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Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.
The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.
Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.
If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.
Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.
With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.
Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.
The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.
One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.
Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.
‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.
The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.
In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.
High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.
The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.
‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough
and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy
will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.
It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?
‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies,
that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’
25 Oct 2009
Ruxandra Donose stars in L'heure Espagnole at the Royal Opera House
Ruxandra Donose sings Concepción in Ravel's L'heure Espagnoie in a double bill with Gianni Schicchi at the Royal Opera House. Concepción is an unusual personality, so Miss Donose's characterization is interesting.
L’heure espagnole is a rapid-moving farce, and Concepción is the pivot around whom all the action revolves. It’s a demanding role for she’s on stage all the time, carrying the action. “It takes a high level of energy to keep going like this for nearly one hour”, says Miss Donose. “I think it’s wonderful how Ravel gets the orchestration to create vivid details like the cuckoos in the cuckoo clocks,it’s so funny. That’s why this opera is done so often in concert, it lives through the music”. She has sung the role in two separate concert performances, but this Royal Opera House production is fully staged, which emphasizes the movement and drama in the plot.
“Concepción has only one hour in the week when her husband is away, so she has to squeeze all her frustrations into that time”, says Miss Donose, “She’s doesn’t get any attention from her husband, but when she tries to relieve her frustrations, she gets all this unplanned attention from other men so she’s frustrated again”.
Everything spins around Concepción, rather like the clockwork mechanisms all round her. “Timing and blocking mean a lot in this production. On the very first day, I was told that this production, by Richard Jones, is very difficult, because there are lots of very precise details and they might take a lot of time to get right. Actually, that went smoothly, but it was interesting coming to the character from outside to inside. There are gestures that don’t come naturally to me, but are part of this Concepción, so I have to make them my own. It’s a process like putting on a costume, you put on those hundreds of small details so they come naturally to you.so you slip into the role.and become the character”.
Because Ravel’s music is so precise, “The ensemble is very important”, adds Miss Donose, “the other characters are much more than caricatures. The poet Gonzalve (Yann Beuron) can’t stop making poetry, and the banker Don Inigo Gomez (Andrew Shore) is solid, like he’s stuffed with money. And the muleteer Ramiro, played by Christopher Maltman, is a strong fellow, who doesn’t do small talk. The clocks aren’t as heavy as they look but they’re bulky and Maltmann has to carry them up and down when he’s singing! ”
“Torquemada (Bonaventura Bottone) lives only for his clocks, they are his only passion, but Concepción is passion, and so direct” ! Just as Torquemada prefers objects to people, Concepción uses people as objects to get what she needs. “Husband and wife are on completely different planets. Concepción is very terre à terre, as the French say, she’s very down to earth so she’s extremely direct. She’s unhappy but determined to get what she needs. In this production, she’s like child who wants a toy and stamps her feet if she can’t get it”. Concepción’s obsessiveness is not so different from Torquemada’s after all. “I’m not like that”, says Miss Donose, “so all the detailed gestures helped me understand what to do with this character.who is much more single-mined and direct than most women”.
Christopher Maltman as Ramiro and Ruxandra Donose as Concepcion
Ruxandra Donose’s starring role in L’heure Espagnole reflects her status as one of the more expressive personalities among the rising generation of mezzo-sopranos. She’s reached the stage where she’s so technically assured that she can focus on developing the characters she portrays. She’s sung Marguerite many times, including with Nagano and Dutoit, and has done many Carmens, Charlottes and even a few trouser roles. Among her favorites though are the Composer in Aridane auf Naxos and Cenerentola. In the near future, she’ll be singing a lot of Mozart, Singing these roles is enriching. “It’s a great experience to embody someone you are not yourself, but can create. For a few hours you have a chance to live another life”.