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

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

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):