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

O/MODƏRNT: Monteverdi in Historical Counterpoint

O/MODƏRNT is Swedish for ‘un/modern’. It is also the name of the festival — curated by artistic director Hugo Ticciati and held annually since 2011 at the Ulriksdal’s Palace Theatre, Confidencen — which aims to look back and celebrate the past ‘by exploring the relationships between the work of old composers and the artistic and intellectual creations of modern culture’.

Late Schumann in context - Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler, London

Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler at the Wigmore Hall, London, an intriguing recital on many levels. Goerne programmes are always imaginative, bringing out new perspectives, enhancing our appreciation of the depth and intelligence that makes Lieder such a rewarding experience. Menahem Pressler is extremely experienced as a soloist and chamber musician, but hasn't really ventured into song to the extent that other pianists, like Brendel, Eschenbach or Richter, for starters. He's not the first name that springs to mind as Lieder accompanist. Therein lay the pleasure !

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.’

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):