Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.

Puccini Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera House, London

Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..

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):