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

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017 - Winner Announced

Bampton Classical Opera is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2017 Young Singers’ Competition is mezzo-soprano Emma Stannard and the runner-up is tenor Wagner Moreira. The winner of the accompanists’ prize, a new category this year, is Keval Shah.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

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):