Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Respighi: La Pentola
22 Jan 2010

Respighi — Works for solo voice and orchestra

While Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) is best known to modern audiences for his colorful programmatic works associated with Italian locations, his vocal music is also engaging.

Ottorino Respighi: La Pentola Magica, La Sensitiva, Aretusa.

Damiana Pinto, mezzo soprano, Orchestra Sinfonica del Teatro Massimo di Palermo, Marzio Conti, conductor.

CPO 777-071-2 [SACD]

$16.99  Click to buy

Among his works for solo voice and orchestra, are settings of texts by the English poet Shelley, Aretusa [“Arethusa”] (1910-11), and La Sensitiva [“The Sensitive Plant”] (1914). (Respighi composed a third piece with a text by Shelley, Il Tramonto [“The Sunset”], a work with string quartet, even though it is sometimes performed by string orchestra, but it is not included in this recording.)

This recording of La Sensitiva is an engaging piece because of the florid vocal line and the evocative accompaniment. The sonorities are reminiscent of some of his tone poems, with solo wind timbres and richly scored strings. As full as the orchestra can be, Respighi never allows the scoring to obscure the voice, and in this recording Damiana Pinti offers a fine reading of the text. Her voice is resonant and textured, as the singer uses various shadings to color the line. As clear as her middle and lower registers are, Pinti has a clear and even upper range, which serves the piece well. Moreover, in the sustained passages, Pinti’s tones have a fine shape, which underscores her carefully enunciated text. While Respighi is known for his instrumental piece, those familiar with his music may wish to hear this vocal setting, which serves Shelley’s text well, which is served well through its translation into Italian. Yet the accompaniment not only supports the voice in this piece, but reinforces the mood and sense of the text. If some aspects of Respighi’s programmatic music emerge in this work, it is not unwelcome, but certainly another means of appreciating this extended piece for solo voice and orchestra.

A similar piece, Aretusa, is equally colorful, as the orchestral accompaniment serves to reinforce the meaning of the text. These somewhat programmatic gestures offer some contrast to the relatively declamatory vocal line. Pinti offers as expressive a reading of Aretusa as she does in La Sensitiva. Here, here the sometimes rich and dark shadings are impressive, and Pinti is good to shape the line through her pacing and dynamics; likewise, Marzio Conti provides solid leadership of the orchestra. With music like this, where the accompaniment intersects the vocal line, the clean entrances and precise releases are crucial to executing the pieces well.

The other work on this disc is the ballet La Pentola Magica (1920), one of the composer’s five ballets, the best known being La Boutique Fantasque, (1918), which is based on music originally composed by Gioacchino Rossini. La Pentola Magica, translated as “The Magic Plot” is work in two parts, which conveys a fable about a Russian princess who longs for a handsome young prince to relieve her of her boredom. Despite attempts to entertain the princess, she is enchanted by the song of a Russian peasant. The peasant dances around a purportedly magic pot, and the princess wants it, since it appears to have supernatural properties. Ultimately the peasant will surrender the pot for kisses from the princess. The court astrologer shows the czar what is happening, and he throws a shoe at his daughter. Yet after she repulses the peasant, the peasant reveals himself as a handsome prince, and the work ends with the princess weeping for her loss.

La Pentola Magica contains some engaging music, not only in its evocation of the Russian court, but also in the entertainments for the princess, as found in the dance of the Armenian slave. Respighi used the opportunity to create some colorful episodes. While Respighi makes use of chromaticism, his harmonic structures remain solidly tonal; dissonances occur, sometimes to offer some color, but the music is never atonal.

All in all, the three pieces found in this recording offer a different side of Respighi than found in the more familiar tone poems about Italian subjects. While it is possible to find some contrast to those tone poems in the suites of Ancient Airs and Dances, the settings of poetry by Shelley are good examples of Respighi’s vocal writing. At the same time the ballet La Pentola Magica demonstrates yet another side of the composer’s musical imagination, which is given a convincing interpretation by Conti and the Orchestra Sinfonica del Teatro Massimo di Palermo. The sound on the CPO recording is clear and distinct, and this supports the colorful scoring that characterizes Respighi’s music.

James L. Zychowicz

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):