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

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne

Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

FRA Musica FRA 001
25 Jan 2010

Dido and Aeneas by Les Arts Florissants

We all wish Henry Purcell had written a few more operas like Dido and Aeneas — simple to cast, simple to stage, offering endless possibilities for either reserved or outrageous treatment, attractive to every sort of audience.

Henry Purcell: Dido and Aeneas

Malena Ernman (Dido), Judith van Wanroij (Belinda), Hilary Summers (Sorceress), Céline Ricci (First Witch), Ana Quintans (Second Witch); Christopher Maltman (Aeneas), Marc Mauillon (Spirit), Damian Whiteley (Sailor). Prologue: Fiona Shaw. Les Arts Florissants, conducted by William Christie. Directed by Deborah Warner, sets and costumes by Chloe Obolensky. Produced by Opéra Comique in cooperation with De Nederlandse Opera and des Wiener Festwochen. Film by François Roussillon. Supplement: A vision of Dido and Aeneas, with William Christie and Deborah Warner. FRA Musica and Opéra Comique. 66 minutes, subtitled. Film: 23 minutes.

FRA Musica FRA 001 [DVD]

$26.99  Click to buy

Producers of opera certainly wish it, for they turn to Dido all the time, in every sort of production and circumstance. Dido, brief and elementary as it is, is a complete work, even “grand” (as William Christie suggests in this DVD’s supplemental film), in the range of emotions it takes us through, the completeness of the story we are asked to feel, the “Shakespearean” variation (as director Deborah Warner suggests in the same film) between heroic tragedy and madcap humor. Dido repays every sort of effort, from amateur to elitist.

Les Arts Florissants are more familiar from their grandiose productions of such works as Lully’s Atys, Charpentier’s Medée, Rameau’s Les Boréades and Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno di Ulisse, but Dido might have almost been composed with their gracious style in mind. Deborah Warner’s production plunks the characters down in a girls’ school (the site of Purcell’s original commission), and leaves the girls such duties as mimed history, shrieking courtiers, masked demons and so on, which they acquit with brio. An inserted prologue presents actress Fiona Shaw reciting (and enacting) Ted Hughes’s version of “Echo and Narcissus” and some bits of Eliot and Yeats on love affairs gone awry, just to put us in the mood for Arcady and broken hearts in lieu of an overture. (Purcell’s, if it ever existed, is lost.)

What follows is always delicious to watch: muscular tumblers writhing together while suspended from the ceiling represent a visible thunderstorm, the sorceress demonstrates her evil by puffing a cig, while her goth attendants snort cocaine in Madonna lingerie, the “spirit” they invoke gives Aeneas’s valet a talking seizure, and Dido takes poison and goes blind, reaching for Belinda’s hand, and fading away in her arms. The set is classic, court and pool and glade, against a shimmering curtain of metallic beads, filmed in Paris’s sumptuous — but not dauntingly enormous — Opéra-Comique.

Delicious too the performances: Malena Erdman’s delicate Dido, each phrase sweet with ardor or drawn out in pain, bustling Judith van Wanroij’s Belinda the motherly confidante, Christopher Maltman’s robust (if sometimes wobbling) Aeneas, Hilary Summers’s louche and envious Sorceress. The English diction of this international company is exceptional: you won’t need titles, even for the choruses. An orchestra of twenty ranges emotionally over the cues of Purcell’s music and Tate’s libretto.

The supplementary film interviews Christie (in French) on the edition of Purcell used and where and why enhanced or revised (it is unclear whether the score as we have it is complete, or exactly when or why it was composed), Warner (in English) on her inspiration from the girls’ school idea and the body of “Arcadian” myth and poetry that Purcell’s audience would have known, but requires a refresher for most modern viewers — so that she and Christie and Fiona Shaw came up with the classically referenced prologue and other references within the staging, to Dido’s earlier widowhood, to Troy’s fate, to Rome’s destiny, and to Diana and Actaeon.

John Yohalem

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):