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

A sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Elizabeth Llewellyn: Investec Opera Holland Park stages Puccini's La Rondine

It’s six or so years ago since soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn appeared as an exciting and highly acclaimed new voice on the UK operatic stage, with critics praising her ‘ravishing account’ (The Stage) of Mozart’s Countess in Investec Opera Holland Park’s 2011 Le nozze di Figaro in which ‘Porgi, amor’ was a ‘highlight of the evening’.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

Dougie Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera: in conversation

One year ago, tens of millions of Britons voted for isolation rather than for cooperation, but Douglas (Dougie) Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera, is an energetic one-man counterforce with a dynamic conviction that art and culture are strengthened by participation and collaboration; values which, alongside excellence and a spirit of adventure, have seen Garsington Opera acquire increasing renown and esteem on the international stage during his tenure, since 2012.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé wins the 2017 Guildhall School Gold Medal

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama has announced baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé as the winner of this year’s Gold Medal, the School’s most prestigious prize for outstanding soloists. The prize is awarded to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years and this year was the turn of the singers.

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

Glyndebourne Festival 2018 programme announced

The UK’s first professional production of Samuel Barber’s Pulitzer prize-winning opera Vanessa takes place at Glyndebourne Festival 2018. One of the great American operas, Vanessa was hailed as a triumph at its premiere in 1958 but quickly fell out of the repertoire and has only been staged intermittently since.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Scott Hendricks in the title role of Verdi's Rigoletto [Photo by Felix Sanchez courtesy of Houston Grand Opera]
19 Apr 2009

Shagimuratova steals show in HGO’s Rigoletto

On a stormy evening in Houston (both in and outside of the house), Houston Grand Opera’s opening night production of Verdi’s Rigoletto went off with a thunderous bang.

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Scott Hendricks: Rigoletto; Eric Cutler: Duke of Mantua: Albina Shagimuratova: Gilda; Andrea Silvestrelli: Sparafucile; Bradley Garvin: Monterone; Maria Markina: Maddalena; Jamie Barton: Giovanna; Adam Cioffari: Count Ceprano; Octavio Moreno: Marullo; Faith Sherman: Countess Ceprano. Houston Grand Opera Chorus and Orchestra. Patrick Summers, conductor. Lindy Hume, director.

Above: Scott Hendricks in the title role of Verdi's Rigoletto

All photos by Felix Sanchez courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

 

The cast boasted Eric Cutler in his role debut as the Duke, Texan Scott Hendricks as Rigoletto, and Houston favorite Andrea Silvestrelli as Sparafucile. While the men acquitted themselves well, none compared to the performance given by Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova as Gilda.

Houston patrons know Shagimuratova well, having heard her in previous seasons when she was a member of the company’s young artist program. Her Gilda, however, gave them a chance to see the soprano after her development—and what a development it was. From the first note of her duet with Hendricks, Shagimuratova sent a clear, full lyric voice into the house that spun line after line of legato with remarkable ease. Her “Caro nome”—the best I’ve ever heard—employed perfectly executed trills and just the right amount of ornamentation. Shagimuratova’s clarity was astounding in both the act three quartet and the storm trio, projecting easily over both the orchestra and the strong voices of her colleagues. Her acting was spot on, and she showed more sensitivity to her role than any of the other characters. Albina Shagimuratova’s Gilda was one to remember.

Eric Cutler, in his role debut, gave a solid assumption of the licentious Duke of Mantua. His voice remained the light instrument it was when he first burst onto the international scene, but he managed to add enough heft to his sound to get past the heavier orchestrated sections of Verdi’s score. Cutler seemed most comfortable in the lyrical sections, showing off a strong top in his act one duet with Gilda and later giving a seamless rendition of “Parmi veder le lagrime.” His Duke isn’t perfect yet; the tenor forgot at least two lines and needs to polish up his phrasing, but with time the role could prove strong for him.

Texan Scott Hendricks gave a mixed performance as Rigoletto. The San Antonio native has the range, heft, and legato for the role, but on opening night his vocal clarity too often gave way to an over darkened, muddy sound. His “Cortigiani” showed great pathos, but that was it—you got the feeling from Hendricks’ portrayal that he was simply imposing a romantic portrayal (from other roles in his repertoire, like Silvio or di Luna) on a father-daughter relationship. It didn’t always work, and was sometimes awkward. More work vocally and theatrically could greatly improve his portrayal.

Italian bass Andrea Silvestrelli gave his usual effortlessly powerful performance. In a production that focused on shadows, fog, and darkness, Silvestrelli bounded in and out of sight, showing up at just the right times and portraying the assassin with just enough dark humor. The Italian’s powerful bass boomed throughout the house to great effect but with careful attention not to overpower his colleagues.

Octavio_Moreno_Ericz_Cutler.gifOctavio Moreno (Marullo) and Eric Cutler (Duke of Mantua)

Silvestrelli’s on-stage sister, Russian mezzo Maria Markina, gave a sexually charged depiction of Maddalena. Markina, a member of HGO’s young artist program, had incredible chemistry with Cutler—the act three quartet was one of the highlights of the night, with Cutler and Markina’s interaction bordering on soft porn while Shagimuratova’s Gilda looked on. Markina’s warm voice showed ample size for the Brown Theater; look for her to grow into larger roles with the company over the next few years. Of the supporting roles, Bradley Garvin as Monterone sang particularly well, projecting a large, ringing bass-baritone into the house in the curse scene.

The subtle production focused mainly on colorful backgrounds and timely scene changes. Several period paintings adorned the backdrops while the sets for acts one and two were sparse. The final act brought out a framed set for Sparafucile’s house which served the quartet action well. Director Lindy Hume could have worked with Hendricks a little more on his acting, which wasn’t so much non-existent as it was misguided and confusing at times. Hume provided some clever touches but mostly let the action carry on in a traditional way. Patrick Summers’ conducting was lethargic in the first act but came to life afterwards.

Scott_Hendricks_Albina_Shag.gifScott Hendricks (Rigoletto) and Albina Shagimuratova (Gilda)

If you’re wondering how good a Rigoletto can be without a perfect baritone, you need look no further than HGO’s production—with a soprano as Gilda who gave one of the most complete performances in recent HGO history combined with a solid supporting cast, the company has a sure hit on its hands.

Paul Wooley

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):