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

Written on Skin: the Melos Sinfonia take George Benjamin's opera to St Petersburg

As I approach St Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, musical sounds which are at once strange and sensuous surf the air. Inside I find seventy or so instrumentalists and singers nestled somewhat crowdedly between the pillars of the nave, rehearsing George Benjamin’s much praised 2012 opera, Written on Skin.

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Bampton Classical Opera’s third Young Singers’ Competition takes place this autumn, culminating in a public final at Holywell Music Room, Oxford on November 19. 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.

Peter Kellner announced as winner of 2018 Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera Voice Fellowship

Independent Opera (IO) was very present at the Wigmore Hall last week. On Thursday 5 October, IO announced 26 year old Slovakian bass Peter Kellner as the winner of the 2018 Wigmore Hall/IO Voice Fellowship, a two-year award of £10,000 plus professional mentoring from IO and the Wigmore Hall. A graduate of the Konzervatórium Košice Timonova and the Mozarteum University Salzburg, Peter is currently a member of Oper Graz in Austria where later this season he will sing the title role of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Colline in Puccini’s La bohème.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

‘Never was such advertisement for a film!’: Thomas Kemp and the OAE present a film of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at the Oxford Lieder Festival

Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier was premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 26th January 1911. Almost fifteen years to the day, on 10th January 1926, the theatre hosted another Rosenkavalier ‘premiere’, with the screening of a silent film version of the opera, directed by Robert Wiene - best known for his expressionistic masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The two-act scenario had been devised by Hugo von Hoffmansthal and the screening was accompanied by a symphony orchestra which Strauss himself conducted.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Eva-Maria Westbroek and Joseph Kaiser [Photo by W. Hoesl courtesy of the Bavarian State Opera]
22 Apr 2009

Jenůfa at the Bavarian State Opera

The Bavarian State Opera’s new production of Leos Janacek’s Jenufa is a feather in the cap of intendant Nikolaus Bachler.

Leoš Janáček: Jenůfa

Die alte Buryja: Helga Dernesch; Laca Klemen: Stefan Margita; Stewa Buryja: Joseph Kaiser; Die Küsterin Buryja: Deborah Polaski; Jenufa: Eva-Maria Westbroek; Altgesell: Christian Rieger; Dorfrichter: Christoph Stephinger; Frau des Dorfrichters: Heike Grötzinger; Karolka: Elena Tsallagova; Eine Magd: Anaïk Morel; Barena: Tara Erraught; Jano: Laura Nicorescu; 1. Stimme: Mirela Bunoaica; 2. Stimme: Todd Boyce. Musikalische Leitung: Kirill Petrenko. Inszenierung: Barbara Frey. Bühne: Bettina Meyer.

Above: Eva-Maria Westbroek and Joseph Kaiser

All photos by W. Hoesl courtesy of the Bavarian State Opera

 

It opened April 8 at Munich’s Nationaltheater as part of his second season as director. His program presents a mix of both traditional productions and concept-driven, edgy regietheater repertory. But “traditional” does not mean “old-school.”

Formerly director of Vienna’s famed Bergtheater, Bachler was aware of stage director Barbara Frey’s work and his invitation for her to stage Jenufa, her first opera, was a gamble that paid off. She took the story of lost love and infanticide to heart and her taut reading makes the story both searing drama and epic tragedy.

Based on a story, Jeji Pastorkyuna (Her Stepdaughter), by Gabriellla Preissova, it is a relatively early opera by Janacek but marks him emphatically as a master of musical drama and is now performed regularly on the world’s major opera stages. It is the story of a young girl, who gives her name to the opera, and her love affair with the town dandy, Steva. Pregnant with his child, she bears the child in secret while he sows his oats and avoids entanglements. Her high-strung, widowed step-mother, Kostenicka, increasingly unhinged, drowns the baby, which is later discovered by the townspeople. Jenufa is immediately accused but Kostenicka confesses and Jenufa goes through with her marriage to the hapless but devoted Laca.

The setting, an open house on stakes, was designed by Bettina Meyer, and served to concentrate the tension of this dangerously dysfunctional family drama. The crowds who appear outside with the discovery of the body of the love child in the lake, scramble over the forbidding rocks in this desolate landscape. Staging, costumes and lighting all contribute to the sense of desolation which permeates this drama. Slightly updated - wind turbine towers are in the background and a cheap TV is on the table - the small town claustrophobia is easily understood by contemporary audiences.

Bachler was generous with the assembled voices to bring this off. The blazing work of soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek has generated much press recently and, in the title role, her desperate love for a feckless young man, Steva, could not be more heart-wrenching. Gifted with one of the most passionate and powerful voices of today, her anguish was palpable.

There was a sure chemistry between her and her step-sister, Kostenicka, played to perfection by the veteran soprano Deborah Polaski. Watching these two professionals relate was the high-point of the evening. Canadian Joseph Kaiser, with a clear, expressive tenor, was convincing as young Steva. Tenor Stefan Margita, has made his disturbing, complex reading of Laca a simply indispensable part of this opera. It was a quartet of talent that created an intensity rarely experienced on the opera stage. The secondary characters, all excellent, including opera legend Helga Dernesch, now 70, as the grandmother. Sometimes wayward of tone, her character was theatrically on target.

Jenufa_Munich01.gifEva-Maria Westbroek and Deborah Polaski

It was a fine night also for Kirill Petrenko who lead the opera orchestra and chorus with a vivid sense of musical expression. His career is taking off in the last few years with major appearances in the pit at New York, Paris, Vienna and London and his galvanizing leadership contributed to the seamless night of high-voltage music making.

The opera is playing now at the Bavarian State Opera’s National Theater through April 27 and will be seen again as part of the Munich Opera Festival on July 9. Information, with pages in English, is at http://www.bayerische.staatsoper.de/.

Frank Cadenhead

Jenufa_Munich03.gifScene from Jenůfa

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):