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

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Royal Symphony

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

Soldier Songs in San Diego

David Little composed his one-man opera, Soldier Songs, ten years ago and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas of New Haven, Connecticut, premiered it in 2011. At San Diego Opera, the fifty-five minute musical presentation and the “Talk Back” that followed it were part of the Shiley dētour Series which is held in the company’s smaller venue, the historic Balboa Theatre.

Barber of Seville [Hollywood Style] in Los Angeles

On Saturday evening November 12, 2016, Pacific Opera Project presented Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville in an updated version that placed the action in Hollywood. It was sung in the original Italian but the translation seen as supertitles was specially written to match the characters’ Hollywood identities.

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

A Butterfly for the ages in a Butterfly marred by casting ineptness and lugubrious conducting.

Kiss Me, Kate: Welsh National Opera at the Birmingham Hippodrome

In 1964, 400 years after the birth of the Bard, the writer Anthony Burgess saw Cole Porter’s musical comedy Kiss Me, Kate, a romping variation on The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare’s comedy, Burgess said, had a ‘good playhouse reek about it’, adding ‘the Bard might be regarded as closer to Cole Porter and Broadway razzmatazz’ than to the scholars who were ‘picking him raw’.

Beat Furrer FAMA - Hörtheater reaches London

Beat Furrer's FAMA came to London at last, with the London Sinfonietta. The piece was hailed as "a miracle" at its premiere at Donaueschingen in 2005 by Die Zeit: State of the Art New Music, recognized by mainstream media, which proves that there is a market for contemporary music lies with lively audiences

Franz Schreker : Die Gezeichneten (Les Stigmatizés). Lyon

Franz Schreker Die Gezeichneten from the Opéra de Lyon last year, now on arte.tv and Opera Platform. The translation, "The stigmatized", doesn't convey the impact of the original title, which is closer to"The Cursed".

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):