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

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Otto Nicolai: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor
12 Jun 2009

Otto Nicolai: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor belongs to that somewhat purgatorial group of operas best remembered only for their overtures.

Otto Nicolai: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Juliane Banse, Anna Korondi, Annette Markert, Markus Eiche. Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, RO München. Ulf Schirmer, conducting.

CPO 777 317-2 [2CDs]

$33.99  Click to buy

Rarely performed outside Germany, the opera begins with a tuneful, energetic overture which remains a staple of classical radio stations — but then again, those aren’t in the best health either. CPO does its part to remind the opera-loving public of Nicolai’s last and greatest work by issuing this well-recorded live performance from February 2007, with Ulf Schirmer leading the Bayerischer Rundfunk forces at the Prinzregententheater in Munich.

A comparison of Verdi and Arrigo Boito’s take on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and that of Nicolai and his librettist (the wonderfully named Salomon Hermann von Mosenthal) demonstrates the difference between genius and talent. Falstaff begins with the title character, putting him on stage in three full dimensions, in a way that does tribute not only to the role in this late, little respected comedy but as well to the Falstaff of the Henry plays. Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor follows the play more closely, with Sir John not even entering until act two and having relatively few musical highlights to himself. As a result, act one drags, with little of the memorable melodic material from the overture appearing. Act two is more lively, and act three has some wonderful moments, including (at last!) some development of the overture’s best tunes. Nonetheless, Nicolai’s music remains comfortably familiar but rarely inspired, whereas Verdi’s late score burns and bustles with invention.

As other CPO recordings of his have shown, Schirmer is an excellent conductor, rhythmically spry and alert, with few if any lapses in tension. The cast, with one exception, sings characterfully. Verdi kept the name Ford, but for some reason Nicolai has Sir John Falstaff involved with Herr and Frau Fluth. Markus Eiche and Juliane Banse take the latter roles; Eiche has a handsome baritone that suggests he would do well in some of the Italian repertory’s great roles, while Banse uses the steely nature of her upper range to give her character an edge appropriate to the character’s female resourcefulness. Alfred Reiter impersonates Falstaff, and although the role offers nowhere near the opportunities for greatness that it does in Verdi’s opera, Reiter fills the role’s requirement of comic bluster. As the young lovers Anna and Fenton, Anna Kornodi sings with appealing sweetness, but Ferdinand von Bothmer’s tenor wavers and strains too much of the time.

Unfortunately for Bothmer, a comparison to the 1960s’ EMI set really puts him in the shade, as Fritz Wunderlich sang Fenton with an outpouring of both taste and beauty that makes Fenton’s act two romance sound like a greater aria than it probably is. With a cast also featuring Gottlob Frick and Edith Mathis, that EMI set should be first option for anyone interested in the opera. These days it may be hard to find, however, and this CPO set, in excellent live sound despite a couple of instances of audience noise, does a fine job overall of bringing some life to Nicolai’s otherwise dormant creation.

Chris Mullins

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):