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

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017 - Winner Announced

Bampton Classical Opera is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2017 Young Singers’ Competition is mezzo-soprano Emma Stannard and the runner-up is tenor Wagner Moreira. The winner of the accompanists’ prize, a new category this year, is Keval Shah.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

03 May 2009

The End of Bewilderment — The New Florence-Valencia Production of “Gőtterdämmerung”

April 29th is Zubin Mehta’s birthday. As a gift to its most beloved musical director, Florence unveiled a new production of Götterdämmerung, a joint Ring Cycle venture with the Valencia Opera started two years ago.

Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung

Lance Ryan: Siegfried; Stefan Stoll: Gunther; Hans Peter König: Hagen; Franz-Joseph Kapellmann: Alberich; Jennifer Wilson: Brünnhilde; Bernadette Flaitz: Gutrune; Catherine Wyn-Rogers: Waltraute; Daniela Denschlag: Die erste Norn: Pilar Vázquez: Die zweite Norn; Eugenia Bethencourt: Die dritte Norn; Silvia Vázquez: Woglinde; Ann-Katrin Naidu: Wellgunde; Marina Prudenskaya: Flosshilde;Nicolò Ayroldi: Ein Mann; Fabio Bertella: Ein anderer Mann. Orchestra e Chorus of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Zubin Mehta: conductor. Carlus Padrissa: stage direction. La Fura dels Baus: stage production.

 

After a performance lasting six hours (including two intermissions), Zubin and the full cast had a 15 minutes standing ovation by an audience packing every one of the 2.500 seats of the huge Teatro Comunale. Then, 250 lucky guests moved to a Gala Birthday Dinner in Palazzo Tornabuoni; we returned to our hotel at around 3 a.m. After a run in Florence until May 9th, the production will be seen in Valencia in June at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, where in July a full fledge Ring Cycle is scheduled. According to present plans, the full Cycle will be back in Florence in 2013, the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth, for the inauguration of the new Park of the Music now being built near the main Railway Station.

The Florence- Valencia Götterdämmerung and the other parts of the Cycle (shown in June 2007 and in October 2008) have been greeted by the Italian press as “the very best Ring” of the first part of the XXI century. Before expressing such a strong opinion, I would want to see, at least, the two new productions of Götterdämmerung completing the Ring Cycles of Cologne-Venice (next June) and Aix-en-Provence - Salzburg (next July). No doubt, the Florence-Valencia Ring is a landmark not only for the interpretation of Wagner masterpiece but for the musical theatre as a whole. It is the end of bewilderment in a live musical theatre performance.

Three years ago when the project was presented, the whole idea seemed daring and a bit foolish: to entrust the production of the Ring to the Catalan avant-garde group La Fura dels Baus ; in its previous operating experience (e.g. Debussy’s Le Marthyre de Saint Sebastien ) La Fura has drastically cut the score and introduced fully naked mimes and rather explicit stage movements. It appears (but is could be a hearsay) that at the initial contact, La Fura expressed the intention to compact in two-three hour the nearly 15 hour score, horrifying Maestro Mehta who just in Florence had conducted in 1979-81 a memorable Ring. Gradually Carlus Pedrissa (the stage director) and La Fura developed an entirely new approach to the Cycle. This approach is in full bloom in Götterdämmerung. There are not any socio-political undertones, but a delicate balance between science fiction and poetry. Science fiction is modern XXI century way to represent the myth: all possible special effects are employed (3D movie projections on ten screens , elaborate stage machinery, flying objects, suspended swimming pools for the Rhinemaiden, complex lightings, the audience participation in Siegfried’s funeral march). And the myth? It does not revolve around the end of capitalistic industrial world and the promise of a better new age, but it is based upon the final verses of “Siegfried’sTod”, the initial text of what three decades later, became the Ring. These verses were never put to music in Götterdämmerung (indeed deleted from the final text - in nearly 30 year the young red hot revolutionary Richard Wagner had became a bourgeois himself); in short, they state that after the fall of the Gods, in a world without Lord, there will be only Love”. A lay pantheistic simple philosophy.

139-345.gif

If the set and direction are the end of bewilderment, the reviewer is bewildered by the harmony between the stage, the pit and the voices. La Fura has been an earnest and successful effort to follow each and every note of the score.

As the triumph of love is the main theme of this Götterdämmerung, love itself is being rhapsodized in all possible combinations: conjugal love in the “day break”, wild sex (nearly a rape with coitus interruptus) in Siegfried’s approach to a sensual , and sex starving Gutrune, a full orgy in Brünnhilde’s rock, teasing petting in the scene of Siegfried with the Rhinemaden , lust for unsatisfied love by Günther, Hagen and Alberich . Again as love is at the center of Götterdämmerung as well as of the Ring , Mehta has a lyric approach to the score , quite different from that (very dramatic) of the Florence 1979-81 Ring. The Maggio Musicale Orchestra and Chorus responded in an excellent manner.

139-516.gifAlso, both Mehta and La Fura have, at their disposal, a better cast of singers and actors than that of the 1979-81 when Jean Cox as Siegfried was already way over bend. Lance Ryan is well known to the American and German audience, but he has seldom sung in Italy. Notably, he has never shown his athletic qualities. In this Götterdämmerung, as soon as he is welcome to dinner in the Gibichung royal hall, the Canadian tenor, as any good red blooded but well mannered North American, takes off his dirty forest wilderness clothes to shower and put on a proper attire: his high “Cs” and legatos are beautiful under the shower and when , due to Hagen’s potion, tries to do it with Gutrune on the dinner table and in front of his hosts. He can even sing hanging by his feet in the confrontation with in Brünnhilde in the second act. And he can shoot an acute after another. Not a full heldentenor, but a very good tenor with a crystal clear timbre.

Brünnhilde is another North American , Jennifer Wilson, recently applauded as Isolde in Los Angeles. She is as overweight as expected by a Walkyrie and, albeit very good with the high tonalities, she has some difficulties in descending to low pitched tones. She masters the role technically by molding the use of her voice to fully explode in the final holocaust scene.

139-722.gif

The Ghichung Kingdom is a modern Metropolis for rather vulgar nouveaux riches. In the smoke stocks of a declining industrial society, a ticker - similar to those of Cnbc or any other all news TV financial channels - reports the stock exchange news. Gutrune is a sexy lyric soprano (Bernardette Flaitz), Günther a well round baritone (Stefan Stoll), Hagen a deep basso (Hans Peter Köning), Alberich a less deep basso bordering on a baritone voice (Franz-Joseph Kapellman). Of all the other singers, a special mention is needed for Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Waltraute), the only semi-Divinity in this very human Gesmtkunswerk (total theater) centered on love.

Giuseppe Pennisi

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):