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

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne

Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Gaetano Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore
07 Aug 2009

Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore

For adherents of the prima voce school of opera appreciation, this Laurent Pelly production of Donizetti's comic masterpiece may not hold that much appeal.

Gaetano Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore

Aleksandra Zamojska, Laurent Naouri, Paul Groves, Heidi Grant Murphy, Ambrogio Maestri. Paris Opera Chorus, Paris Opera Orchestra. Edward Gardner, conducting.

Bel Air Classiques BAC040 [DVD]

$42.49  Click to buy

The singers delivery professional performances, and rising conductor Edward Gardner treats Donizetti’s score to an energetic, vibrant workover. The greatest impression and delight, however, comes from Pelly’s cinematic detail and his natural, inspired work with the leads and chorus. This DVD could become a textbook chapter on how to make singers live in their characters whether singing or not, while supplying a stage picture that captures the attention without fussy activity or distractions. Possessing charm and sensitivity, and fantasy and realism, Pelly’s L’Elisir d’amore makes for a very fine show.

Pelly updates the action to a farm town sometime in the mid-20th century. With the two strawberry-haired American leads, Paul Groves and Heidi Grant Murphy, we might almost be in Kansas, Dorothy - especially with all the haystacks, a mountain of which feature in the opening and closing scenes. However, the language on the buildings and vehicles remains Italian. Pelly designed the costume himself, favoring simple print dresses for the ladies and keeping Groves’s Nemorino in worn khakis and a stained striped t-shirt throughout. In the warm aura provided by Jöel Adam’s lighting, the sets of Chantal Thomas appear real, lived-in.

Wearing a perpetually stupefied look on his wide face, Groves plays Nemorino as none-too-bright, as the libretto demands, and yet so sweet and lovestruck that Adina’s eventual turn toward him and away from the strutting bantam rooster of Laurent Naouri’s Belcore makes perfect sense. Adina doesn’t have a lot of choices in men, and maybe that’s why Pelly has her isolate herself, seeking refuge in the mammoth haystack pile to read her book under the shade of an umbrella. Grant Murphy doesn’t play it cute - her Adina has an edge, and surely part of Nemorino’s attraction stems from a realization that he will need a strong woman by his side. As usually happens, scenes get stolen by the singer portraying Dulcamara, the traveling salesman who provides the title libation that gives Nemorino the liquid fortification to proclaim his love for Adina. Ambrogio Maestri is a big man with a wonderfully supple comic face. His adipose-rich bass voice makes for the performance’s best singing.

Naouri barks a bit too much as Belcore, and neither Groves or Grant Murphy have the most alluring of voices. Groves has reached a point where the freshness of his lyric voice has been supplanted by volume. As a result, “Una furtiva lagrima” is not the showstopper it usually is. Grant Murphy also seems to be relying on projection more than agility to make her points.

At curtain call, perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest hand goes to young conductor Edward Gardner, who has led the forces of the Paris Opera with such tyro enthusiasm.

Donizetti and librettist Felice Romani’s work can be swamped by too much comic invention, and it can also seem too slight in an unimaginative traditional production. Pelly gets it right - the humor, the humanity, the heat. Recommended.

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):