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

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

Cast announced for Bampton Classical Opera's 2017 production of Salieri's The School of Jealousy

Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Handel's Partenope: surrealism and sensuality at English National Opera

Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a lesson in Patience

A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.

Tara Erraught: mezzo and clarinet in partnership at the Wigmore Hall

Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.

Opera Across the Waves

This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful producers of opera.

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):