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

Medici Arts DVD 2007
09 Sep 2009

Fidelio from Glyndebourne and Medici Arts

Beethoven’s Fidelio is actually several works combined — a rescue opera in the grand style of the French revolution, a sentimental comedy focusing on mistaken identity, and a tragédie bourgeoise involving a husband, a wife, and their efforts to re-unite despite the actions of a relentless and implacable foe.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio

Carsten Stabell; Juha Uusitalo; Peter Seiffert; Waltraud Meier; Matti Salminen; Ildikó Raimondi; Rainer Trost; Javier Agulló; Nahuel di Pierro; Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana. Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana; Lorin Maazel, Music Director. Zubin Mehta

Medici Arts 2072498 [DVD]

$26.99  Click to buy

As if this were not enough, the opera is also Beethoven’s political testament, an attack on tyranny and injustice initiated (quite literally) with a trumpeted call to arms for the forces of truth and fraternity. Fortunately, this confused (and some might argue, irreconcilable) juxtaposition of genres contains some of the composer’s most beautiful music, and lovers of the work will undoubtedly welcome these two recently released recordings of Beethoven’s only completed opera. Both performances date from 2006: an audio recording of a Glyndebourne production featuring Anja Kampe, Torsten Kerl, and the London Philharmonic conducted by Mark Elder, and a filmed performance (celebrating the opening of the new Palau de les Arts of Valencia) with Waltraud Meier and Peter Seiffert accompanied by the Community Orchestra of Valencia under Zubin Metha.

Glyndebourne_Fidelio.gif

A comparison of these two productions — one a two CD set, and the other a DVD — while inherently unfair, is revealing. From the first notes of the overture it is obvious that the Gyndebourne production features the better orchestra and more inspired conductor: throughout the performance Elder’s direction of the LPO is a heavenly delight. This is not meant as a criticism of Maestro Mehta, however, who still manages to create some powerful moments while working with a much younger and less accomplished orchestral ensemble. It is particularly regrettable that, unlike the Valencia version, the Glyndebourne production does not include a performance of the third Leonore overture before the second act finale (a tradition, begun by Mahler in Vienna, which Metha wisely follows). The Gyndebourne recording also features the better chorus (prepared by Thomas Blunt) — “O welche Lust” is sung with excellent diction, wonderful dynamic contrast, and superior balance by the British troupe. Elder’s direction of the LPO in the performance of the Haydenesque introduction to the chorus is unforgettable.

Waltraud Meier is a dynamic and powerful presence as Leonore, and her considerable talents are fully utilized in the Valencia production. The contrast between the vocal styles of Meier and Kampe is nowhere more evident than in “Mir ist so wunderbar” — Meier’s tone is commanding and mature, whereas Kampe’s seems less so. This comparison holds throughout the performances: Meier is simply more convincing and at ease in the showcase arias and duets. Her performance of “O namenlose Freude!” with Seiffert is remarkable, and is undoubtedly the happy result of their frequent collaboration together in other roles (most recently in the Met production of Tristan). Seiffert is less compelling when Meier is not on stage, however. Torsten Kerl’s Florestan is more endearing: the youthful tenor’s rendition of “Gott, Welch Dunkel hier” is athletic and impassioned, and made all the more enjoyable by the special touches added by the London Philharmonic’s wonderful accompaniment.

In the secondary roles each performance offers some special moments. Matti Salminen is surpisingly comfortable in his role as Rocco, and even pulls off the notoriously awkward “Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben” aria beautifully. While the voice is at times strained and raspy, his expressive presence, particularly in ensemble numbers, elevates the performances of his fellow cast members. Brindley Sherratt’s Rocco is adequate in the Glydnebourne version, but little more. Lisa Milne is impressive as Marzelline, and displays an enthusiasm for her role which Ildikó Raimondi seems not to. The rising Finnish star, Juha Uusitalo is an impressive and menacing Don Pizarro (seeing him interact on stage with fellow-Finn Salminen in the “Es schlägt der Rache Stunde” is a real treat), and Rainer Trost is a far more convincing and lyric Jaquino than Andrew Kennedy, whose voice seems forced and pinched throughout much of the performance.

Pierluigi Pier’Alli’s direction of the Valencia version features some fascinating video effects. His creative use of the motif of chains and prison bars (projected onto the screen on stage) which leads to Florestan’s aria to open Act II is highly effective. Despite this, some may find his otherwise rather conservative approach to much of the rest of the work a trifle dull, and it is unfortunate that Deborah Warner’s edgy Glyndebourne production can only be seen in a few photos in the album notes. One welcomes Pier’Alli’s willingness to allow Meier an opportunity to explore the full range of her dramatic abilities, particularly during the prisoner’s chorus, where the soprano wanders the stage in a futile search for Florestan — an unforgettable effect which she brings off beautifully.

Because of the merits of each performance it is difficult to choose between these two recordings. The Glyndebourne version is dynamic and more aurally pleasing, but the added visual dimension of the Valencia recording is quite powerful. Certainly, newcomers to Fidelio will appreciate the DVD version more than a sound recording, even a relatively good one. I suspect that those who already know the opera well will enjoy both of these new issues — each performance brings out different facets of the work, an opera which, despite its many flaws, remains one of the most enjoyable products of Beethoven’s genius.

Donald R. Boomgaarden
Dean of the College of Music and Fine Arts
Loyola University New Orleans

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):