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

Die schweigsame Frau, Munich

If Strauss’s operas of the 1920s receive far too little performing attention, especially in the Anglosphere, those of the 1930s seem to fare worse still.

Abduction and Alcina at the Aix Festival

The 67th edition of the prestigious Festival d’Aix-en-Provence opened on July 2 with an explosive production of Handel’s Alcina followed the next night by an explosive production of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.

O/MODƏRNT: Monteverdi in Historical Counterpoint

O/MODƏRNT is Swedish for ‘un/modern’. It is also the name of the festival — curated by artistic director Hugo Ticciati and held annually since 2011 at the Ulriksdal’s Palace Theatre, Confidencen — which aims to look back and celebrate the past ‘by exploring the relationships between the work of old composers and the artistic and intellectual creations of modern culture’.

Late Schumann in context - Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler, London

Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler at the Wigmore Hall, London, an intriguing recital on many levels. Goerne programmes are always imaginative, bringing out new perspectives, enhancing our appreciation of the depth and intelligence that makes Lieder such a rewarding experience. Menahem Pressler is extremely experienced as a soloist and chamber musician, but hasn't really ventured into song to the extent that other pianists, like Brendel, Eschenbach or Richter, for starters. He's not the first name that springs to mind as Lieder accompanist. Therein lay the pleasure !

Guillaume Tell, Covent Garden

It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

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):