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

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

Cosi fan tutte, Garsington Opera

Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.

The Queen of Spades, ENO

Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.

Il trittico, Opera Holland Park

Time was when many felt compelled to ‘make allowances’ for ‘smaller’ companies. Now, more often than not, the contrary seems to be the case, instead apologising for their elder and/or larger siblings: ‘But of course, it is far more difficult for House X, given the conservatism of its moneyed audience,’ as if House X might not actually attract a different, more intellectually curious audience by programming more interesting works.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Anita Selvaggio
15 Jun 2009

Haydn’s Bicentenary : 20 Capitals Salute “The Creation” With Standing Ovations

The Austrian Ministry of Culture and the Committee for the Celebrations of Haydn’s Bicentenary had a brilliant idea: on May 31st , the day of the composer’s death, 20 symphony orchestras and/or opera houses performed one of his greatest and best known oratorios Die Schöpfung (The Creation) .

F. J. Haydn: Die Schöpfung (The Creation)

Anita Selvaggio, Soprano; Michael Smallwood, Tenor; David Wilson Johnson, Bass; London Symphony Chorus. Joseph Cullen, Chorus Master. Francesco La Vecchia, Conductor.

Above: Anita Selvaggio

 

Because of different time-zones, Die Schöpfung day started in New Zealand and ended in Honolulu. An earnest radio listener could enjoy the different performances over 24 hours and appreciate the difference in conducting as well as in singing. Opera houses were included because in certain countries (e.g. Germany) Die Schöpfung is also staged as a music drama: computer technology and animation are a superb support to show the initial chaos , the creation of the animals, of the flowers, of the lakes, of the rivers and of the mountain as well as the Eden garden with the passionate Adam and Eve duet.

In Rome, the Orchestra Sinfonica - Fondazione Roma (OsFr) was selected for the task. The OsFr is a peculiarity in the Italian musical landscape: it is the only fully private symphony orchestra. It does not receive any State, Regional., Provincial or Municipal support but it is financed by the Fondazione Roma ( a nonprofit foundation) and by a few companies. It has 90 permanent elements (average age: 30), a budget which is less than one-fifth of that of the main symphony orchestra in the Italian capital (l’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia) and a low- priced ticket policy to attract young and old people with modest income (season tickets for 30 concerts vary from € 260 to € 90 according to the category). Its music director and permanent conductor is Maestro Francesco La Vecchia, who is also principal guest conductor of the Berliner Symphoniker. La Vecchia has been music director of Opera Houses and symphony orchestras in Central Europe (Budapest), Latin America (Rio de Janeiro) and Portugal (Lisbon). The OsFr started some eight years ago after a EU-supported training program for young graduates from European conservatories. It has gained an important place in the international music scenes also due to its tournée in Germany, Poland and China.

In January, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia had offered a different version of Die Schöpfung — performed by Frieburger Barochester conducted by René Jacobs and with Julia Kleiter, Donat Havar and Johanner Weisser as soloists. The difference, of course, is not in the score (both Jacobs and La Vecchia conducted the full score without cuts or intermission) but in the style: dry, albeit almost religious, Jacobs’; passionate (even in the approach to religion) La Vecchia’s .

Die Schöpfung is well known. Thus, there is no need to provide Opera Today readers with background on its composition, on its Austrian and London premières and on its contents. Its three parts are operatic acts. In the first and in the second, the three archangels Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael observe the Creation by following very closely the biblical text. In the third act, we are no longer witnessing from a distance the works of the Creator. The scene is the Eden Garden. After an introduction of Uriel, the act is long love scene of Adam and Eve that includes a duet supported by a choral background. As Haydn planned, there are five characters but three singers: the bass and the soprano are Raphael and Gabriel in the first and second act but become Adam and Eve in the third act. The roles are taxing both for the duration (nearly two hours of music ) and for the “virtuoso” singing — they imply “coloratura”, “agility”, quite a few high Cs and many Fs.

DSC_9258.gif

Maestro La Vecchia recalls that in 1992 he had conducted Die Schöpfung in the Amazonian Forest, at the vey confluence of the Rio Branco with the Rio Petro. Over 10,000 Indios attended the performance thrilled by the Haydn’s score. Most likely, the memory of that performance influenced conducting on May 31st. In the first part, it is noteworthy how conductor, orchestra and singers amplified the transition from the chaos (C minor) to the newly lit world (A major) . In the second act, the emphasis is on the descriptive imagery as in the portrayal of the animals: the cheerful, but rude, trombone blast of the lion, the pouncing tiger, the placing grazing of cattle, the sinuous music for the worm. The third act is less contemplative than normally performed: the love between Adam and Eve is powerful, not merely platonic; their duet is rapturous and timeless, an essential transition to the glorious final chorus.

La Vecchia and the symphony orchestra had three excellent singers to work with. Anita Selvaggio is a “soprano assoluto” better known outside Italy than in her own country. Both as an archangel and as Eve she displayed a a remarkable flexibility in the upper extension and an extraordinary use of messa di voce (a quality that many sopranos seem neither to care for nor to practice enough). Michael Smallwood is an up-and-coming Australian tenor with a delicate sensuous “legato”. David Wilson Johson is the best known of the three soloists. He once again confirmed his talent and versatility.

Giuseppe Pennisi (Based On May 31st Rome Symphony Orchestra Performance)

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):