Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance



Portrait du compositeur Vincent d'Indy (1851 - 1931) par Antoine Bourdelle au Musée Bourdelle.
16 Oct 2009

Fervaal by Vincent d’Indy

Vincent d’Indy lived eighty years and, when not composing, spent his time revising the teaching of music in France or simply annoying everybody.

Vincent d’Indy: Fervaal

Fervaal: Richard Crawley; Guilhen: Deanne Meek; Kaito: Barbara Dever; Arfagard: Donnie Ray Albert. American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leon Botstein, at Avery Fisher Hall. October 14.


Nineteen when Prussia tramped all over his beloved France in 1870, he became a passionate nationalist with all the excesses of the time and place: anti-Germanism became, for him as for many, a racial “Celticism,” and his Francophilia included royalism, anti-Dreyfusism and anti-Semitism. Yet he was too good a musician not to appreciate Wagner and be influenced by Wagnerian method.

As a composer of opera, d’Indy was part of that post-Wagnerian movement determined to find in local folklore ways to celebrate national glory, a movement that produced dozens of works from Ireland to Armenia, most of them long forgotten — Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel is a rare success and survival. D’Indy’s Fervaal, which affects to find in the druids a mythic antidote to sophisticated modern life, is d’Indy’s contribution. It had its premiere in Brussels in 1897 and reached Paris in 1913 — just in time for this sort of perfervid nationalism to cheer entry into World War I; Fervaal has not been fully staged anywhere since. That the hero, a druidic prince of divine descent vowed to chastity — though how that will preserve his dynasty is not made clear — is seduced by the love of a “Saracen” princess. Their doomed union prefigures the death of the old gods and the birth of a world based on love (sound familiar?). The Celtic-Saracen passion might appeal to multiculturalists in modern France, with its huge, disaffected Muslim population, but would probably not delight the aristocratic d’Indy and leaves the auditor puzzled.

Still, as a concert version presented by the American Symphony Orchestra under that indefatigable lover of obscure scores, Leon Botstein, made clear, Fervaal is extraordinary without being especially endearing. The great flaw is that none of the three principal characters has much personality — they declaim at taxing length but they never persuade us that they feel any of the emotions they announce. They do not persuade us that they exist — that they have inner lives, emotions that can be reached by other persons. None of their music possesses the charm d’Indy gives to his choruses, who are variously and convincingly warring tribes, exultant priests, sensuous Saracens, spirits of the clouds or natural forces moaning as storms or winds. D’Indy might have achieved success with a dramatic oratorio had he ever composed one — grand opera on the Meyerbeer or Wagner pattern does not bring out his best.

The opera’s enormous orchestra lacked (Botstein said) several instruments d’Indy requested that are no longer much played. There were an enormous variety of winds and brasses typical of the period, exquisitely deployed: contrabass clarinets, for example, and four saxophones to accompany the apparition of the cloud-goddess Kaito and her cumulonimbus attendants — an answer for those who have doubted the spiritual qualities of the saxophone sound. For orchestral color, d’Indy was clearly a master of the genre — he is perhaps best known for his set of orchestral variations on the legend of the Descent of Ishtar — played in reverse from most complex to least, as the goddess disrobes to her naked theme.

My heart went out to the three lead singers — especially to Richard Crawley, a last-minute replacement, who had to learn the title role (easily as long as either Siegfried) in two and a half weeks — for the acres of ungrateful declamatory singing they were obliged to hurl out at Fisher Hall all evening. That they could pace themselves and did not run out of steam is a tremendous tribute to the professionalism of all hands. Donnie Ray Albert may lack the Wagnerian surge and sonorous depths that d’Indy appears to have hoped for in Arfagard, the uncompromising druid priest and prophet, but his sturdy bass-baritone never lost authority. Deanne Meek’s clear mezzo-soprano probably has some sensuous notes somewhere, but she didn’t much display them as the Saracen princess Guilhen, though one would have thought “seductiveness” part of the job description. She, too, deserves points for unflagging industry. Barbara Dever sang the small but distinctive role of Kaito, whom d’Indy calls the goddess of the clouds — but he wrote it and she sang it in the style and intensity of Wagner’s Erda, a part she could obviously handle whenever called upon. Many small roles were ably covered and the Concert Chorale of New York were especially virtuosic, with the only really lyric singing of the occasion.

John Yohalem

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):