Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

The 2019 Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

This year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance offered a veritable operatic smörgåsbord, presenting sizable excerpts from operas ranging from Gluck to Saint-Saëns, from Mozart to Debussy, by way of some Italian masterpieces, courtesy of Rossini and Verdi.

Cilea's L'arlesiana at Opera Holland Park

In a rank order of suicidal depressives, Federico - the Provençal peasant besotted with ‘the woman from Arles’, L’arlesiana, who yearns to break free from his mother’s claustrophobic grasp, who seeks solace from betrayal and disillusionment in the arms of a patient childhood sweetheart, but who is ultimately broken by deluded dreams and unrequited passion - would surely give many a Thomas Hardy protagonist a run for their money.

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Ron Howard’s latest music documentary after The Beatles: Eight Days a Week and Made in America is a poignant tribute that allows viewers into key moments of Pavarotti’s career – but lacks a deeper, more well-rounded view of the artist.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

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):