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

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

Glyndebourne Opera Cup 2018: semi-finalists announced

The semi-finalists for the first Glyndebourne Opera Cup have been announced. Following a worldwide search that attracted nearly 200 entries, and preliminary rounds in Berlin, London and Philadelphia, 23 singers aged 21-28 have been chosen to compete in the semi-final at Glyndebourne on 22 March.

ENO announces Studio Live casts and three new Harewood Artists

English National Opera (ENO) has announced the casts for Acis and Galatea and Paul Bunyan, 2018’s two ENO Studio Live productions. ENO Studio Live forms part of ENO Outside which takes ENO’s work to arts-engaged audiences that may not have considered opera before, presenting the immense power of opera in more intimate studio and theatre environments.

Handel in London: 2018 London Handel Festival

The 2018 London Handel Festival explores Handel’s relationship with the city. Running from 17 March to 16 April 2018, the Festival offers four weeks of concerts, talks, walks & film screenings explore masterpieces by Handel, from semi-staged operas to grand oratorio and lunchtime recitals.

Dartington International Summer School & Festival: 70th anniversary programme

Internationally-renowned Dartington Summer School & Festival has released the course programme for its 70th Anniversary Summer School and Festival, curated by the pianist Joanna MacGregor, that will run from 28th July to 25th of August 2018.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.

Riveting Maria de San Diego

As part of its continuing, adventurous “Detour” series, San Diego Opera mounted a deliciously moody, proudly pulsating, wholly evocative presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s “nuevo tango” opera, Maria de Buenos Aires.

La Walkyrie in Toulouse

The Nicolas Joel 1999 production of Die Walküre seen just now in Toulouse well upholds the Airbus city’s fame as Bayreuth-su-Garonne (the river that passes through this quite beautiful, rich city).

Barrie Kosky's Carmen at Covent Garden

Carmen is dead. Long live Carmen. In a sense, both Bizet’s opera and his gypsy diva have been ‘done to death’, but in this new production at the ROH (first seen at Frankfurt in 2016) Barrie Kosky attempts to find ways to breathe new life into the show and resurrect, quite literally, the eponymous temptress.

Candide at Arizona Opera

On Friday February 2, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Although all the music was Bernstein’s, the text was written and re-written by numerous authors including Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, as well as the composer.

Satyagraha at English National Opera

The second of Philip Glass’s so-called 'profile' operas, Satyagraha is magnificent in ENO’s acclaimed staging, with a largely new cast and conductor bringing something very special to this seminal work.

Mahler Symphony no 8—Harding, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

From the Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, a very interesting Mahler Symphony no 8 with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The title "Symphony of a Thousand" was dreamed up by promoters trying to sell tickets, creating the myth that quantity matters more than quality. For many listeners, Mahler 8 is still a hard nut to crack, for many reasons, and the myth is part of the problem. Mahler 8 is so original that it defies easy categories.

Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday—Angelika Kirchschlager

At the Wigmore Hall, Schubert's birthday is always celebrated in style. This year, Angelika Kirchschlager and Julius Drake, much loved Wigmore Hall audience favourites, did the honours, with a recital marking the climax of the two-year-long Complete Schubert Songs Series. The programme began with a birthday song, Namenstaglied, and ended with a farewell, Abschied von der Erde. Along the way, a traverse through some of Schubert's finest moments, highlighting different aspects of his song output : Schubert's life, in miniature.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

Ilker Arcayürek at Wigmore Hall

The first thing that struck me in this Wigmore Hall recital was the palpable sincerity of Ilker Arcayürek’s artistry. Sincerity is not everything, of course; what we think of as such may even be carefully constructed artifice, although not, I think, here.

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):