Recently in Reviews
For its annual visit to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Glyndebourne brought its new production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, an opera which premiered 200 years ago.
‘A caprice written with the point of a needle’: so Berlioz described his opera Béatrice and Bénédict, which pares down Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to its comic quintessence, shorn of the sub-plots, destroyed reputations and near-bloodshed of Shakespeare’s original.
‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’ It is, perhaps, a line quoted too often; yet, even though it may not have been entirely accurate on this occasion, it came to my mind. Its accuracy might be questioned in several respects.
Central City Opera celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Ballad of Baby Doe with a hip, canny, multi-faceted new production.
Someone forgot to tell Central City Opera that it would be difficult to fit Puccini’s (usually) architecturally large Tosca on their small stage.
A cast worthy of Bayreuth made for an unforgettable Wagnerian experience at
the Sommer Festspiele in Baden-Baden.
Loving attention to the highest quality was everywhere evident in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Manon.
Des Moines Metro Opera had (almost) all the laughs in the right places, and certainly had all the right singers in these meaty roles to make for an enjoyable outing with Verdi’s masterpiece
With the thermometers reaching boiling point, there’s no doubt that summer has finally arrived in London. But, the sun seems to have been shining over the large marquee in Holland Park all summer.
J.S. Bach’s cerebral Art of the Fugue in Aix, Verdi’s massive Requiem in Orange, Ibn al-Muqaffa’ ‘s fable of the camel, jackal, wolf and crow, Sophocles’ blind Oedipus Rex and the Bible’s triumphant Psalm No. 150 in Aix.
The champagne corks popped at the close of this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House, with Prince Orlofsky’s celebratory toast forming a fitting conclusion to some superb singing.
Bryn Terfel is making a habit of performing Russian patriarchs at the Proms.
What happens when just everything about an operatic performance goes joyously right?
Two years ago, the well-established Des Moines Metro Opera experimented with a 2nd Stages program, with performances programmed outside of their home stage at Simpson College.
What to make of the unannounced decision to open this concert with the Marseillaise? I am sure it was well intended, and perhaps should leave it at that.
In a fairy-tale, it can sometimes feel as if one is living a dream but on the verge of being awoken to a shock. Such is life in these dark and uncertain days.
The tense, three hour knock-down-drag-out seduction of Beauty by Pleasure consumed our souls in this triumphal evening. Forget Time and Disillusion as destructors, they were the very constructors of the beauty and pleasure found in this miniature oratorio.
Three parallel universes (before losing count) — the ephemeral Debussy/Maeterlinck masterpiece, the Debussy symphonic tone poem, and the twisted intricacies of a moldy, parochially English country estate.
This, alas, was where I had to sign off. A weekend conference on Parsifal (including, on the Saturday, a showing of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Parsifal film) mean that I missed Götterdämmerung, skipping straight to the sequel.
The culmination of Opera North’s “Ring for Everyone”, this Götterdämmerung showed the power of the condensed movement so necessary in a staged performance - each gesture of each character was perfectly judged - as well as the visceral power of having Wagner’s huge orchestra on stage as opposed to the pit.
26 May 2009
Zeffirelli’s New “Pagliacci” Without “Cav” But With Motorbikes
The new Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Ruggero Leoncavallo “Pagliacci” reached the Teatro dell’Opera di Rome on May 19 : I will be on stage in the Italian capital every night until May 27th . Then, it will continue a worldwide tour: its debut was in Florence in the 2008 Fall. It has already visited Moscow and Athens. It is rumored to reach the MET next seasons.
Leoncavallo never attained anything else remotely approaching the success of “Pagliacci”, though he wrote a dozen of other operas and operettas. “Pagliacci” is normally plaid in a double bill with Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana”, as they are both short and kindred in spirit. Artistically, the combination represents the apex of the Italian “veristic” movement; commercially the double bill constitutes a salable “ham and eggs” staple for many an opera house. The “Pagliacci”’s Prologue is considered the very “manifesto” of “verismo” aesthetics It is known that Mascagni never appreciated the idea of the double bill. Zeffirelli broadly agrees with him. Albeit he has staged “Cav” and “Pag” in several theatres , including the “Met”, and also directed a movie with the two operas, most recently he has produced different versions of “Pagliacci” either alone or with a ballet (to fill the evening; “Pagliacci” lasts 70 minutes). In the 1980s, for instance, in a La Scala production, Zeffirelli placed the plot during Italian fascism and completed the performance with the Nino Rota ballet “La Strada” (after Federico Fellini’s movie). In the 1990s, in Rome “Pag” was a stand-alone show; the plot was placed under a highway bridge or by-pass in Southern Italy. In this new production, “Pagliacci” is a blighted Neapolitan suburbs where motorbikes (“lambrettas”, but also high speed Japanese motos) cross the stage, prostitutes of all races sell their ware, drug pushers are in the crowd of nearly 200 (double chorus, children chorus, extras).
The show is grand and also elegant and with Zeffirelli’s usual care for details. There is a special feature in the staging : the first act is quasi-neorealistic (inspired by Rossellini and De Sica movies of the 1940s); the second act is fellinian (viz in an atmosphere of Fellini’s movies). A real touch of genius which shows how Leoncavallo, although assertive “verista”, was approaching visionary expressionistic lands.
There a very close entente with the musical director Gianluigi Gelmetti whose wand demonstrate how brilliant is the score (in spite of what some reviewers starte); the use of motif’s point to Wagner’s influence (also present in the Canio’s role), the melodies are subtle and well-judged, the orchestra is used with elegance and the choruses (in Rome under the guidance of Andrea Giorgi) well-polished. The Prologue is a real stroke of genius. Gelmetti underscored the rhythmic élan of the main theme whilst Zeffirelli had the curtain abruptly torn aside to carry the audience into the kaleidoscopic world of the strolling players. The perfect “unison” between director and conductor adds value to the agonizing sorrow when Canio (Stuart Neill) takes on the second main them , his desperate “Ridi, Pagliacci”. Finally, the Colombin play is performed as it should be : a self-contained musical jewel with dance-like style including Nedda-Colombina (Myrtà Papatanasiu) minuet, Taddeo (Seng-Yyun Ko) light hearted waltz tune and duet where the comic parody has as undertone the dramatic thematic accompanied from the same scene in the first act and the underlying seriousness is clearly suggested.
The orchestra responded very well to the challenge of giving a demonstration that “Pagliacci” is not a second class score for cheap summer performances by travelling companies moving from resort to resort but a XX century masterpiece. Stuart Neill is big generous American tenor with the voice to fill the huge Teatro dell’Opera; his timbre is very clear and his acting better suited to Canio than to La Scala recent “Don Carlo” Myrtà Papatanasiu is a good soprano with a very nice voice emission but lacks the volume required by the Teatro dell’Opera. Effectuive Seng-Yyun Ko and the other.
The audience was thrilled as shown by the many curtain calls