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

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]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Gaetano Donizetti
17 Jan 2010

La Fille du Régiment in Montpellier

The Opéra National de Montpellier sometimes rises to artistic heights, and even when it fails its attempts are often interesting.

Gaetano Donizetti: La Fille Du Régiment

Marie: Monica Tarone; Tonio: Manuel Nuñez Camelino; Sulpice: François Harismendy; La Marquise De Birkenfeld: Hanna Schaer; Hortensius: Evgueniy Alexiev; La Duchesse De Krakenthorp: Gilles Yanetti. Conductor: Jean-François Verdier. Stage Director And Lighting: Davide Livermore. Scenery: Pier Paolo Bisleri. Costumes: Gianluca Falaschi.

Photos by Marc Ginot for the Opéra National de Montpellier

 

Its recent holiday offering (December 28 - January 7), Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment directed by Davide Livermore and conducted by Jean-François Verdier, was not among these finer moments of France’s liveliest opera company.

Davide Livermore is an Italian stage director of accomplished technique well able to create a slick production, and that he did in this production originally staged at the Teatro lirico Giuseppe Verdi in Trieste, and just now remounted by Mr. Livermore in Montpellier. Unlike his superb Don Giovanni unveiled in Genova several years ago that boasted a smart concept on a brilliantly designed set, this Fille displayed an arbitrary concept in its staging on sets that seemed a textbook exercise in design.

Designer Pier Paolo Bisleri constructed a full stage platform of stolid geometric symmetry and solid color, its two halves reversing direction and splitting to offer an interior for the Berkenfeld manor and then re-reversing for the finale. That was it save for the addition of a dead center formal chandelier flanked by two very grand, very symmetrical neoclassical columns for interior scenes. Neither the platform nor the columns and chandelier responded to the pretend rusticity of the Donizetti story and the sentimental nature of its music.

The formalized setting instead was merely a platform for formalized comedy, updated commedia dell’arte in aspiration. Certainly the inclusion of a great plentitude of lazzi (little tricks incessantly performed, sight-gag after sight-gag so to speak) referred the Livermore staging to the primitive comic stage traditions that had been well surpassed by the time Donizetti was experimenting with larger contours of comedic expression.

This late Donizetti French experiment is a sophisticated spoof of nineteenth century class struggle and imperial ambitions with strongly felt sentiment in music that is meant to be above all else beautiful. Bel canto is elusive. It strives to transcend earthly realities where in fact everything is not beautiful and to escape into a musical realm where everything is.

Bel canto soars when this escape is achieved, but it is as delicate as it is elusive. It needs the hands of specialists to succeed. Instead the Montpellier Opéra placed its Fille in the hands of a novice conductor, Jean-François Verdier, a winner of conducting competitions here and there and perhaps a promising opera newcomer but with no documented previous bel canto encounters. Had the Montpellier Fille taken musical flight perhaps Mr. Livermore’s slick production would not have seemed so cold and boring.

fille_GMA3723-1.gif

There were some outstanding performances, notably the Duchess of Crakentorp played in drag by actor Gilles Yanetti, for once this larger than life presence in Donizetti’s comedy was in fact definitely larger than life. François Harismendy was appropriately convincing as Sulpice and Bulgarian baritone Evgueniy Alexiev was the polished servant Hortensius who labored valiantly to realize Sig. Livermore’s idea of funny antics. Swiss mezzo Hanna Shauer was over-parted as the Marquise de Berkenfeld, with neither the temperament nor voice apparent to inhabit a large comic character.

Italian soprano Monica Tarone as Marie and Argentine tenor Manuel Nuñez Camolino as Tonio made a cute romantic couple that Sig. Livermore rendered as brazen urchins, and that was fun for a while. But Marie had to work too hard to keep it up and we soon tired of her personality. Both Madamoiselle Tarone and Mr. Camolino are accomplished singers. We were deprived however of the pleasures of bel canto in their extended duets and arias maybe by the inexperience in the pit, perhaps by the over-wrought comic processes on the stage, more probably by their roles begging for more nuanced singers.

filleGMA4224-1.gif

Stage colors were primary, with lots of white in the soldiers’ costumes. The lighting, attributed to Mr. Livermore, was striking indeed, popping the characters out into high visual relief and sculpting the chandelier and bas-relief columns in quite beautiful, impeccably balanced stage pictures. Theater artifice seemed Mr. Livermore’s primary objective. His staged tableaus flashed during the overture, with firecrackers precisely timed to the music, promised charm and fun. Neither materialized. And finally the Opéra National de Montpellier simply did not provide sufficient musical and vocal resources to salvage Donizetti’s mid-nineteenth century social comedy.

Michael Milenski

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):