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

Armida in Pesaro

Armida (1817) is the third of Rossini’s nine operas for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, all serious. The first was Elisabetta, regina di Inghilterra (1815), the second was Otello (1816), the last was Zelmira (1822).

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

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.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

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.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

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.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

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.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

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.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Puccini Romance
11 Dec 2009

Puccini Romance

This disc faces a marketplace already crowded with similar compilations from major companies who can raid their archives to offer competitive interpretations at bargain prices.

Puccini Romance
Arias and duets from La Bohème, Tosca, Le Villi, La Fanciulla del West, Turandot and Madama Butterfly.

Antoinette Halloran, soprano; Rosario La Spina, tenor. The Queensland Orchestra. Stephen Mould, conductor.

ABC Classics 476 6404

$35.98  Click to buy

The main target is therefore the local audience who can currently see these two artists regularly singing with Opera Australia. None the less this disc has some attractions. They are not, however, in the musical layout. Multiple selections from an opera are presented out of order. This is less of an issue with operas like Madama Butterfly or Tosca, where the chosen excerpts are separated often by an entire act, but informed listeners will be amused by the four La Bohème items which places “O soave fanciulla” before “Che gelida manina” and “Sì, mi chiamo Mimi” so that the young couple declare their love before making their introductions. More amusing still is that ‘Mimi’s farewell’ follows immediately so having “come to bother you at an inconvenient time”, she immediately declares her intention to return alone to her solitary nest to make fake flowers!

Rosario La Spina has the makings of a good tenor. He has a bright ‘Italianate’ voice, if occasionally backwardly placed on some higher notes but the biggest irritant are the intrusive aspirates that occur throughout. They may assist him into top notes and give the impression of that ‘hairy-chested’ singing of the Del Monarco/Corelli variey but they become tiresome for repeated listening and the Tosca duet is riddled with them. He has a natural feeling for Italian, singing through diphthongs and making some beautiful sounds although his actual handling of the words is disappointing compared to the careful attention his partner Antoinette Halloran gives to the texts. His phrases are dully shaped, salient words or the emotions they convey are rarely pointed. It would be hard to imagine any soprano responding to his serenades, let alone undergoing the emotional and physical tortures Puccinian women suffer for their men.

Halloran is another bright and intelligent Australian soprano. Her Mimi and Butterfly are well thought out and characterised. In the ‘Dream’ aria from La Rondine her voice expands into a rich and well controlled forte. Her singing in the ‘Butterfly’ duet is the highlight.

The unsung, so to speak, heroes are conductor Stephen Mould and the orchestra, underpinning the moods and commenting on the characters like old troupers from an Italian house that play this music daily. In “Sì, mi chiamo Mimi”, the short, blunted phrases as she details her dull daily routine suddenly swell, as she mentions the pleasure spring flowers bring her, into beautiful arching phrases. La Spina, incidentally, is not on hand to sing ‘si’ when she asks “lei m’intende?” The disc ends with the “Butterfly” duet where the orchestra respond superbly; the harp passage as Butterfly begins to remove her wedding gown almost suggests its silken texture. Similarly, the horns in the closing moments throb with suggestive anticipation as Pinkerton urges Butterfly into his arms and bed. The low gong strike in that closing passage hovers in mid-air and the overall sound is in the demonstration class.

Michael Magnusson

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):