Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

'Secrets and Lies': a terrific double bill at Opera Holland Park

If you need a sweet bonbon to accompany the canapés and champagne on a sparkling summer evening, then Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s one-act trifle is a safe bet, especially if presented, as at Opera Holland Park by director John Wilkie and designer takis, as a confection of pink and purple, and performed by two splendid singing actors.

Gerald Finzi Choral Works

From Hyperion, Gerald Finzi choral works with the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Layton. An impressive Magnificat (1952) sets the tone.

The 2019 Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

This year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance offered a veritable operatic smörgåsbord, presenting sizable excerpts from operas ranging from Gluck to Saint-Saëns, from Mozart to Debussy, by way of some Italian masterpieces, courtesy of Rossini and Verdi.

Cilea's L'arlesiana at Opera Holland Park

In a rank order of suicidal depressives, Federico - the Provençal peasant besotted with ‘the woman from Arles’, L’arlesiana, who yearns to break free from his mother’s claustrophobic grasp, who seeks solace from betrayal and disillusionment in the arms of a patient childhood sweetheart, but who is ultimately broken by deluded dreams and unrequited passion - would surely give many a Thomas Hardy protagonist a run for their money.

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Ron Howard’s latest music documentary after The Beatles: Eight Days a Week and Made in America is a poignant tribute that allows viewers into key moments of Pavarotti’s career – but lacks a deeper, more well-rounded view of the artist.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Jayne Casselman as Brünnhilde [Photo courtesy of Teatro La Fenice]
26 Jun 2009

Gőtterdämmerung in Venice and Kőln — Sex and Politics Behind the Berlin Wall

With Götterdämmerung, a co-production with the Köln Opera House created by Robert Carsen (stage direction), Patrick Kinmonth (sets and costumes) and Jeffrey Tate (conductor), La Fenice approaches completion of the Ring cycle.

Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung

Siegfried: Stefan Vinke; Gunther: Gabriel Suovanen; Hagen: Gidon Saks; Alberich: Werner Van Mechelen; Brünnhilde: Jayne Casselman; Gutrune: Nicola Beller Carbone; Waltraute: Natascha Petrinsky; First Norn: Ceri Williams; Second Norn: Julie Mellor; Third Norn: Alexandra Wilson; Woglinde: Eva Oltiványi; Wellgunde: Stefanie Irányi; Flosshilde: Annette Jahns. Orchestra e Coro del Teatro La Fenice. Voxonus Choir. Jeffrey Tate, maestro concertatore e direttore. Robert Carsen, regia. Patrick Kinmonth, scene e costumi. Marcovalerio Marletta, maestro del Coro. Claudio Marino Moretti, maestro del Coro (Voxonus Choir).

Above: Jayne Casselman as Brünnhilde [Photos courtesy of Teatro La Fenice]

 

La Fenice’s Ring, however, will not be completed until next season because of complicated programming and budgeting considerations. Consequently, the prologue, Das Rheingold, will be seen in the lagoon after the downfall of the Gods and of the Gibichungs’ Kingdom. Moreover, although the Carsen-Kinmonth-Tate team remained unchanged, many cast changes were made at La Fenice along with a revamping of the sets to fit its smaller stage.

Chronologically, the Köln-La Fenice Ring is one of the first to be staged in the 21st century. Its concepts are similar to those of the “politically oriented” Rings that prevailed from the mid-70s to the mid-80s, especially in Europe. This first of these “politically oriented” Rings was the (nearly aborted) La Scala production created by Luca Ronconi (stage direction) and the Pierluigi Pizzi (sets and costumes) in 1974. The musical director, Wolfang Sawallisch, objected to proceeding beyond Die Walküre. The entire project was revived in Florence (with Zubin Mehta in the pit) in 1979-82. The most widely known of the “politically oriented” Rings was the Bayreuth “Centenary” production in 1976 entrusted to Patrice Chéreau and Pierre Boulez. After four years in the “Holy Hill”, it became a successful television serial that was also shown in regular movie houses. Now whilst only photographs remain of the Florence production, the Chéreau-Boulez Ring is available on DVD. It is fair to say that the saga lends itself to a political allegory of industrial and political power, of lust for money and for women, of Nazism’s rise and fall, a direction taken by Luchino Visconti in his 1971 blockbuster film.

In light of this context, there is something old fashioned in the La Fenice-Köln production. Nevertheless, the Ghibichung Kingdom is not Hitler’s Reich, but rather East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Red flags are flying about the Royal Palace. The “nomenklatura” are dressed in elegant attire of the '50s, accompanied by soldiers of the National Peoples’ Army. Siegfried, Brünnhilde and the Norns, on the other hand, are shabbily dressed. The Norns live in an attic filled with broken furniture from the 1930s and the 1940s (an allusion to the defunct bourgeoisie?).

Albeit attractive, the Rhinemaidens appear poverty-striken, swimming in a polluted Rhine. As in many of Carsen’s production, politics is mixed with a fair amount of sex. At daybreak, Brünnhilde begins her passionate love duet by performing oral sex upon Siegfried. Hagen makes love to Gutrune on Gunther’s royal desk (in the presence of her brother and King). In the wife-swapping scene at the end of the first act, Siegfried (disguised as Gunther) attempts to rape Brünnhilde before remembering his pact with the King. The second-act wedding party initially appears as an orgy with rivers of wine and spirits and ladies taking off their clothes.

Gotterdammerung_Fenice_03.gif

In a similar vein, the Rheinmaidens grope Siegfried all about his trousers. All of this heightens the coup-de-théâtre in the final scene. Brünnhilde is alone on stage during the holocaust, the fire of the Royal Palace, the downfall of the Gods and the flood of the river (cleansing corrupted Gods and corrupted men-in-power). During the concluding passages, a huge waterfall covers the stage. In short, although the concept goes back to the 70s, there are numerous innovations in this Ring and this Götterdämmerung in particular.

Gotterdammerung_Fenice_01.gif

Although British, Jeffrey Tate possesses an Italian or Austrian conducting style. He caresses the orchestra with gently slowing tempi. This clashes, however, with the dramatic action-oriented stage direction. La Fenice’s orchestra fares well; but it is not that of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (which performed Götterdämmerung a few weeks ago) or of the Berliner Philarmoniker (which will perform Götterdämmerung in Aix en Provence in early July). Jayne Casselman was simply excellent, both vocally and dramatically, as a vibrant Brünnhilde to be remembered for some time. Her Siegfried, Stefan Vinke, performed well in the taxing third act; but in the previous two acts he displayed vocal problems (especially with the Cs) and a host of technical difficulties. He paled against Lance Taylor who performed the role in the recent Florence production. A sexy Nicola Beller Carbone was a vocally imposing Gutrune. And, the youthful Gabriel Suovane and Gidon Saks were two well-rounded bass baritones, whom, I trust, we will hear often in the future.

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):