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

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Statue of Galuppi in Burano [Wikipedia Commons]
25 Oct 2009

Baldassare Galuppi: Jahel

Dr. Charles Burney, who in August 1770 heard Galuppi’s singing girls at the Incurabili, one of Venice’s four competing Ospedali or musical orphanages, admired both their excellent performing standard (“indeed all were such as would have merited and received great applause in the first operas of Europe”), and the quality of the music that the aging maestro was still able to write for them: “ it is generally allowed here that his last operas, and his last compositions for the church, abound with more spirit, taste, and fancy, than those of any other period of his life”.

Baldassare Galuppi: Jahel, oratorio in 2 parts (1770)

Ensemble vocale Cappella Artemisia. Paolo Faldi, conductor. Orchestra Barocca di Bologna (with original instruments). World modern premiere. A Festival Galuppi production. Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice, Italy. Performance of 3 October 2009.

 

Had Burney visited Venice and the Incurabili short earlier, on May 24, he might have attended the premiere of Jahel, a Galuppi oratorio recently unearthed at the Zurich Central Library in Switzerland — probably a remake of the score already performed at the Ospedale dei Mendicanti in 1747 and 1748. By 18th-century standards, 23 years was quite a long time-span in the change of musical taste. Perhaps that’s why in 1772 Galuppi reverted to the same subject on a different libretto and with a larger cast of characters under the title Debbora prophetissa, but the core story remained the same, based on chapters 4-5 of Judges in the version provided by the Latin Vulgate Bible.

Actually, despite the triumphs gathered by his operas in London, Saint Petersburg and Vienna, nowhere did Galuppi enjoy more popular acclaim than as a composer of Latin oratorios on Bible subjects for the Ospedali of his native Venice. It is reported that his Tres pueri hebraei in captivitate Babylonis — premiered in 1744 at the Mendicanti — scored some hundred (paying) performances, a feat comparable to those of modern musical theater. Unfortunately, the 1770 version of Jahel is all we are left with in this genre, since two more oratorios surviving in musical sources (Adamo caduto of 1747) and Il sacrificio di Jephtha of 1749) are in Italian.

At the outset of the eighteenth century, the language of oratorios at the Incurabili became exclusively Latin, to remain so under the musical directorship of Porpora, Jommelli, Cocchi, Ciampi, and Baldassare Galuppi. A similar trend affected more or less the remaining three Ospedali. Although the librettists’ choice was for a simplified variety of Latin, aping at the stock imagery from contemporary cantata and opera seria texts, one wonders whether the traditional status of Venice as a target for multinational operagoers could account for such an unexpected association between Latin and bel canto on a scale even larger than in Catholic church-service proper.

Hearing those notes again within the Scuola Grande di San Rocco — the ‘Sistine Chapel of Venice’ studded with masterpieces by Tintoretto, Titian and Tiepolo — was well worth a trip. As to the actual merit of the performance, one might regret that a few arias were pruned of their da capo, or that a harpsichord was substituted to the organ stipulated in the continuo section. Nevertheless, the sparse period band Orchestra Barocca di Bologna, some ten instrumentalists led by Paolo Faldi, sounded well attuned to style requirements, with rhythmic stamina and accurate tuning generally deserving appreciation throughout.

Galuppi_Jahel_title-page.pngTitle page of Jahel [Zentralbibliothek Zürich]

Not all the six singing ladies would have deserved the same applause as their early counterparts, either out of lacking experience or worn-out voices (the latter was probably the case for Candace Smith in the role of Sisara). Yet both sopranos Pamela Lucciarini in the title role and Silvia Vajente (Debbora) delivered terrific amounts of passagework, competing on a tight edge as to projection and clarion notes. In the end, Vajente apparently won by a neck thanks to a clearer diction and to the sensuous rendering of her aria “Rosa et lilio”, accompanied by a pair of obbligato mandolins. As Barac, mezzo Elena Biscuola unsheathed lovely dark color, accomplished technique and dramatic panache. Her climactic duet with Vajente (“Fugato jam maerore”, just before the final ensemble) was also praiseworthy.

Patrizia Vaccari, a coloratura soprano of considerable experience, delivered a defiant rendering of “Non horret cor forte”, much in the vein of Constanze’s “Martern aller Arten”. The taxing ‘storm’ aria for Haber, “Pugnent nubes fulminando”, emphasized the good natural qualities of young soprano Laura Antonaz, such as sterling color and easiness in ascending to the highest pitches. Her coloratura technique needs further refinement, though.

Carlo Vitali

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):