Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

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.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

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.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

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: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘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.

Nabucco at Orange

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: Notturno

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.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

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.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

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.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

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.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

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.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘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.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

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?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.

Puccini Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera House, London

Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..

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):