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

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

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):