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

Solomon’s Knot: Charpentier - A Christmas Oratorio

When Marc-Antoine Charpentier returned from Rome to Paris in 1669 or 1670, he found a musical culture in his native city that was beginning to reject the Italian style, which he had spent several years studying with the Jesuit composer Giacomo Carissimi, in favour of a new national style of music.

A Baroque Odyssey: 40 Years of Les Arts Florissants

In 1979, the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor, William Christie, founded an early music ensemble, naming it Les Arts Florissants, after a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Miracle on Ninth Avenue

Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first recorded opera I ever heard. Each Christmas Eve, while decorating the tree, our family sang along with the (still unmatched) original cast version. We knew the recording by heart, right down to the nicks in the LP. Ever since, no matter what the setting or the quality of a performance, I cannot get through it without tearing up.

Detlev Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (UK premiere)

It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamburg-born composer Detlev Glanert should count Hans Werner Henze as one of the formative influences on his work - he did, after all, study with him between 1984 to 1988.

Death in Venice at Deutsche Oper Berlin

This death in Venice is not the end, but the beginning.

Saint Cecilia: The Sixteen at Kings Place

There were eighteen rather than sixteen singers. And, though the concert was entitled Saint Cecilia the repertoire paid homage more emphatically to Mary, Mother of Jesus, and to the spirit of Christmas.

Liszt Petrarca Sonnets complete – Andrè Schuen, Daniel Heide

An ambitious new series focusing on the songs of Franz Liszt, starting with all three versions of the Tre Sonetti del Petrarca, (Petrarca Sonnets), S.270a, S.270b and S.161 with Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide for Avi-music.de.

Insights on Mahler Lieder, Wigmore Hall, Andrè Schuen

At the Wigmore Hall, Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide in a recital of Schubert and Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Rückert-Lieder. Schuen has most definitely arrived, at least among the long-term cognoscenti at the Wigmore Hall who appreciate the intelligence and sensitivity that marks true Lieder interpretation.

Ermelinda by San Francisco's Ars Minerva

It’s an opera by Vicentino composer Domenico Freschi that premiered in 1681 at the country home of the son of the doge of Venice. Villa Contarini is a couple of hours on horseback from Vicenza, and a few hours by gondola from Venice).

Wozzeck in Munich

It would be an extraordinary, even an unimaginable Wozzeck that failed to move, to chill one to the bone. This was certainly no such Wozzeck; Marie’s reading from the Bible, Wozzeck’s demise, the final scene with their son and the other children: all brought that particular Wozzeck combination of tears and horror.

Une soirée chez Berlioz – lyrical rarities, on Berlioz’s own guitar

Une soirée chez Berlioz – an evening with Berlioz, songs for voice, piano and guitar, with Stéphanie D’Oustrac, Thibaut Roussel (guitar), and Tanguy de Williencourt (piano).

Korngold's Die tote Stadt in Munich

I approached this evening as something of a sceptic regarding work and director. My sole prior encounter with Simon Stone’s work had not been, to put it mildly, a happy one. Nor do I count myself a subscriber or even affiliate to the Korngold fan club, considerable in number and still more considerable in fervency.

Exceptional song recital from Hurn Court Opera at Salisbury Arts Centre

Thanks to the enterprise and vision of Lynton Atkinson - Artistic Director of Dorset-based Hurn Court Opera - two promising young singers on the threshold of glittering careers gave an outstanding recital at Salisbury’s prestigious Art Centre.

Lohengrin in Munich

An exceptional Lohengrin, this. I had better explain. Yes, it was exceptional in the quality of much of the singing, especially the two principal female roles, yet also in luxury casting such as Martin Gantner as the King’s Herald.

Hansel and Gretel in San Francisco

This Grimm’s fairytale in its operatic version found its way onto the War Memorial stage in the guise of a new “family friendly” production first seen last holiday season at London’s Royal Opera House.

An hypnotic Death in Venice at the Royal Opera House

Spot-lit in the prevailing darkness, Gustav von Aschenbach frowns restively as he picks up an hour-glass from a desk strewn with literary paraphernalia, objects d’art, time-pieces and a pair of tall candles in silver holders - by the light of which, so Thomas Mann tells us in his novella Death in Venice, the elderly writer ‘would offer up to art, for two or three ardently conscientious morning hours, the strength he had garnered during sleep’.

A Baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi

A baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi, this year’s offering in their acclaimed Christmas series. Great value for money - four CDs of music so good that it shouldn’t be saved just for Christmas. The prize here, though is the Pastorale de Noël by Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Ensemble Correspondances, with Sébastien Daucé, highly acclaimed on its first release just a few years ago.

Philip Glass's Orphée at English National Opera

Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orphée - and Philip Glass’s chamber opera based on the film - are so closely intertwined it should not be a surprise that this new production for English National Opera often seems unable to distinguish the two. There is never a shred of ambiguity that cinema and theatre are like mirrors, a recurring feature of this production; and nor is there much doubt that this is as opera noir it gets.

Rapt audience at Dutch National Opera’s riveting Walküre

“Don’t miss this final chance – ever! – to see Die Walküre”, urges the Dutch National Opera website.

Christmas at St George’s Windsor

Christmas at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, James Vivian, organist and conductor. New from Hyperion, this continues their series of previous recordings with this Choir. The College of St George, founded in 1348, is unusual in that it is a Royal Peculiar, a parish under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch, rather than the diocese.

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):