Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček#8217;s first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Detail from La Mort d'Alceste ou L'Héroïsme de l'amour conjugal by Pierre Peyron, 1785  (Musée du Louvre)
21 Jun 2009

Alceste by The Collegiate Chorale

The Collegiate Chorale (ably supported by the orchestra of the New York City Opera under George Manahan) chose Gluck’s Alceste, last heard in New York at the City Opera in 1982, for its annual spring concert opera — an excellent choice for a chorus eager to show its stuff.

Christoph Willibald Gluck: Alceste

Alceste: Deborah Voigt; Admète: Vinson Cole; Hercule: Richard Zeller; Apollon: Kyungmook Yum; L’Oracle: Ryan Kinsella; Evandre: Gregory Hostetler. Collegiate Chorale and New York City Opera Orchestra, conducted by George Manahan. At the Rose Theater.

 

That Gluck, halfway between the baroque revival and the Mozartean standards, is on a roll is not news. Orfeo is performed all over the place — it always has been — but in more and more headline-grabbing productions. Iphigénie en Tauride has become almost a repertory item — Susan Graham does it everywhere, and other singers are taking it up. I heard Iphigénie en Aulide in Rome last March (in a production borrowed from La Scala), Armide was recently staged in Berlin, and Alceste will be given in Santa Fe this summer with Christine Brewer. Paride ed Elena is a workout — essentially two singers in a long, aria-by-aria, seduction — so it’s not surprising that that remains a rarity.

In Alceste, Gluck uses the chorus in his stately way to set the scene in his three acts, creating a mood (somber in Act I, joyous in Act II, hellish in Act III) against which the principals create the drama by vivid contrast. In Act I, Alceste resists the helpless sorrow of the people of Thessaly, bewailing the imminent death of their king — she will take action, offering herself to death in her husband’s stead. In Act II, the rejoicing of the populace is again a setting for Alceste, when she admits to her husband what she has done, plunging everyone into mourning yet again. In Act III, the raucous Hercule breaks the spirit of the Underworld denizens and saves Alceste. The chorus is thus fundamental to the action by creating a musical backdrop against which the individual may become heroic. The mass and weight and careful diction of the Collegiate were impressive, though the many solo lines spread among them (Gluck’s idea: so we can take them for individual inhabitants of Thessaly in a national crisis and not just anonymous masses) did not sound of proper operatic caliber.

Alceste usually gets trundled out for some aging, rather placid grande dame — few characters ever lose their cool in Gluck, and Alceste’s emotions are grandly presented — seething beneath a surface of good manners. Technical control and subtle acting are cues for the part — Alceste does not have a huge orchestra to contend with, but she must express her despairs and her resolve with dignity and economy.

Deborah Voigt’s voice was once a technical marvel, though seldom expressive. For whatever reasons (and she was singing through a cold on this occasion), she is no longer fully in control of her voice. Phrases droop from pitch or blare forth undirected. Her famous aria at the conclusion of Act I, “Divinités du Styx,” was sung with full technical command but slight feeling; her quieter, more introspective aria at the opening of Act II was a rare, affecting moment when the singer was playing the part, not simply vocalizing. Voigt has been a fine Cassandre in Les Troyens, a role that would seem to offer a key to a fine Alceste, but on this occasion the music got away from her.

The singer who brought down the house was Vinson Cole, a veteran called in as Admète when Marcello Giordani had to cancel. I heard Cole sing Gluck twenty years ago, in the French version of Orphée, where he was suave, yearning, thrilling, far more effective in the part than the altos who usually sing it (in the Italian version). His Admète was a stunner: the voice so youthful (belying his white hair), so liquid, so lyrically expressive that the opera’s focus became his anguish rather than Alceste’s sacrifice. Richard Zeller made a good roustabout Hercule, Kyungmook Yim was an exciting Apollon (Admète’s friend in high places), and Ryan Kinsella effective as the oracle who decrees the substitution possible. Manahan, in the pit, was always dignified but never boring — the proper style for Gluck.

John Yohalem

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):