Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

La Bohème, Manitoba

Manitoba Opera’s first production in nine years of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème still stirs the heart and inspires tears with its tragic tale of bohemian artists living — and loving — in 1840s Paris.

Arizona Opera Presents Don Pasquale in Tucson

On April 12, 2014, Arizona Opera opened its series of performances of Donizetti's Don Pasquale in Tucson. Chuck Hudson’s production of this opera combined Commedia dell’arte with Hollywood movie history.

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Rossini Opera Festival 2009
23 Aug 2009

Zelmira in Pesaro

August is when Italians immerse themselves in the primal soup of all life. Hordes swarm to the Mediterranean shores and multitudes arrive in Pesaro on the Adriatic, where just then crowds of Rossinians from around the world arrive to partake of their primal operatic soup.

Gioachino Rossini: Zelmira

Polidoro (Alex Esposito); Zelmira (Kate Aldrich); Ilo (Juan Diego Flórez); Antenore (Gregory Kunde); Emma (Marianna Pizzolato); Leucippo (Mirco Palazzi); Eacide (Francisco Brito); Gran Sacerdote (Sávio Sperandio). Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Maestro del Coro: Paolo Vero. Roberto Abbado, conducting. Regia: Giorgio Barberio Corsetti. Scene: Giorgio Barberio Corsetti, Cristian Taraborrelli. Costumi: Cristian Taraborrelli, Angela Buscemi.

 

Somehow there seems to be enough room for everyone in what can only be described as a Last Judgment atmosphere.

Though of minimal size (six million euros) and recent birth (1980) the Rossini Opera Festival has emerged as one of Europe’s great opera festivals. There is a simple reason for this pre-eminence — the great Rossini, and the complete Rossini, and this festival’s dedication to finding singers, conductors and stage directors who can bring this magnificent body of work alive.

This is not to say that the ROF always succeeds, and when it does not it is usually because of the delicacy of its task and not the quality of its work. When it succeeds we reach the absolute heights of operatic sublimity, and this occurred last summer in Daniele Abbado and Roberto Abbado’s Ermione. This summer even greater heights were achieved by Georgio Barberio Corsetti and Roberto Abbado’s Zelmira.

Last summer the huge Adriatic Arena housed two productions, Ermione and Maometto II, on identical back-to-back temporary stages that bisected this covered arena. This summer with Zelmira as its sole occupant, the ROF took advantage of the additional space to create a 1500 plus seat auditorium. This relative hugeness created the momentary impression that we had stumbled into Verona’s Roman amphitheater, but with the reverberation specifications of a gothic cathedral. It was a scary beginning.

Common to Ermione and Zelmira was conductor Roberto Abbado and the orchestra of Bologna’s Teatro Comunale, a superb ensemble wired directly to the sculptural musicianship of this extraordinary conductor. Abbado began with pure Rossini, and absorbed the mise en scène, souping up his Rossini to embrace and reinforce the sometimes strange, truly powerful and always beautiful stage images. This was post-modern opera, really a twenty-first century gesamkunstwerk based on a Rossini score.

Fifty-eight year-old actor/dramaturg/video-artist/stage director Georgio Barberio Corsetti, a bastion of the late twentieth-century Italian theatrical avant-garde (surely there is a new one by now), and for the last ten years an important presence on Italian opera stages was the metteur en scène. Sig. Corsetti had an opportunity almost unique in opera — a huge empty arena in which he could create his own made-to-order scenic machine.

It was in medias res (no overture for informed Rossinians to identify as the same one the composer had also used for this or that comedy). The villain Antenore, sung by American tenor Gregory Kunde, feigned dismay and sorrow in the first of the evening vocal flights, but conductor Abbado skillfully avoided allowing him his applause. In fact all opportunities for applause were evaded until the fifth scene when Zelmira’s loved and loving soldier husband, sung by Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez, returning from war greeted his homeland in a dazzling tenorial display. This evoked a nearly twenty-minute ovation (N.B. this was the applause at the August 12 performance).

IMG_7790_aldrich.gifKate Aldrich as Zelmira

The first spine tingling scenic revelation was the slow erosion of the sand partially covering three monumental sculptures lying on the stage floor. This while Zelmira, sung by American mezzo-soprano Kate Aldridge cradled her father Polidoro, sung by Italian bass Alex Esposito who, suckling her breast completed the trio with Zelmira’s nurse Emma, sung by Italian mezzo-soprano Marianna Pizzolato. And then the supine monumental sculptures took flight, becoming huge, suspended, twirling figures.

A huge, full stage mirror reflected Mo. Abbado and his orchestra, with the inclusion of the audience, vertically slashed by the three blood-red electric stripes that marked the aisles of the tiered seating at the rear of the auditorium. This mirror then tilted forward to reflect a giant sand box that covered floor of the arena, visible through the mesh floor of the raised stage platform in which a multitude of mothers suckled their babies. In another scene a bloody soldier was gently washed by his wife, and later wounded and dead soldiers were dragged from a battlefield, etc.

Other times the mirror reflected the action on the stage as well, doubling the presences of the characters, a visually impressive staging technique that attained the Baroque ideal of the scenic meraviglioso. This simple trick (well, hardly simple to achieve) wove notions of the real and irreale with the concept of theater (opera) itself, and immersed us into a metaphysical world, here the hyper-world of music, Rossini’s music.

Brilliant too was the punctuation created by the minutes we sat in darkness and silence taking us from one illusionary world, that of babies and battles, to another, that of politics and intrigue — a flat gold wall and a coterie of ancient priests.

The complications of the staging, the juxtaposition of a single stage image with the changing poetic images of the arias, and the technical brilliance of the vocal displays of the arias finally merged. Sig. Corsetti had the confidence to pit vocal artistry against theatrical meaning, insisting that singing meant to impress could leave deeper and broader impressions, and they did. We soon learned that the complex scenic backgrounds for the arias were not distraction.

_MG_4606.gifAlex Exposito as Polidoro

The first Zelmira was Mme. Colbran-Rossini, well past her prime, thus Rossini gave her only one small aria near the end of the opera. Kate Aldridge, a formidable artists distinctly in her prime, almost eliminated our frustration at Zelmira’s vocal banishment (after all she is the title role) by delivering the brief aria, finally, with virtuoistic bite and finesse. Though Mme. Aldridge leaves the impression that she may not be a genuine Rossini singer she brought a forceful tonality to Zelmira of filial, maternal, uxorial warmth that firmly anchored the Corsetti entanglement of conflicting masculine bellicose, political and dynastic urges into this sentimental, feminine world.

Rossini’s ensembles embodied these archetypal conflicts, Mo. Abbado sculpting the multiple perspectives into statements that soared above time and place into the sublime. And for extended periods. Meanwhile Sig. Corsetti knew to remain scenically silent during these intense moments. Of spectacular beauty was the first act Zelmira and Emma lament duet with solo harp and english horn, as was Rossini’s recall of this scene by restating this music in the tragic moments of the last act.

Opera casting is infamously difficult as reconciling vocal attributes with physical and dramatic presence is a precarious business. This ROF production achieved the near miraculous with top level Rossini artists who could embody their characters. The attributes of Juan Diego Flórez are well-known, Alex Exposito possesses an unusually beautiful bass voice well adapted to Rossini demands, mezzo-soprano Marianna Pizzolato delivered the fervent roulades of her second act invocation to the gods to guard Zerlmira’s infant son with such conviction that it earned the evening’s second biggest ovation. Gregory Kunde is a unique artist, now well into mid-career who can bring the heft, brilliance and presence — vocally and dramatically — to make a Rossini villain real. Baritone Marco Palazzi completed the cast of six principals as Leucippo, henchman of the scheming Antenore.

The Rossini Opera Festival typically offers three productions. This summer in addition to Zelmira was the early comedy La Scala di Seta and his last comedy Le Comte Ory, both mounted in the small, early nineteenth century Teatro Rossini. La Scala di Seta was a new production staged by Damiano Michieletto and conducted by Claudio Scimone. Sig. Michieletto, a young Venetian, allowed expediency to triumph over art in this prosaic TV sit com style production that fulfilled the Rossini Opera Festival’s obligation to expose the complete Rossini. Seventy-five year old conductor Claudio Scimone, founder of I Solisti Veneti, brought the famous first act quartet to a very modest Rossini boil, but did not succeed otherwise in resuscitating this minor, flawed Rossini.

Le Comte Ory was a revival of the ROF 2003 production by Catalan director Lluis Pasqual, conducted this time by Paolo Carignani, the former head of Frankfurt Opera. The Pasqual production makes Rossini’s French comedy into a parlor game, a concept this masterpiece wears passably but a bit uncomfortably. Mr. Pasqual’s staging is conventional, as are his designs, costumes and lighting. On the other hand conductor Carignani gave us dynamic, vintage Rossini, working with the excellent orchestra of Bologna’s Teatro Comunale, and a fine cast, notably soprano María José Moreno as Adèle, Natalia Gavrilan as Ragonde and Laura Polverelli in the pants role, Isolier. Roberto de Candia ably delivered Raimbaud. In the 2003 production Juan Diego Flórez was the Count Ory, a tough act for young tenor Vlhe Shi to follow. Mr. Shi proved himself a musical Count, and succeeded well enough in accomplishing his antics.

Michael Milenski

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):