Recently in Reviews
Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.
Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.
It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’
On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.
In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.
Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.
Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.
On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.
English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.
It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).
There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.
In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman
theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or
amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators
or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in
other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.
Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.
Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.
On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.
The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard
Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014
by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine
Goerke in the title role.
Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.
The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings
On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!
02 Aug 2009
Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia
Of Donizetti's 55 operas, four to five hold on to secure places in the repertory, a much greater number are all but unknown, and in the middle come the titles that see occasional revivals, as flawed but fascinating rarities.
Lucrezia Borgia belongs to that latter group, and it might well have earned a place alongside Lucia and L’Elisir if Donizetti had been able to take more time in its composition (the booklet essay relates how the first rehearsals came only a week after Felice Romani had delivered the libretto to the composer!). Some of the music is uninspired, if professional, and the score’s most memorable numbers go to a relatively minor character (Orsini, a pants role for mezzo). The story itself may be fraudulent history, but it puts on stage an intriguing group of characters quite different from the formulaic romantic contraptions of many other mid-19th century operas.
Donizetti and Romani’s Lucrezia follows the historic portrait of a power-hungry woman who finds poison a useful way to protect and further her position. But she is also a loving mother, although she had to give the son she loves, Gennaro, over to an orphanage at an early age. Gennaro hates the Borgias, and his activities eventually draw a death sentence from Lucrezia’s husband, the Duke. She manages to save her son’s life once, but at the end of the opera she unwittingly poisons him (along with several others she quite wittingly intended to kill), and he refuses her antidote, dying in her arms after they have both sung at some length over the tragic turn of events.
The production Naxos presents originated at the Bergamo Musica Festival, in a recording compiled from November 30th and December 2nd 2007 performances. Angelo Sala’s set design employs stone columns and stairs, leaving most of the stage bare for appropriate props. More budget seems to have gone to Cristina Aceti’s costumes, of a traditional opulence. Lighting designer Valerio Alfieri casts much of the action in shadow and sickly blue light. It all adds up to a fairly conventional staging, but director Francesco Belloto has a good way with the singers, eliciting detailed reactions from not only the leads but from the entire cast, including chorus.
Dimitra Theodossiou, the Lucrezia, either hasn’t sought or hasn’t received many offers to perform in the U.S., but many a stateside opera fan would find her impressive. Not a conventionally beautiful woman, she has an old-time presence, self-contained , even regal. Without trying to judge the size of her voice from a recording, her soprano has that penetrating edge to it that usually carries well. The top can get steely, but she definitely has the notes. And when Donizetti wants the voice to move as nimbly as Lucrezia’s calculating mind does, Theodossiou doesn’t struggle a bit.
While acceptable, Roberto De Biasio’s Gennaro is not on her level. Before he warms up the intonation is not secure, and even once he is in control, the voice itself has little that is attractive about it. Enrico Giuseppe Iori makes for an impressively threatening Duke, and Nidia Palacios does well by the enjoyable music for Orsini. Efficient support comes from conductor Tiziano Severini and the Bergamo forces.
There are no extras on the Naxos disc. Paul Campion’s booklet essay is concise and informative, and there’s a helpful synopsis tied to the track listings, as well as the artist’s biographies. Anyone curious about this Donizetti opera should give this a look and listen.