Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Aureliano in Palmira in Pesaro

Ossia Il barbiere di Siviglia. Why waste a good tune.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Pesaro

Both by default and by merit Il barbiere di Siviglia is the hit of the thirty-fifth Rossini Opera Festival. But did anyone really want, and did the world really need yet another production of this old warhorse?

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Elīna Garanča as Angelina [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
21 Jun 2009

La Cenerentola at the MET

La Cenerentola runs third in popularity among Rossini’s comic operas — the Met didn’t get around to it at all until the present staging was created for Cecilia Bartoli.

G. Rossini: La Cenerentola

Angelina: Elina Garanča; Don Ramiro: Lawrence Brownlee; Don Magnfico: Alessandro Corbelli; Dandini: Simone Alberghini; Alidoro: John Relyea. Conducted by Maurizio Benini. Metropolitan Opera.

Elīna Garanča as Angelina

All photos by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

 

For the matter of that, they didn’t get around to L’Italiana in Algeri until the present production — the one Jean-Pierre Ponnelle was doing all over the operatic world — was created for Marilyn Horne, not so terribly long ago. Il Barbiere di Siviglia was the only Rossini opera buffa so far as New Yorkers (and most of the world) were concerned, from the very first season of the Met (in 1883) — actually from New York’s very first opera season, in 1829, when Garcia, the first Almaviva, brought his own company to town — until comparatively recent times. Il Turco in Italia ran one season at the City Opera; Il Viaggio a Reims and Le Comte Ory also played that innovative company with some success; Il Signor Bruschino has been given by the Gotham Chamber Opera; others — La Scala di Seta, L’Equivoco Stravagante, Il Cambiale di Matrimonio and so on, have had occasional or student or semi-amateur stagings hereabouts.

Cenerentola can seem long — they all can seem long — if the fun isn’t fresh and the singing less than grade A — but we live in an era of grade A Rossini singers, so there’s no excuse for that any more. It contains the usual Rossini elements: masks and mistaken identities, an orchestral storm, arias somewhat familiar from other Rossini operas, at least one aria for a minor character composed by someone else because Rossini was too busy (or lazy) (this is omitted in the Met production; it was given in the City Opera production), bravura singing for everybody, dueling comic basses, and two of Rossini’s famous wacky scene finales where Italiana and Barbiere only had one each. As is usual in dramatizations of the Cinderella legend, the stepsisters get a lot of farce time — which can be amusing at first, but wears out its welcome in time. Cenerentola ought to be more fun than it proved on this outing, and perhaps it was to those unfamiliar with the jokey Cesare Lievi/Maurizio Balò production, its garish palette, oversized rooms, and fantasy sequences.

CENERENTOLA_Brownlee_1369a.gifLawrence Brownlee as Prince Ramiro

The comic basses were Simone Alberghini as Dandini, the prince’s valet, masquerading as his master to distract Cinderella’s ghastly family, and Alessandro Corbelli (this production’s original Dandini) now promoted to Don Magnifico (Cinderella’s preposterous stepfather, a snobbish, bankrupt aristocrat in the mold of the Duke of Plaza-Toro — except the Duke is much nicer). They were the core of the evening’s fun, stylish, absurd, graceful on the ear even when spluttering. The whole buffa phenomenon was based on such figures and their highly personal antics, not unlike the signature shtick of vaudeville comics — most Italian opera houses in 1816 were small enough for any sort of nuance. Corbelli and Alberghini are veterans who have made these sorts of roles their own. Alberghini’s dancing prince-valet is so clearly out of musical comedy that you wonder how anyone could fail to see he wasn’t a real prince — except this is an opera buffa, and everyone is acting like that. He’s just doing it better. Corbelli is a master of both the slow burn to explosive payoff and the elegiac daydream (quoting the “voices” of his fantasies) — he can even be romantic, as he showed in last season’s Fille du Regiment. In contrast to this splendid buffo fooling, the stepsisters in their mad 1920s getup rather wore out their welcome, and the three-legged sofa is weary stuff.

One of the reasons Rossini’s operas have returned to popularity is that he wrote so many of his heroines for mezzo-sopranos, usually his lover (later wife) Isabella Colbran. The distinction was not made in Rossini’s lifetime — a soprano was a soprano; if she lacked top notes and had low notes, the composer wrote different music for her; if another singer came along, someone — not always the original composer — wrote her something new. (Sopranos often stole Rosina. Mezzos sometimes sang Rossini’s Otello.) We are living today in an age of wonderful light mezzos (one can trace the revival back to Horne, or to Simionato and Berganza if you prefer), and I believe we can all agree that they deserve more prima donna stage time than they tend to get.

CENERENTOLA_Durkin__Corbell.gifRachelle Durkin as Clorinda, Alessandro Corbelli as Don Magnifico, Patricia Risley as Tisbe

Cenerentola — or Angelina, as she is actually named — was sung this year by Elina Garanča, a Latvian mezzo who made her Met debut last year as Rosina. She is a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice — a combination still welcome but no longer uncommon on the opera stage. She looks good in anything, including — no, especially — trousers, as Bellini’s Roméo, and she has a sweet metallic sheen that easily fills the house. What she is not, on the evidence of this performance, is a Rossini coloratura of the Rossini buffa variety, capable of torrents of notes where other composers would settle for an attractive stream. When Rossini revs it, he really revs it. Garanča sings three notes for every five written in the racy cadenzas, and those cadenzas were composed to be sung five for five — as the performances of Simionato, Berganza, von Stade, Horne and Bartoli demonstrate. Therefore I am delighted that Garanča has joined the Met roster, but puzzled why she chose Rossini to do so — perhaps just to get her foot in the door, a worthy objective — and eager to hear her in more suitable repertory.

Another reason I was eager to attend this season’s Cenerentola was finally to hear Lawrence Brownlee, the young American contender in the Rossini tenor stakes and, by the sound of audience response, already a singer the Met has taken to its heart. Brownlee has, on the evidence, a larger, more liquid sound that Juan Diego Florez’s more nasal tone or Barry Banks’s more brilliant but less sensuous instrument, and he appears to be the equal of both in rapid-fire coloratura. Don Ramiro, the prince, is, alas, not much of a role — besides a couple of duets (with Angelina and Dandini) and parts in the concertati, he only has one bravura scene — I have always been surprised when a leading tenor like Florez or Vargas condescends to take it on. Brownlee seemed comfortable on stage in all the silliness required of Don Ramiro in this production, but he does not cut a terribly romantic figure beside the taller and slimmer Miss Garanča. I look forward to hearing him again this summer in the semi-staged operas being performed at Caramoor.

Maurizio Benini led a sprightly performance without the affectations that sometimes marred his conducting of Don Pasquale. The longueurs that crept in were often as not Rossini’s fault.

John Yohalem

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):