Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Maria: The Barcelona Concert & Malibran Rediscovered
20 Sep 2009

Cecilia Bartoli: Maria

While the cover of this Decca two-DVD set mirrors that of Cecilia Bartoli's 2007 CD, Maria, the contents are not identical.

Maria: The Barcelona Concert & Malibran Rediscovered

Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano), Maxim Vengerov (Violin), La Scintilla Orchestra, Adam Fischer. conducting.

Decca 074 3252 5 [2DVDs]

$26.99  Click to buy

A tribute to the brief but memorable career of Maria Malibran (1808-1836), that studio recording itself came in two editions, one a hardback copy with bonus selections for a total of 17 tracks. Many of those selections appear on the first of this DVD set’s two discs, a film of a Barcelona concert - the date of which your reviewer could not find anywhere on the packaging or booklet. Bartoli sings 11 numbers in the 80-minute concert, supported by the small ensemble Orchestra La Scintilla, a conductor-less group led by first violinist Ada Pesch. The second disc, a documentary titled Malibran Rediscovered, follows Bartoli as she rehearses for the studio recording and researches Malibran’s life. So as Bartoli celebrates the career of Malibran, Decca celebrates Bartoli’s marketability. Strangely, though your reviewer scanned the materials carefully, he could not find a place to buy the Bartoli/Maria commuter mug or T-shirts.

But enough about the commerciality of this venture. Artistically - it is a success. Some will always find the physicality of a Bartoli performance distracting. She blinks and grimaces, clenches her fists and leans back to gather her forces. If all that effort helps her to produce the fluid, athletic vocalism that she does, it can be abided. Admittedly, at times, her consideration of the value of each word of the text - whether adjective, pronoun, or indefinite article - threatens to eclipse the greater meaning of the entire piece. In the totality of Bartoli’s presentation, her variety of tone and sheer joy in the music carry her beyond such criticisms. And she loves this music, either written for Malibran or in a couple cases, by her. An exquisite, deeply felt version of Adina’s closing scene from La Sonnambula gives way to a raucous Rataplan. The sweetness of Balfe’s Yon Moon o’er the Mountains feels all too brief in Bartoli’s ecstatic performance, although her command of English - quite strong in the conversational segments of the documentary - slips a bit at times. Strangely, a highlight of the disc, Casta Diva, does not appear on the concert disc, although a few minutes are seen in the documentary as Bartoli rehearses.

At just under 70 minutes the documentary doesn’t actually require the second disc that Decca provides, unless for reasons of premium audio quality. The documentary itself, “A Film by Michael Sturminger,” serves as much as a portrait of Bartoli as it does Malibran, but as Bartoli is such an engaging, down-to-earth personality, that adds to the piece’s appeal. She visits Malibran’s grave, rehearses for the Barcelona concert, and with her mother watches home movies of herself singing (a little Violetta of Traviata, act one!). More endearing than illuminating, perhaps, but never dull.

So consider this DVD set more than a companion to the studio recording - the live performance feels more energized than the CD set’s versions, and the documentary does its star-worshipping tastefully. 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):