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

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

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):