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

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Mark Padmore on festivals, lieder and musical conversations

I have to confess, somewhat sheepishly, at the start of my conversation with Mark Padmore, that I had not previously been aware of the annual music festival held in the small Cotswolds town of Tetbury, which was founded in 2002 and to which Padmore will return later this month to perform a recital of lieder by Schubert and Schumann with pianist Till Fellner.

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Giovanni Simon Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Gergiev, Mariinsky

Sergei Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op 74, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus. One Day That Shook the World to borrow the subtitle from Sergei Eisenstein's epic film October : Ten Days that Shook the World.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

A Prom of Transformation and Transcendence: Renée Fleming and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

This Prom was all about places: geographical, physical, pictorial, poetic, psychological. And, as we journeyed through these landscapes of the mind, there was plenty of reminiscence and nostalgia too, not least in Samuel Barber’s depiction of early twentieth-century Tennessee - Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

The Queen's Lace Handkerchief: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

Billed as the ‘First British Performance’ - though it had had a prior, quasi-private outing at the Roxburgh Theatre, Stowe in July - Opera della Luna’s production of Johann Strauss Jnr’s The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief (Das Spitzentuch der Königin) at Wilton’s Music Hall began to sound pretty familiar half-way through the overture (which was played with spark and elegance by conductor Toby Purser’s twelve-piece orchestra).

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

Glyndebourne perform La clemenza di Tito at the Proms

The advantage of Glyndebourne Opera’s performances at the BBC Proms is that they give us a chance to concentrate on the music making. And there was plenty of high-quality music-making on offer at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 28 August 2017 when Glyndebourne Opera performed Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito.

Rossini’s Torvaldo e Dorliska in Pesaro

The rare and somewhat interesting Rossini! Torvaldo e Dorliska (1815) comes just after Elisabetta, Regina di Ingleterra (the first of his nineteen operas for Naples) — a huge success, and just before Il barbiere di Siviglia in Rome — a failure.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

David Daniels as Oberon and Rosemary Joshua as Tytania
21 Jun 2009

Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Charms La Scala

Robert Carsen’s production of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not new, as the La Scala playbill suggests.

Benjamin Britten: Midsummer Night’s Dream

Oberon: David Daniels; Tytania: Rosemary Joshua; Puck: Emil Wolk; Theseus: Daniel Okulitch; Hippolyta: Natascha Petrinsky; Lysander: Gordon Gietz; Demetrius: David Adam Moore; Hermia: Deanne Meek; Helena: Erin Wall; Bottom: Matthew Rose; Quince: Andrew Shore; Flute: Christopher Gillett; Snug: Graeme Danby; Snout: Adrian Thompson; Starveling: Simon Butteriss; Cobweb: Francesca Mercuriali; Peaseblossom: Elena Caccamo; Mustardseed: Barbara Massaro; Moth: Nicolò De Maestri. Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis. Stage Direction: Robert Carsen. Set and Costumes: Michael Levine. Lighting: Davy Cunningham. Choreography: Matthew Bourne. Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala.

Above: David Daniels as Oberon and Rosemary Joshua as Tytania

 

It has a long history; it was a major hit of the 1991 Aix-en-Provence Festival International d’Art Lyrique. The rich and costly staging was then co-produced with the Opéra Nationale de Lyon. In the last 18 years, it has traveled to many countries; in Italy, in the 1990s, it had a few performances at the Ravenna Festival and Ferrara Musica. In both towns the opera house is comparatively small and the stage not much larger that that of Aix-en-Provence. Carsen has reviewed and updated the staging many a time. Further stagings are now programmed all over Europe and, supposedly, in the USA.

The opera itself had been conceived for a specific event: the reconstruction, in 1960, of the Jubilee Hall in Aldelburgh, where Britten and his lifetime partner, the tenor Peter Pears, were living. Even though the reconstruction implied an increase in space, the Hall could accommodate no more than 316 people. It had a simple wooden stage (with no modern machinery or equipment), the pit was designed for a small orchestra (nearly a chamber music ensemble), although the opera required 18 soloists and a children chorus. At that time, Britten was working on a project to reduce the cost of opera productions and to make them transportable from town to town; he thought that this was the only feasible strategy to make opera survive in the post- World War II era. As a part of this strategy, in 1945, he gave a new start to the Glyndebourne Festival in Sussex, and in 1947 he created the English Opera Group - a touring company with limited means to bring opera even to small towns of the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Some of his operas (“The Rape of Lucretia”, “Curlew River”, the Church musical pieces) were composed for this project. Even his attempt at “grand opera,” “Billy Budd,” had also a version with only two pianos and a slightly reduced number of soloists.

Against this backdrop, the Scala “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a departure from Britten’s chamber opera yet still far from his two forays into “grand opera” (“Gloriana”, in addition to “Billy Budd”) . Britten’s writing is eclectic; it is rooted in the British tradition since Purcell but it incorporates also Berg’s technique of adopting a theme on which to build each individual musical scene, though Britten does not turn his back on a tonal approach. Another aspect - especially relevant to “A Mid-Summer”- is his capacity to obtain colour from a small orchestral ensemble and the counterpoint of a large number of vocal soloists. Finally, in “Midsummer,” he explores the magic of the night and assigns to the fairies the most “unearthy” vocal register: a coloratura soprano (Tytania) and a counter-tenor (Oberon).

After 18 years, the production is still fresh. Carlsen, then very young, saw “A Midsummer” as an exploration of eroticism - from that of the very young (the two fugitive couples) to that of the adult (Tytania and Oberon) to that of the peasants. The set is wide green with beds (two huge ones in the first act, six “queensize” in the second act, and three, suspended above the stage, in the first part of the third act) until the final scene in a white but dull Athens.

Midsummer_LaScala_02.gif

Sir Andrew Davis conducted a chamber music ensemble: two harps, a harpsichord, a small number of violins and cellos, brass and percussion. The small orchestra performance is the best part of the performance, the crystal-clear and transparent texture is a real thrill. A mostly British cast gave excellent acting performances. The Rosemary Joshua sang a sexy “coloratura” Tytania, and quite good also were the two young couples (Gordon Gietz, David Adam Moore, Deanne Meek and Erin Wall). David Daniels is a virtuoso countertenor but his volume is better suited to a small concert house than to the large La Scala auditorium (where the acoustic is less than perfect).

Giuseppe Pennisi

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):