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

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.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Richard Strauss
18 Jan 2010

Elektra at the Barbican

Concert performances of operas are often problematic in that the work tends to be cut or otherwise played around with, or the venue is inappropriate - after all, these were meant to be staged pieces.

Richard Strauss: Elektra

Elektra: Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet; Chrysothemis: Angela Denoke; Clytemnestra: Felicity Palmer; Orestes: Matthias Goerne; Aegisthus: Ian Storey. London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Valery Gergiev. London Symphony Chorus.

 

The LSO’s Elektra under Gergiev really had only one problem, which was that the orchestra was frequently too loud, and when you have a team of singers amongst whom only the Clytemnestra, the Oreste and the Second Maid actually manage to ride consistently over it, you have a somewhat unbalanced evening. It was bound to be so - Strauss’ orchestral requirement is huge, and the band really must be in a pit or there must be some other way devised to protect the singers from it.

This is not to say that distinguished playing was absent - far from it, since the LSO under Gergiev gave a searing performance, often responding to their conductor as though their lives depended on it, and achieving the all too rare distinction of making one hear parts of the music anew. If this was at the cost of a less lyrical, less poetic interpretation in parts, then it was a worthwhile one.

Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet’s Elektra was new to me, and she certainly chewed up the carpet in histrionic terms, gyrating all over the place and generally giving her all, but her voice frequently had trouble in surmounting the vast sounds coming from behind. Her finest moments were in the address to the shade of Agamemnon, ‘die um sein hohes Grab / so königliche siegestänze tanzen!’ projected with bitter ecstasy, and her almost hypnotic incantation of ‘Der ist selig, der seine Tat zu tun kommt’ to her brother at the crucial moment of decision.

It surprised me that Matthias Goerne was singing Oreste, not because his voice isn’t right for the role, but because it’s such a small part for him - perhaps his Speaker in Die Zauberflöte has given him a taste for tiny yet significant roles. This was an Oreste of brooding presence and stentorian authority, and even if we did miss a little of the more moving qualities of the recognition scene, it was a nobly conceived interpretation.

Angela Denoke certainly has what most would term ‘a Strauss soprano voice,’ and she used it most movingly in ‘Eh ich sterbe, will ich auch leben!’ providing both a tonal and dramatic contrast to her sister - the final cries of ‘Orest! Orest!’ though, could have been more gripping. Felicity Palmer’s Clytemnestra is now a classic interpretation, her grim delivery and absolute mastery of the characterization in a world of their own - why, one almost felt a grudging sympathy for the frightful old bat as she sang of her terrible nightmares.

Ian Storey did what he could with Aegisthus, but it’s never really going to work if the character simply strolls off when he dies - another problem with this kind of staged opera. The Maids were a strong group, with Ekaterina Sergeeva the most expressive and forceful, and Vuyani Mlinde’s Servant / Companion further enhanced his status as one of our finest bass soloists - he first impressed me at the RCM in 2005, and he has not disappointed since.

The audience was as crammed in the hall as the orchestra on stage, so much so that the LSO chorus had to occupy one of the side aisles, with surprisingly little diminution of the intensity needed during that final cleansing of the House of Atreus.

Melanie Eskenazi

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):