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

Haitink at the Lucerne Festival

Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music. His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.

BBC Prom 45 - Janáček: The Makropulos Affair

Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.

Two Tales of Offenbach: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.

Britten Untamed! Glyndebourne: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?

Salzburg encores

A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert.  Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.

Leah Crocetto at Santa Fe

On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.

Angela Meade at Sante Fe

On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.

Turco in Italia in Pesaro

When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.

Proms Chamber Music 5: Shakespeare at 400

It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.

La donna del lago in Pesaro

Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.

Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at …’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.

Santa Fe: Straussian Sweet Nothings

With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe’s Civil War Gounod

When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.

Coolly Elegant Vanessa in the Desert

Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.

Le Comte Ory, Seattle

Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.

Racette’s Golden Girl in New Mexico

Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.

Santa Fe’s Mozart Cast Sweeps All Before It

A funny thing happened on the way to Andalusia.

Die Liebe der Danae in Salzburg

The tale of a Syrian donkey driver. And, yes, the donkey stole the show! The competition was intense — the Vienna Philharmonic and the Grosses Festspielhaus in full production regalia for starters.

Snape Proms: Bostridge sings Brahms and Schumann

Two men, one woman. Both men worshipped and enshrined her in their music. The younger man was both devotee of and rival to the elder.

Cosi fan tutte in Salzburg

This Cosi fan tutte concludes the Salzburg Festival's current Mozart / DaPonte cycle staged by Sven-Eric Bechtolf, the festival's head of artistic planning.

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):