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

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

Samantha Hankey wins Glyndebourne Opera Cup

Four singers were awarded prizes at the inaugural Glyndebourne Opera Cup, which reached its closing stage at Glyndebourne on 24th March. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup focuses on a different single composer or strand of the repertoire each time it is held. In 2018 the featured composer was Mozart and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompanied the ten finalists.

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):