Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Commentary

Atsuto Sawakami — Sponsor of Italian Opera in Japan

Atsuto Sawakami is a slightly built man in his late sixties with impeccable, gentlemanly manners. He communicates a certain restless energy and his piercingly bright eyes reveal an undimmed appetite for life.

Mark Stone — Oxford Lieder Festival

‘Lieder v. Opera’? At first glance it might seem to be a pointless or nonsensical question.

Rhymes With Opera Presents New Opera About Dolly Parton Fans

Extreme Dolly Parton fans may sound like unlikely subjects for an opera, but they are the major characters in Heartbreak Express, a collaboration of composer George Lam and librettist John Clum.

Oxford Lieder Festival 2015 - Sholto Kynoch interview

Last year's Oxford Lieder Festival made something of a splash when it encompassed all of Schubert's songs, performed in the space of three weeks. This year's festival, the 14th, which runs from 16 to 31 October 2015 has a rather different, yet still eye-catching theme; Singing Words: Poets and their Songs.

Sondra Radvanovsky Stars in the Title Role of Anna Bolena

The First of Three Donizetti Queens She Will Sing at the Met This Season

For Odyssey Opera, No Operatic Challenge is Too Great

For a company founded in 2013, Odyssey Opera has an astounding track record. To take on Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is ambitious enough, but to do so within only a year of the company’s founding seems almost single-minded.

Hibla Gerzmava to Debut at Carnegie Hall

The name of Hibla Gerzmava has been famous in the opera world since 1994, when at age 24 the Abkhazian-Russian soprano won the Grand Prix at Tchaikovsky International Competition, entering its history as the first and only vocalist to have been awarded the highest prize.

A Chat with Tenor René Barbera

American tenor René Barbera is fast making a name for himself as one of the top bel canto singers in opera houses around the world.

Odyssey Opera Presents the Boston Premiere of Le Cid in One-­Night-­Only Concert Event

(Boston, MA) — Odyssey Opera, a Boston-based opera company dedicated to exploring the full spectrum of adventurous repertoire, presents the Boston premiere of one of France’s great operas, Le Cid (1885), composed by Jules Massenet (1842–1912).

Stefano Mastrangelo — An Italian in Japan

I’m interviewing Stefano Mastrangelo in the immediate aftermath of his conducting La Traviata for the Chofu City Opera in Tokyo on 22 November 2014; he conveys an air at once of tiredness and exhilaration.

Apotheosis Opera to Stage Tannhäuser

Apotheosis Opera is proud to announce their inaugural production will be a fully-staged English translation of Richard Wagner’s early masterpiece TANNHÄUSER on Friday, July 31, 2015, at 7pm and Sunday, August 2, 2015, at 3pm at the theatre of El Museo del Barrio (1230 5th Avenue) .

Operalia 2015

‘Competitions are for horses, not artists.’ The words of Béla Bartók seemed apposite on Sunday night at the Royal Opera House, as 11 soloists walked swiftly onto the Covent Garden stage, performed their chosen aria, briefly acknowledged the applause and then returned summarily to the wings.

The ‘Other’ Così

Twin sisters – one pensive, the other gregarious – are soon to wed their beau, whose contrasting characters – one earnestly introverted, the other a boisterous hedonist – perfectly match their respective betrotheds’.

Scalia/Ginsburg Premiere at Castleton Festival

Derrick Wang is a composer who graduated from law school and has an interest in this country’s highest court.

Sara Gartland Takes on Jenůfa

Sara Gartland is an emerging singer who brings an enormous talent and a delightful personality to the opera stage. Having sung lighter soprano roles such as Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette and Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata, Gartland is now taking on the title role in Leoš Janáček’s dramatic opera Jenůfa.

Press Release: Welsh National Opera explores Madness for autumn season

Madness descends upon Welsh National Opera for its autumn 2015 season, with three new productions that will explore human turmoil through some of the finest musical expressions of madness and the human condition.

A Chat with Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer Jennifer Higdon

American composer Jennifer Higdon has won many awards for her imaginative music. Her percussion concerto received the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Falling in love with Wolf-Ferrari — An interview with Friedrich Haider

Bratislava in Slovakia might seem an unlikely place to come across the opera I gioielli della Madonna (The Jewels of the Madonna) a 1911 rarity written by the Italian/German Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, a composer best known for his one-act opera Il segreto di Susanna ( Susanna’s Secret) and his comedies based on Goldoni.

Jac van Steen in Conversation

Last year’s Strauss anniversary year — 150 years since his birth — offered, at least in the United Kingdom, a typical number of opportunities and frustrations.

Jonathan Dove’s Flight, Opera Holland Park

On 6 June, Jonathan Dove’s Flight touches down in Kensington, west London. Opera Holland Park is to stage the first London production of Dove’s operatic presentation of the real-life story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the Iranian exile who, lacking residency rights or refugee status, was forced to live in the departure lounge of Terminal One at Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years.



Hans Werner Henze
09 Jun 2009

Royal Ballet’s Ondine heralds new Henze season in London

In April 2010, the Royal Opera House, London, will stage a new production of Hans Werner Henze's opera Elegy for Young Lovers. Henze is perhaps the greatest living German opera composer, hugely important in Europe, so this new production is eagerly awaited.

Hans Werner Henze: Ondine

Alexandra Ansanelli (Ondine), Valeri Hristov (Palemon), Laura Morera (Berta), Kenta Kura (Tirrenio), Artists of the Royal Ballet, Robert Clark (solo piano), Barry Wordsworth (conductor). Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London. Frederick Ashton: choreography.


Ondine is an excellent herald for the opera, and indeed a year of interesting Henze events. Phaedra, (2006) will be heard at the Barbican in London next year, the highlight of a Henze retrospective. In May 2010, the very latest opera, L’Immolazione premieres in May 2010 at the Accademia di St. Cecilia in Rome.

Henze has long had a special place in Covent Garden. Ondine was a high profile commission for a composer still barely 30 years old, and proved to be a major breakthrough. He’d already made his name in opera. Boulevard Solitude (1948) his first opera, (heard in a new production at the Royal Opera House in 2001) is now established repertoire.

Ondine is excellent preparation for next year’s operas. The ballet was commissioned by Sir Frederick Ashton to showcase Margot Fonteyn. Henze’s music thus focuses on images of water, tides and waves, for the sea is Ondine’s element. She’s supernatural, so her music is magically lyrical. When she dances in the waterfall, the colours in the orchestration shimmer around her. In comparison, scenes that take place on land, especially in Act 2, are relatively earthbound, but that’s the essence of the plot. Palemon dies, but Ondine lives on, immortal.

The music flows so seamlessly into dance that you can almost see semi quavers enacted in movement. Every note reflects in dance. Pizzicato becomes en pointe, the interplay of piano, harp, and celeste become intricate ensemble. The guitar part is more than mere “Italianate colour”, for Henze loves the instrument and has written more for it than any modern composer.

Seeing Ondine in performance shows just how good a composer Henze was and is. Sir Frederick Ashton and the audiences of 1958 found the music difficult, but Henze, a devoted balletomane, wrote intuitively for dance. Now the music poses no problems. Instead, we can appreciate how it respects the physical demands of ballet. Despite the undulating, wavering beauty of the scoring there are firm undercurrents and a strong dramatic pulse.

The water spirits form a circle, their arms undulating, like a giant sea anemone, moving with the ocean tides. Graceful as the image is, it’s also powerfully muscular, underlined by the depth and energy of the music. Sea anemones look delicate, but they’re strong, a lot like ballerinas. I learned Ondine from the audio recording conducted by Oliver Knussen. Now the image of the ondines in the corps de ballet will remain with me.

The sets were designed by Lila Di Nobili, who also designed the British premiere of Elegy for Young Lovers at Glyndebourne in 1961. Sir Frederick Ashton wanted to pay tribute to 19th century ballet tradition, so the set is lushly romantic, complete with proscenium arches, like a cherished museum piece. Against this background, the dancers seem all the more youthful and vibrant.

Both Ansanelli and Hristov were replacements for scheduled dancers. Given that these roles were immortalized by Fonteyn and Michael Somes, they did well. Most impressive, though was Kenta Kura’s Tirrenio. It’s a wonderful character part, which Kura made wholly convincing. When he leaps on stage, his costume flowing in the air, he really does seem a powerful, mercurial Lord of the Mediterranean. The corps was disciplined and energetic. The Royal Opera House chorus is justly famous for its ensemble work : perhaps sharing facilities with the Royal Ballet contributes.

In April the Royal Opera House produced an unusual double bill – Handel and Purcell – but with an added attraction, combining opera with dance. Ballet and opera audiences don’t mix often enough. Perhaps, given Henze’s facility for writing for both genres, we’ll see more of his work in future years.

Anne Ozorio

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):