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

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Ron Howard’s latest music documentary after The Beatles: Eight Days a Week and Made in America is a poignant tribute that allows viewers into key moments of Pavarotti’s career – but lacks a deeper, more well-rounded view of the artist.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

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):