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

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Roméo et Juliette: Dutch National Opera and Ballet seal merger with leaden Berlioz

Choral symphony, oratorio, symphonic poem — Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette does not fit into any mould. It has the potential to work as an opera-ballet, but incoherent storytelling and uninspired conducting undermined this production.

Donizetti : Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House

When Kasper Holten took the precaution of pre-warning ticket-holders that the Royal Opera House’s new production of Lucia di Lammermoor featured scene portraying ‘sexual acts’ and ‘violence’, one assumed that he was aiming to avert a re-run of the jeering and hectoring that accompanied last season’s Guillaume Tell. He even went so far as to offer concerned patrons a refund.

Five Reviews of Regina at Maryland Opera Studio

These are five very different reviews by students at the University of Maryland on its Opera Studio production of Regina — an interesting, informative and entertaining read . . .

Three Cheers for the English Touring Opera

‘Remember me, the one who is Pia;/ Siena made me, Maremma undid me.’ The speaker is Pia de’ Tolomei. She appears in a brief episode of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Purgatorio V, 130-136) which was the source for Gaetano Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei - by way of Bartolomeo Sestini’s verse-novella of 1825.

Andriessen's De Materie at the Park Avenue Armory

"The large measure of formalism which forms the basis of De Materie does not in itself offer any guarantee that the work will be beautiful," says Dutch composer Louis Andriessen of his four-movement opera.

Falstaff Makes a Big Splash in Phoenix

On April 1, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) in Phoenix. Although Boito based most of his libretto on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he used material from Henry IV as well. Verdi wrote the music when he was close to the age of eighty. He was concerned about his ability at that advanced age, but he was immensely pleased with Boito’s text and decided to compose his second comedy, despite the fact that his first, Un giorno di regno, had not been successful.

Svadba in San Francisco

The brand new SF Opera Lab opened last month with artist William Kentridge’s staged Schubert Winterreise. Its second production just now, Svadba-Wedding — an a cappella opera for six female voices — unabashedly exposes the space in a different, non-theatrical configuration.

Benvenuto Cellini in Rome

One may think of Tosca as the most Roman of all operas, after all it has been performed at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome’s opera house) well over a thousand times since 1900. Though equally, maybe even more Roman is Hector Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini that has had only a dozen or so performances in Rome since 1838.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

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):