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

La bohème, LA Opera

On May 25, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of the Herbert Ross production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La bohème. Stage director, Peter Kazaras, made use of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s wide stage by setting some scenes usually seen inside the garret on the surrounding roof instead.

Amazons Enchant San Francisco

On May 21, 2016, Ars Minerva presented The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles (Le Amazzoni nelle Isole Fortunate), an opera consisting of a prologue and three acts by seventeenth century Venetian composer Carlo Pallavicino.

Mathis der Maler, Dresden

While Pegida anti-refugee demonstrations have been taking place for a while now in Dresden, there was something noble about the Semperoper with its banners declaring all are welcome, listing Othello, the Turk, and the hedon Papageno as examples.

The Makropulos Case, Munich

Opera houses’ neglect of Leoš Janáček remains one of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the ‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa, Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely hook most for life.

Orphée et Euridice, Seattle

It’s not easy for critics to hit the right note when they write about musical collaborations between students and professionals. We have to allow for inevitable lack of polish and inexperience while maintaining an overall high standard of judgment.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Munich

Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to see three different productions within little more than a couple of months).

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne

Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Antonio Pappano [Photo by Clive Barda courtesy of The Royal Opera House]
29 Jun 2009

Antonio Pappano and Friends — Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

It’s not often that the accompanist is given top billing in a vocal recital, even when he’s the venue’s musical director.

Antonio Pappano and Friends — Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Above: Antonio Pappano [Photo by Clive Barda courtesy of The Royal Opera House]

 

But having been the only consistent presence in this ill-fated Royal Opera House recital concert, it was only right that “Recital: Antonio Pappano” was the strap-line on tickets purchased on the day.

’Twas not ever thus. Rolando Villazón had been booked to give a recital with Pappano at the piano, but in early May, following a repeat of the vocal problems which plagued him a couple of years ago, Villazón withdrew from all his engagements until well into 2010. The Royal Opera was relieved to secure the services of Dmitri Hvorostovsky as a recitalist, as were Hvorostovsky’s fans, particularly after a concert he was scheduled to give at the Royal Festival Hall last month was cancelled at a day’s notice after his recital partner, Anna Netrebko, became ill.

Fast forward to Monday of this week, with the recital due to take place on Wednesday, and Hvorostovsky too became indisposed following what Pappano worryingly described as ‘a nasty accident to his vocal chords’. Step forward Joyce DiDonato — currently in town rehearsing Rosina for the Royal Opera — and Joseph Calleja and Thomas Hampson, on a night off from La traviata. By the time I arrived at Covent Garden on Wednesday evening to collect my ticket, I had given up on speculating who might appear, and I really cared not a jot what any of them was going to perform. I was just pleased they were there.

As the operatic repertoire is rather short on trios for mezzo, tenor and baritone, the scene was set for a programme consisting primarily of solo pieces — and that is what we got. Against a mirrored backdrop which looked suspiciously like part of the set for the last act of Un ballo in maschera (which opens later this week), the programme consisted primarily of song with a couple of music-theatre numbers thrown in.

Calleja started off with three crowd-pleasing Italian concert bonbons; if the final moments of Tosti’s ‘A Vucchella’ were a touch flat, it didn’t detract too much from the pleasure of hearing a voice so integrated from top to bottom; there was real sunshine in the top note of Leoncavallo’s ‘Mattinata’. After the interval he had less success with ‘Ô souverain’ from Le Cid, that old Domingo favourite, which suffered from fragmented phrasing and a lack of care for legato. But his delivery has an endearing honesty — he sings from the heart, and his final solo, Guy d’Hardelot’s ‘Because’ was a real winner.

The highlight of DiDonato’s performance was a spellbinding Willow Song from Rossini’s Otello, all limpid melancholy and faultless legato, following a charming and entertaining account of the same composer’s playful song cycle La regata veneziana. She went on to finish her programme with two American musical-theatre standards, ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man’ and ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’. It was the Jerome Kern song that really showed off what a gifted and versatile musician Pappano is, busking an intricate jazz accompaniment, though I would personally have preferred to hear DiDonato sing a fiery Handel aria.   Hampson’s programme was perhaps the most interesting of the three, starting with Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. This concert, having been cobbled together in haste, offered neither surtitles nor a translation sheet, but the eloquence of Hampson’s performance was testament to his intelligence and gift for narrative. He continued in the second half with two American songs, Harry Thacker Burleigh’s ‘Ethiopia Saluting the Colours’ and Barber’s ‘Sure on this Shining Night’. It was a shame he chose not to perform any opera, other than the barnstorming Pearl Fishers duet which we got from the two gentlemen as the final item on the evening’s programme.

In the midst of all this the Royal Opera’s Concert Master, Vasko Vassilev, joined Pappano for a brief but satisfying appearance in what felt like a private violin recital; the first two movements of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir d’un lieu cher followed by Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise were all played with lyrical warmth and elegance.

The concert felt like a variety show at times — somewhat bitty and fragmented, and rather disappointingly (if understandably) devoid of encores — but it proved to be an interesting and unexpected evening’s entertainment. And if Pappano defied convention by being billed as the main attraction, I defy anybody to claim he didn’t earn it.

Ruth Elleson, June 2009

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):