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

Guillaume Tell, Covent Garden

It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

Cosi fan tutte, Garsington Opera

Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.

The Queen of Spades, ENO

Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.

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):