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

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Written on Skin: the Melos Sinfonia take George Benjamin's opera to St Petersburg

As I approach St Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, musical sounds which are at once strange and sensuous surf the air. Inside I find seventy or so instrumentalists and singers nestled somewhat crowdedly between the pillars of the nave, rehearsing George Benjamin’s much praised 2012 opera, Written on Skin.

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Bampton Classical Opera’s third Young Singers’ Competition takes place this autumn, culminating in a public final at Holywell Music Room, Oxford on November 19. 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.

Peter Kellner announced as winner of 2018 Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera Voice Fellowship

Independent Opera (IO) was very present at the Wigmore Hall last week. On Thursday 5 October, IO announced 26 year old Slovakian bass Peter Kellner as the winner of the 2018 Wigmore Hall/IO Voice Fellowship, a two-year award of £10,000 plus professional mentoring from IO and the Wigmore Hall. A graduate of the Konzervatórium Košice Timonova and the Mozarteum University Salzburg, Peter is currently a member of Oper Graz in Austria where later this season he will sing the title role of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Colline in Puccini’s La bohème.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

‘Never was such advertisement for a film!’: Thomas Kemp and the OAE present a film of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at the Oxford Lieder Festival

Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier was premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 26th January 1911. Almost fifteen years to the day, on 10th January 1926, the theatre hosted another Rosenkavalier ‘premiere’, with the screening of a silent film version of the opera, directed by Robert Wiene - best known for his expressionistic masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The two-act scenario had been devised by Hugo von Hoffmansthal and the screening was accompanied by a symphony orchestra which Strauss himself conducted.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Claudio Monteverdi, L’incoronozione di Poppea
09 Aug 2009

Monteverdi: L’incoronozione di Poppea

This excellent production of Monteverdi’s final (premiered in 1643) and most problematic opera features first-rate singing and a very effective (and restrained) staging.

Claudio Monteverdi, L’incoronozione di Poppea

Poppea: Danielle de Niese; Nerone: Alice Coote; Ottone: Iestyn Davies; Arnalta: Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke; Ottavia: Tamara Mumford; Seneca: Paolo Battaglia; Amore: Amy Freston. Emmanuelle Haïm conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Glyndebourne Chorus. Stage Director: Robert Carsen. Libretto by Giovanni Busenello. DVD of live performance at Glyndebourne Festival, June 2008

Decca 074 3339 [DVD]

$21.97  Click to buy

Early baroque opera is always a challenge for the producing company since the musical language, artistic conventions, and vocal tessituras are so far removed from modern day practices. L’incoronazione di Poppea, ups the ante by portraying the Emperor Nero, one of history’s most barbaric tyrants, in a somewhat positive light, which, most likely was meant to be understood by its original audience as symbolic of the northern Italian disdain for Roman corruption and decadence.

Busenello’s libretto is largely based on Seutonius’ The Twelve Caesars and begins with a debate among Fortune, Virtue, and Amore as to who is the most powerful. Director Robert Carsen stages this Prologue as though Virtue and Fortune are actually members of the Glyndebourne Festival audience and even has the action begin in the pit and in English before quickly transitioning to the stage and the Italian. This works most effectively because it reinforces the idea that the action to take place hence is an opera-within-an-opera.

The action of the opera basically follows the parameters of the Aristotelian unities. Within approximately 24 hours Nero will exile his wife Ottavia, make Poppea his new empress, condemn his disapproving tutor Seneca to death by suicide, all the while showing kingly magnanimity to Ottone (Poppea’s former lover and would-be assassin [at the behest of Ottavia]) and Drusilla, the once and future lover of Ottone. By opera’s end, Amore has thoroughly triumphed over Virtue and Fortune. This triumph, however, is short-lived, as the historical record shows that within a year after the end of the action in the opera Nero kicked to death the then-pregnant Poppea.

The staging of the opera in large part mitigates the dramatic difficulties that the work presents. Taking advantage of the limited space of the Glyndebourne stage, the sets are minimal and easily flow from one scene to the next. Since a great deal of the action takes place in the boudoir, bed sheets become gowns. Although the staging abandons authentic Roman-era verisimilitude, the visual effect is one of an otherworldly milieu, not a vulgar deconstruction of the baroque. Indeed, the creative minds behind this staging are to be commended for not succumbing to the fashionable kitsch of Regieoper. Their emendations and interpolations are few and help to enhance the musical and dramatic effects of the opera.

Particularly satisfying was the choice not to sacrifice musical integrity for visual effect. Rather than transpose the opera to accommodate modern tessituras, singers were selected for the appropriateness of their voice, rather than gender. As such, this staging employs counter-tenors (Ottone), females performing male roles (Nerone), and males performing female roles (Arnalta). This is done, however, not for the sake of gratuitous gender bending, but to allow for the experience of authentic baroque vocal ranges.

Soprano Danielle de Niese’s performance in the title role is musically, dramatically and visually spot on. As a musical actress, de Niese is believable even in love scenes with Alice Coote’s Nerone. Also impressive are counter-tenor Iestyn Davies in the role of Ottone and bass Paolo Battaglia as Seneca. Although it is a secondary and somewhat thankless role, Tamara Mumford performed admirably as Ottavia, particularly in her Act I rage aria “Disprezzata regina.”

Conductor Emmanuelle Haïm directed from the keyboard and displayed a spontaneity and musicality that is often lacking in baroque opera. Her approach is authentic performance for the sake of musicality rather than authenticity for authenticity’s sake. In her hands, the performance was alive and was fully in synch with the drama and rhetoric of the libretto, as one would expect in a performance of a work by the creator of the secunda prattica.

This DVD has several additional features that are quite good, including a brief history of the Glyndebourne Festival, interviews with the creative team, and retrospectives of the 1962 and 1984 Glyndebourne stagings of Poppea. All in all, this is an excellent DVD that will be satisfying to both devotees of Monteverdi and baroque opera as well as those who are experiencing the genre for the first time.

William E. Grim

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):