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

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

Kindred Spirits: Cecilia Bartoli and Rolando Villazón at the Concertgebouw

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has been a regular favourite at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam since 1996. Her verastile concerts are always carefully constructed and delivered with irrepressible energy and artistic commitment.

Cav/Pag at Royal Opera

When Italian director Damiano Michieletto visited Covent Garden in June this year, he spiced Rossini’s Guillaume Tell with a graphic and, many felt, gratuitous rape scene that caused outrage and protest.

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):