Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.

Puccini Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera House, London

Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

ArtHaus Musik 100 215 [DVD]
10 Feb 2010

Rossini: La Cenerentola

Michael Hampe seems to have been the director of choice in the 1980s for tastefully traditional Rossini productions.

Gioacchino Rossini: La Cenerentola

Angelina (La Cenerentola): Ann Murray; Don Ramiro: Francisco Araiza; Dandini: Gino Quilico; Don Magnifico: Walter Berry; Clorinda: Angela Denning; Tisbe: Daphne Evangelatos; Alidoro: Wolfgang Schöne. Vienna State Opera Chorus. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Riccardo Chailly, conductor. Michael Hampe, stage director. Mauro Pagano, set and costume design. Recorded live from the Kleines Festspielhaus, Salzburg during Salzburg Festival 1988.

ArtHaus Musik 100 215 [DVD]

$26.99  Click to buy

A series of DVDs devoted to Hampe’s stagings of minor Rossini works has been available for awhile: La Scala di Seta, Il Signor Bruschino, for example. Those productions hailed from a small but lovely theater. Now ArtHaus Musik releases what must have been a career highpoint for Hampe - his production of La Cenerentola from the Salzburg Festival, 1982. With the handsome but monochromatic sets and costumes of Mauro Pagano, Hampe stages La Cenerentola as a fairly naturalistic, slightly somber fairy tale. Only in the usual Rossini storm scene, when Don Ramiro races his horse-drawn carriage to claim his princess, does Hampe allow a broader stroke. Machine-driven wind blows the hats off the riders and the legs of the carousel horses swing wildly. The audience breaks out into sustained applause, perhaps desperate at that point for some visual excitement.

After all, La Cenerentola (with libretto by Jacopo Ferretti) takes two and a half hours to tell its familiar tale. This version differs in many details from the familiar “Disney”-ized confection most Americans know, but suspense is out of the question. Although Rossini’s score doesn’t boast the melodic richness of Il Barbiere di Siviglia, beautiful and enjoyable moments come around, with the best saved for last - the aria for the tenor that Rossini had dropped from Barbiere (Juan Diego Florez likes to include it these days) and re-wrote for his Angelina: “Non piu mesta.” Hampe’s approach has undeniable style and grace, but it isn’t much fun. In the end, with a story as slight as this, a little questionable taste would go a long way toward making the length of the opera less noticeable.

Walter Berry, nearing the end of a remarkable career, utilizes his worn but intelligent vocal skills effectively as Don Magnifico, and Gino Quilico makes for a gruff but appealing Dandini. As the two stepsisters, Angela Denning and Daphne Evangelatos don’t camp it up much, in keeping with Hampe’s dictates, with the result that they don’t make much of an impression.

Ann Murray and Francisco Araiza are well-matched as the romantic leads, for both good and bad. On the positive side, they are skilled, pleasant professionals, who know bel canto and can meet each role’s vocal requirements. Both are also able enough stage performers, moving and emoting with naturalness. Murray does better by the put-upon Angelina. In an effort to be gentlemanly, your reviewer will just say that designer Pagano does what he can to make her an appealing fairy tale princess. Araiza pulls off his transformation from servant to prince, but a blandness in his vocal delivery keeps him from total success. Neither lead has that extra factor that makes a performer riveting, fascinating. In the muted colors of Hampe’s staging, they both blend into the surroundings.

Riccardo Chailly later conducted a studio recording of this opera with Cecilia Bartoli, and the sharpness and detail of that performance is already established here, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, no less.

Recent productions of La Cenerentola tend to be colorful, even cartoonish affairs, and a more subtle staging such as Hampe’s might be seen by some as an antidote for that sort of over-the-top theatricality. It’s all a matter of taste, but a little more star wattage would have made this Salzburg production much more memorable.

Chris Mullins

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):