Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

Arizona Opera Ends Season in Fine Style with Fille du Régiment

On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera ended its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.

Il turco in Italia, Royal Opera

This second revival of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 2005 production of Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia seems to have every going for it: excellent principals comprising experienced old-hands and exciting new voices, infinite gags and japes, and the visual éclat of Agostino Cavalca’s colour-bursting costumes and Christian Fenouillat’s sunny sets which evoke the style, glamour and ease of La Dolce Vita.

The Siege of Calais
——
The Wild Man of the West Indies

English Touring Opera’s 2015 Spring Tour is audacious and thought-provoking. Alongside La Bohème the company have programmed a revival of their acclaimed 2013 production of Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) and the composer’s equally rare The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo).

The Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor

Mary Zimmerman’s still-fresh production is made fresher still by Shagimuratova’s glimmering voice, but the acting disappoints

Voices, voices in space, and spaces: Thoughts on 50 years of Meredith Monk

When WNYC’s John Schaefer introduced Meredith Monk’s beloved Panda Chant II, which concluded the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk & Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, he described it as “an expression of joy and musicality” before lamenting the fact that playing it on his radio show could never quite compete with a live performance.

St. John Passion by Soli Deo Gloria, Chicago

This year’s concert of the Chicago Bach Project, under the aegis of the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, was a presentation of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Salvatore Licitra (Ernani) and Sondra Radvanovsky (Elvira) [Photo by Dan Rest courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
18 Dec 2009

Ernani: The Case for Early Verdi at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Productions of Giuseppe Verdi’s early opera Ernani have become relatively infrequent primarily because of the difficulties of casting the work requiring four demanding roles.

Giuseppe Verdi: Ernani

Ernani: Salvatore Licitra; Elvira: Sondra Radvanovsky; Carlo: Boaz Daniel; Silva: Giacomo Prestia; Giovanna: Kathryn Leemhuis; Riccardo: René Barbera; Jago: Paul Corona. Conductor: Renato Palumbo. Director: José María Condemi. Designer: Scott Marr. Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler. Chorus Master: Donald Nally. Wig and Makeup Designer: Richard Jarvie.

Above: Salvatore Licitra (Ernani) and Sondra Radvanovsky (Elvira)

All photos by Dan Rest courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago.

 

In its third production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago has not only brought together an outstanding roster of soloists to fill the parts, but the company has also mounted in this new production a splendid scenic backdrop and sets reminiscent of sixteenth-century Spain. Renato Palumbo conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra with an assured sensitivity for this musical cornucopia of bel canto as well as weighty dramatic scenes and ensembles. In the title role Salvatore Licitra displayed both elegant legato and convincing heft in his emotionally driven arias and participatory scenes. His beloved Elvira, sung in this production by Sondra Radvanovsky, remains one of those challenging Verdian female roles, which draw on all reaches of the soprano voice. Ms. Radvanovsky’s command of the role is admirable for her secure approach in a wide range of carefully executed techniques and colors, and also for her sensitivity to communicating through vocal gesture what the character of Elvira senses at given moments. The remaining lead figures, both in pursuit of Elvira, are sung by baritone Boaz Daniel and bass Giacomo Prestia. Mr. Daniel portrays Carlo, King of Spain, who is later during the third act of the opera elected to the status of Holy Roman Emperor, hence giving a historic anchor to the piece. Mr. Prestia sings the role of Elvira’s uncle, Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, a character representing the honor of the old nobility. Silva plans to marry his niece Elvira shortly after the action commences.

In the first scene of Act I, located in the mountains outside the region of Aragon, the followers of Ernani sing of the importance of wine and freedom in this life. From the very start the Lyric Opera Chorus, directed by Donald Nally, demonstrated a crisp urgency in its support of the action and the title character’s imminent plans. In his aria “Come rugiada al cespite” [“As falling dew upon the flower”] Enrnai details the expected fate of Elvira and his own lamentable future without her presence. Ernani plans with the support of his men to abduct his beloved before Silva can marry her. Licitra showed here notably in his first extended solo piece a careful balance of forte notes used to express passion traced with a legato decorated gracefully to carry the import of his plan. In his cabaletta “O tu que l’alma adora” [“O, you whom my soul adores”] one sensed in Licitra’s performance the conviction that Ernani’s love for Elvira would support at least the intentions of the couple. As a mirror to this first scene the opening of the second depicts Elvira surrounded by a female chorus, here separated from Ernani and awaiting her fate in Silva’s palace. The well-known cavatina “Ernani involami” [“Ernani, take me away”] followed by the cabaletta “Tutto sprezzo” [“ All these I detest”] were together performed by Ms. Radvanovsky with an elegant and committed line as well as a matchless instinct for bel canto technique. Her vocal decorations on “Vola, o tempo” [“Fly, o time”] in this aria were especially telling as they recalled the earlier melismas and textual significance of the piece “Involami.” The extended final note in this cabaletta illustrates the directorial emphasis for combining music and staging in this production. As Radvanovsky holds this last pitch with defiant beauty, she strides past the assembled attendants showing disdain for her surroundings and leaving the chamber with the lyrical wish to be transported even further away.

Ernani_Chicago_01.pngBoaz Daniel (Carlo), Sondra Radvanovsky (Elvira) and Salvatore Licitra (Ernani)

In the next scene of Act I Carlo enters and desires to speak with Elvira in order to press his suit further to win her affections. In the role of King Carlo, Boaz Daniel has found an ideal vehicle for his lyrical baritone voice, at times showing dramatic force commensurate with the dignity of position and at other moments a melodic line suggesting the sincerest devotion of love or duty. In his recitative before the duet with Elvira, Carlo laments his unrequited emotions while clinging to the possibility that she will still relent. Mr. Daniel’s declamation of rising notes on the word “ancora” [“yet”] defined a hope that would propel his actions through the remainder of this and the following act. His ensuing duet with Ms. Radvanovsky showcased both performers in a magnificently sung variety of emotions ranging from the noblewoman’s pride to the demands of the yearning king as melodic suitor. The sudden appearance of Ernani, prepared to abduct his beloved, sets off a trio together with Carlo and Elvira, only to be broken by the equally sudden entrance of Silva. Verdi’s symmetrical structure of aria or set piece followed by ensemble and further complication was staged with appropriately tasteful sets showing the influence of Renaissance art work. This symmetry was then complemented by the final principal, Giacomo Prestia, in the bass role of Silva. He is outraged by the violation of his family’s honor when Ernani and Carlo are found in the company of Elvira. In his moving aria and cabaletta, beginning with the words “Infelice, e tuo credevi” [“O unhappy, and you whom I believed”] Prestia combined the heroic gesture of noble dignity with the menacing tone of securely projected basso notes, both leaving a mark of individuality on the character. Once Carlo’s identity is recognized Silva cannot deny his hospitality. Ernani is provided a means of escape as the act ends.

The start of the second act truly demonstrates the coup of staging at memorable points in this production. Elvira stands with her back to the audience as the curtain rises. The chandeliers begin to brighten as guest now arrive for Elvira’s wedding to Silva. Interiors of the hall as well as the costumes evoke the grandeur of sixteenth-century Spain. When Radvanovsky turns to face the audience, she holds the dagger and communicates through anguished facial expression her plan to stab herself at the altar during the ceremony of marriage. Ernani’s entrance, in the guise of a pilgrim, complicates the wedding, just as do Carlo’s subsequent arrival and demands for justice later in the same act. When Ernani learns of the ceremony, he reveals his identity and offers his life. Only Elvira’s protestations of her planned suicide calm Ernani to the point of a love duet. Here the lyrical yearning so vividly expressed by Licitra and Radvanovsky is interrupted, as before, first when Silva discovers the couple and second when King Carlo arrives at Silva’s palace. Sine Ernani is hidden under the protection of Silva, Carlo demands that the young man be surrendered or the old noble will forfeit his life. The entrance of Elvira provides Carlo with a means of force. As he now abducts the heroine, one of the vocal highlights of this act is Daniel’s performance of the aria “Vien meco sol, di rose” [“Come with me, I shall strew your path with roses”]. Daniel projects the variable nature of the king: after his test of wills and power expressed against Silva, the ravishing sweetness communicated by Daniel in Carlo’s song to Elvira as he leads her away remains a convincing display of his love. After settling their differences, Ernani and Silva now both join in a conspiracy against the King in the hopes of also rescuing Elvira. Ernani offers to forfeit his life at the sound of a horn, the choice and time being left to the discretion of Silva.

Ernani_Chicago_03.pngScene from Ernani

Act III and IV of Ernani illustrate the rising power of the King and his beneficent forgiveness and generosity. At the same time, the offer made by Ernani to Silva is ironically called due; the happiness that the hero seems about to enjoy with Elvira is shattered by his commitment to fulfill his word of honor. In Act III at the tomb of Charlemagne in Aix, Carlo remains hidden to await both the conspirators and the result of the election. When cannon shots announce that he has indeed been chosen as Holy Roman Emperor Carlo steps forward to confront his detractors. In the spirit of Charlemagne, Carlo announces forgiveness for the conspirators and relinquishes Elvira to Ernani in marriage. In the great ensemble ending the act, “O sommo Carlo” [“I too am Carlo”] the baritone — here standing on the tomb of his predecessor — leads the remaining soloists and chorus in an impressive lyrical display suggesting a positive turn to the future for all involved. As Carlo, Daniel began the ensemble with a carefully intoned introduction, his voice rising to noble heights of melodic strength as he led the others to think of the example of the past. Only Silva still vents his rage and need for vengeance at the close of the scene. The tragedy of this vengeance interrupts the renewed period of felicity, with which the brief final act opens. As Ernani and Elvira celebrate their wedding, the calls of the horn remind Ernani of the vow that he has sworn. Silva’s arrival leaves him no choice but to take his own life with honor, a decision through which the protagonists must confront the deeds, oaths, and responsibilities of their past. The principal singers, chorus, and orchestra in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ernani have created a production that argues strongly for such continued, fine revivals of Verdi’s 1844 masterpiece.

Salvatore Calomino

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):