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

Riccardo Zandonai: Francesca Da Rimini
04 Oct 2009

Zandonai: Francesca Da Rimini

Besotted admirers of certain lesser-known operas of debatable merit sometimes include conductors, singers and opera house managers with the power to get their cherished rarity on stage.

Riccardo Zandonai: Francesca Da Rimini

Francesca: Daniela Dessì; Paolo: Fabio Armiliato; Samaritana: Giacinta Nicotra; Giovanni: Alberto Mastromarino; Ostasio: Giuseppe Altomare; Garsenda: Rosella Bevacqua; Adonella: Sabrina Modena; Altichiara: Francesca Rinaldi; Biancofiore: Roberta Canzian: La schiava Smaragdi: Angela Masi; Malatestino Dall'Occhio: L'udovít Ludha; Ser Toldo Berardengo: Francesco Zingariello; Il giullare: Domenico Colaianni: Il balestriere: Alessandro Pucci; Un prigioniero: Michelangelo Brecciaroli. Coro Lirico Marchigiano 'V. Bellini'. Marchigiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

ArtHaus Musik 101 363 [DVD]

$26.99  Click to buy

Riccardo Zandonai’s Francesca Da Rimini, one such opera, received an expensive staging at the Metropolitan Opera in 1984, with Renata Scotto and Placido Domingo, and promptly fell out of the Met’s repertory again. However, word is that the opera will, some 25 years later, reappear at the Met in a coming season. The Sferisterio Festival beat the Met to the punch in 2004, with a production both gorgeous musically and visually. For this opera to have any chance of working, it needs a spectacular staging, as most of the action happens off stage. Three great singers should be on hand as well, to add their vocal charisma to a musical mix potent in its colorful orchestration but woefully barren of memorable melody.

Then there’s the Tristan und Isolde problem, well covered by Richard Eckstein in his booklet essay (translated into English by Alan Seaton). In a medieval setting, a fiery woman of high rank is forced into a marriage she does not want, while the man she truly loves pursues her despite the risk to them both. In Tito Ricordi’s adaptation of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s verse play, in place of the Wagner opera’s dignified King Marke we have Giovanni, the elder brother of Francesca’s true love, the handsome Paolo. Giovanni stomps on as a warrior and brings the opera to its inevitable, and rather drawn out, end when he catches his brother with his wife and dispatches them both. More than in the narrative details, the similarity to Tristan und Isolde derives from the shared theme of an all-consuming love that overtakes two people. The significant difference in the depiction of that theme comes in comparing the complexity of Wagner’s lovers to the shallow, two-dimensional figures of this work. Here, two pretty people get caught up in each other’s prettiness and don’t see the threat of the ugliness around them. Soap opera dynamics take the place of the philosophical undercurrents in Wagner’s masterpiece.

Zandonai’s score keeps this work alive. There is the subtlety of color of Debussy mixed with the brash masculinity of Respighi. There is not, however, anything like the melodic inspiration of Puccini. Even one decent tune might have helped the opera find a less precarious place in the repertory.

The artists of this performance give the score every chance. Conductor Massimo Barbacini works wonders with the orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana. Although they do not appear much in the U.S., Daniela Dessi and Fabio Armiliato as Francesca and Paolo, respectively, have star power. Her soprano tends to tremble under pressure and his tone lacks personality, but they both inhabit their roles fully. As the dastardly Giovanni, Alberto Mastromarino grimaces and growls a lot, but he can’t erase memories of Cornell MacNeil tearing into the role in the video of the Met production.

Massimo Gasparon directed and also designed the sets and costumes. His direction provides no surprises but supports the almost decadently opulent atmosphere of the music, as does the gorgeous set of marble and gold leaf and the silky, brocaded fabric of the costumes. The staging is as beautiful as the lovers - if with no more depth.

Hardcore fans of this work should be thrilled by this performance, no matter how much they already love the earlier Metropolitan video (see below). Your reviewer finds the work hard to take seriously, but when produced with the commitment and, frankly, the expense that it receives here, some operatic pleasures can be had.

Chris Mullins

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):