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

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Saint Louis Butterfly Soars

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis knew to trust the surefire potential of Madame Butterfly, and pretty much stayed out of its way.

Saint Louis: Gordon’s Revised Grapes

If opera is to remain a viable, accessible 21st century art form, it will be largely owing to the commitment of visionary companies like Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Titus Lightens Up in Saint Louis

Mozart’s opera seria, La Clemenza di Tito, performed in English at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis did something I did not think possible.

Il turco in Italia: Garsington Opera

Martin Duncan's production of Rossini's Il turco in Italia debuted in 2011, only the second production to be performed in Garsington Opera's then new home at Wormsley. Revived for the first time on 25 June 2017, David Parry was again conducting with Quirijn de Lang as Selim, Geoffrey Dolton as Don Geronio and Mark Stone as Prosdocimo returning to their roles, plus Sarah Tynan as Fiorilla, Katie Bray as Zaide, Luciano Botelho as Narciso and Jack Swanson as Albazar. Designs were by Francis O'Connor, with lighting by Mark Jonathan and movement by Nick Winston.

Glyndebourne's wartime Ariadne auf Naxos

It’s country-house opera season, and Glyndebourne have decided it’s time for a return of Katharina Thoma’s country-house-set Ariadne auf Naxos, first seen in 2013. Thoma locates Strauss’s opera-about-opera in a 1940s manor house which has been sequestered as a military hospital, neatly alluding to Glyndebourne’s own history when it transformed itself into a centre for evacuees from east London and the Christie children’s nursery became a sick bay.

On Trial in Saint Louis

That Opera Theatre of Saint Louis fearlessly embraces the cutting edge is once again evidenced by their compelling American premiere of The Trial.

A Traditional Rigoletto in Las Vegas

On June 9, 2017, Opera Las Vegas presented a traditional production of Verdi’s Rigoletto conducted by Music Director Gregory Buchalter with a cast headed by veteran baritone Michael Chioldi. A most convincing Rigoletto, Chioldi was a man in psychological pain from the begining of the opera. His fear and his vulnerability to the whims of the nobility were evident in every meaty, well-colored phrase he sang.

Thumbprint, An Amazing Woman Leaves an Indelible Mark

Thumbprint is the story of the young, innocent and illiterate Mukhtar Mai who was assaulted by a group of powerful men. Following the attack, Mukhtar, having supposedly been disgraced, was expected to commit suicide. Instead, she amazed everyone who knew her by going to the police and calling for the arrest of her attackers.

Kaufmann's first Otello: Royal Opera House, London

Out of the blackness, Keith Warner’s new production of Verdi’s Otello explodes into being with a violent gesture of fury. Not the tempest raging in the pit - though Antonio Pappano conjures a terrifying maelstrom from the ROH Orchestra and the enlarged ROH Chorus hurls a blood-curdling battering-ram of sound into the auditorium. Rather, Warner offers a spot-lit emblem of frustrated malice and wrath, as a lone soldier fiercely hurls a Venetian mask to the ground.

Don Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

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):