opera announces details of 2017 Festival

Today, Wexford Festival Opera announced the programme and principal casting details for the forthcoming 2017 festival. Now in its 66th year, this internationally renowned festival will run over an extended 18-day period, from Thursday, 19 October to Sunday, 5 November.

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Mary Queen of Scots
29 Apr 2009

Donizetti’s “Maria Stuarda” at La Fenice — Two Women in a Labyrinth

From the word “go”, the audience feels that this “Maria Stuarda” is quite different from the standard fare offered by Italian theatres.

Gaetano Donizetti: Maria Stuarda

Elisabetta: Sonia Ganassi; Maria Stuarda: Fiorenza Cedolins; Roberto, Earl of Leicester: José Bros; Giorgio Talbot: Mirco Palazzi, Federico Sacchi (26, 29/4, 2/5); Lord Guglielmo: Cecil Marco Caria; Anna Kennedy: Pervin Chakar. Fabrizio Maria Carminati, conductor. Denis Krief, stage direction, sets and costumes. Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro La Fenice. Chorus Master Claudio Marino Moretti.

Above: Mary Queen of Scots

 

There are no cardboard Elizabethan “magnificent” halls and throne rooms; neither Piranesi’s grand jails in a bleak London Tower in the “finale”; neither a thick forest for the Royal hunt in the last scene of the first part. On the stage there is only a maze — indeed a labyrinth in granite where a fight is being fought by two tormented women in love for the same man — and also starving for the crown of Britain. The costumes have nothing to do with the XVI century; they are quite elegant but in a style closer to the high fashion of the 1950s (or slightly earlier) than to those of the historical period when the contest of the two Queens for the British crown actually took place. The plot develops today — somewhere in some country — but could have taken place even a few years ago or tomorrow. It is a perennial struggle in a-temporal setting and costumes.

A few conservative critics raised their eyebrows, but on April 24th — the opening night of this new production- La Fenice audience, not necessarily the cream of most advanced experimentalism in stage direction, loved it: the performance received a standing ovation. The just unveiled new production by Denis Krief , an Italian-based French-Tunisian director, is especially important because it is a joint effort with other major Opera Houses — Teatro Verdi in Trieste, San Carlo in Naples, Massimo in Palermo — where it will be shown starting next Fall. Krief is French-Tunisian but raised , as a stage Director, in Italy. However, the set, costumes and direction reflect the best experience of modern German opera production: Krief himself is a frequent guest director in the Federal Republic where he recently produced a successful “Ring”.

“Maria Stuarda” is the most frequently performed opera of the Donizetti’s trilogy about the Tudor Queens. The other two are “Anna Bolena” and “Roberto Devereux”. To be meticulous, the reviewer should include also “Elisabetta al Castello di Keniworth”, seldom seen on a stage and a “semi-seria opera” with a happy ending, quite distant from the tragedy atmosphere of the other three. In Anders Wiklund’s critical edition of the score, “Maria Stuarda” is compact (about two hours of music as compared to nearly three of “Anna Bolena” and “Roberto Devereux) and emphasizes the confrontation between the two Queens over the man each of them is longing for rather than the historical power struggle. As a matter of fact, Schiller’s play (the basis for the libretto) takes little notice of historical facts: Mary was 45 when she died (after 8 years in prison) and Elisabeth 53 (and had never been a beauty). Neither the Earl of Leicester appears to have been such a good looking fellow to cause such a bloody fight by two Queens. Wiklund’s edition emphasizes the sentimental and erotic tension rather than the politics surrounding it — key ingredient of the manipulated versions seen both until the mid-XIX century (when “Maria Stuarda” disappeared from the stages of the world) and from 1958 (revival in Bergamo) to the 1990s (a period when it was a war horse of Beverly Sills, Leyla Gencer, Edita Gruberova, Monsterrat Caballé and Joan Sutherland). This is, in my view, a justification for the labyrinth: it was a key element both in many a Shakespeare’s plays (as well as of gardening in that period) and quite a few Schiller’s plays.

Maria-Stuarda-1.gif

As in many Donizetti’s opera, orchestration is rather simple; it is meant to support vocal acrobatics by the main singers. Fabrizio Maria Carminati is well aware of it and his conducting is diligent and effective. The attention is to the two protagonist. Elisabeth must be a “mezzo spinto” with an excellent flare for ascending to acute; Sonia Ganassi is veteran of the role (there are some excellent recording) and on April 24 gave an extraordinary performance — both vocally and dramatically- especially if account is taken that, at the age of 43, Ms. Ganassi is five month pregnant of her first child. Maria is a “soprano assoluto” with coloratura arias sliding into declamation and vice versa. For Fiorenza Cedolins April 24 was the night of the debut of in the role. There was some trepidation that she would not have been able to cope with the highly difficult score; as a matter of fact, in her career she had started with coloratura but had then gone to “verismo” (Tosca, Butterfly), not the most effective way to prepare oneself sing a “soprano assoluto” with coloratura , as required by “Maria Stuarda”: some imperfection in the first part but standing ovation in the jail-confession scene of the second part and in the finale. José Bros has sang Leicester may times. Normally this good tenor with a high texture is good vocally but on the stage is a sexy as an umbrella. Miraculously, Krief makes him very sensual. With both Queens.

Giuseppe Pennisi

Maria-Stuarda-3.gif

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):