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

A sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Elizabeth Llewellyn: Investec Opera Holland Park stages Puccini's La Rondine

It’s six or so years ago since soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn appeared as an exciting and highly acclaimed new voice on the UK operatic stage, with critics praising her ‘ravishing account’ (The Stage) of Mozart’s Countess in Investec Opera Holland Park’s 2011 Le nozze di Figaro in which ‘Porgi, amor’ was a ‘highlight of the evening’.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

Dougie Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera: in conversation

One year ago, tens of millions of Britons voted for isolation rather than for cooperation, but Douglas (Dougie) Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera, is an energetic one-man counterforce with a dynamic conviction that art and culture are strengthened by participation and collaboration; values which, alongside excellence and a spirit of adventure, have seen Garsington Opera acquire increasing renown and esteem on the international stage during his tenure, since 2012.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé wins the 2017 Guildhall School Gold Medal

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama has announced baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé as the winner of this year’s Gold Medal, the School’s most prestigious prize for outstanding soloists. The prize is awarded to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years and this year was the turn of the singers.

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

Glyndebourne Festival 2018 programme announced

The UK’s first professional production of Samuel Barber’s Pulitzer prize-winning opera Vanessa takes place at Glyndebourne Festival 2018. One of the great American operas, Vanessa was hailed as a triumph at its premiere in 1958 but quickly fell out of the repertoire and has only been staged intermittently since.

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):