Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Charles Gounod: Roméo et Juliette
26 Apr 2009

Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at Salzburg, 2008

In 2008 the Salzburg Festival intended to bring back the two stars of their triumphant 2005 La Traviata, Rolando Villazón and Anna Netrebko, for Gounod's Roméo et Juliette.

Charles Gounod: Roméo et Juliette

Nino Machaidze; Rolando Villazón; Mikhail Petrenko: Russell Braun; Falk Struckmann. Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor. Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg.

Deutsche Grammophon 073 4518 [2DVDs]

$34.99  Click to buy

At one time, it might have seemed that Villazón would be the artist to drop out of the production, as in late 2007 he was beset with problems, apparently both personal and vocal, that led him to take an extended hiatus. While he returned to performing, Netrebko and partner Erwin Schrott decided to collaborate on a different production, a child, and the pregnant soprano cancelled her summer Salzburg performance. Who would — or could — replace her?

Nino Machaidze took on the assignment, and with the appearance of that Roméo et Juliette on DVD, the then-25 year old Georgian soprano establishes herself as a rising star. Initially a slight resemblance to Netrebko, both facially and in the dusky beauty of her instrument, may hinder an appreciation of the effectiveness of Machiadze’s performance. But just as Juliet develops from a flighty, free-spirited young girl to a serious, passionate young woman, Machiadze’s appeal grows. She never strives for either showy vocal or histrionic display — unlike her co-star — and her subtle approach draws in the viewer. She has adequate skills for her opening number with its coloratura aspects, and the fullness of voice for the role’s highlight, Juliet’s drinking of the potion for inducing suspended animation. Some may want a more exuberant and tragic Juliet, but for many Machiadze’s steadier approach will win their hearts more honestly.

Other than some passing hoarseness, Villazón shows few signs of his recent troubles vocally. He is a good enough actor that the manic edge he brings to his Romeo may be part of his portrayal, but at times some darkness around the eyes suggests he had not, at that stage, fully recovered his previous confidence. As expected, Salzburg provides an exemplary supporting cast, with Mikhail Petrenko’s relatively youthful Friar Laurence, Falk Struckmann’s ponderous Capulet, and an excellent Cora Burggraaf in what amounts to a cameo aria for Romeo’s page, Stéphano.

Bartlett Sher’s staging manages to be both handsome, energetic, and yet unaffecting. The rich costumes (by Catherine Zuber) and the stark, atmospheric set design (by Michael Yeargan) place the action in France, possibly mid-18th century. Sher employs the usual arsenal of contemporary stagecraft, with ample sex and violence (including a pantomime of a brutal rape during the prelude), singer/performers emerging from the audience, and detailed stage action that seems to give everyone some bit of business to do. Sher delineates characters skillfully, and the stage pictures maintain visual interest. Then why does it feel as if some spark went unstruck? The problem could lie in the material: despite a frequently gorgeous score, Gounod’s Shakespeare adaptation feels uninspired and unimaginative, sticking closely to the original (other than than the pointless expansion of the page character and the regrettable diminution of the Nurse).

Gounod’s music gets a taut, rhythmically propulsive reading from conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Mozartuem Orchester Salzburg. It’s unfortunate that the rather silly bonus features (mostly travelogue) don’t allow for some insight into how the conductor worked with the musicians and singers to produce such a fine performance.

Make no mistake, this DVD entertains, but it does not have anything like the impact of that 2005 Traviata, and wouldn’t have, it seems safe to say, even if Netrebko had not cancelled. View it to obtain an introduction to Nino Machiadze, an appealing new soprano.

Chris Mullins

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):