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

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Mark Padmore on festivals, lieder and musical conversations

I have to confess, somewhat sheepishly, at the start of my conversation with Mark Padmore, that I had not previously been aware of the annual music festival held in the small Cotswolds town of Tetbury, which was founded in 2002 and to which Padmore will return later this month to perform a recital of lieder by Schubert and Schumann with pianist Till Fellner.

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Giovanni Simon Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Jonathan Peter Kenny as Oberon and David Gooderson as Puck [Photo by Richard Hubert Smith courtesy of the English Touring Opera]
15 Mar 2010

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by ETO

A silvery tree stretched its gnarled branches across the moonlit stage, and from the briar and bush spiky, feathered fairies wriggled and crept, intent on mischief and malevolence.

Benjamin Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Jonathan Peter Kenny: Oberon; Gillian Ramm: Tytania; Niamh Kelly: Hermia; Michael Bracegirdle: Lysander; Robert Davies: Demitrius; Laura Mitchell: Helena; David Gooderson: Puck; Nicholas Lester: Theseus; Lise Christensen: Hippolyta; Andrew Slater: Bottom; Martin Robson: Quince; Henry Grant Kerswell: Snug; Mark Wilde: Flute; Nicholas Merryweather: Starveling; Benedict Quirke: Snout; Abigail Kelly: Cobweb; Catrine Kirkman: Moth. Director: James Conway, Conductor: Michael Rosewell. English Touring Opera, Sadler’s Wells. Wednesday 10th March 2010.

Above: Jonathan Peter Kenny as Oberon and David Gooderson as Puck

All photos by Richard Hubert Smith courtesy of the English Touring Opera

 

Joanna Parker’s simple single-set design for this revival of James Conway’s thoughtful production was in some ways the star of the show. Bathed in ultramarine gleams, the twisted tendrils tripped and tangled the confused lovers; there would be no sweet dreams in this enchanted wood, just nocturnal nightmares and strange imaginings.

From the haunted shadows emerged Jonathan Peter Kenny’s Oberon, a haughty warlord, clad in black, strutting proudly and contemptuously through his midnight kingdom. Kenny’s timbre was sweet and eerie, but the perennial problem of balance in the duets between the fairy monarchs was not overcome, and Oberon – lacking power and clarity of diction – was somewhat overshadowed by his tempestuous Tytania. As the Fairy Queen, Gillian Ramm’s bright voice shone, matching the shimmers of her silvery gown. The brilliance of her upper range pierced like a moon beam through the night sky, and it was no wonder that that beauty of her chain of falling thirds, ‘I how I love thee’, won the ass-headed Bottom’s heart.

The four lovers all gave solid individual performances, but there was little dramatic distinction between them – perhaps this is an inherent weakness of the score, for the lovers often share the same predominant melodic material, rising and falling scales. Most impressive was Robert Davies as Demetrius; he used both the words and vocal colour effectively to establish character. Niamh Kelly (Hermia) and Laura Mitchell (Helena) were tidily matched, and Michael Bracegirdle conveyed the yearning and urgency of Lysander’s passion.

The final act often lacks the intensity of the night-time meanderings of Acts 1 and 2, so it was pleasing here to see coherence maintained. For once, the rude mechanicals’ amateur dramatics did not feel like a redundant add-on, a gratuitous send-up originating from Peter Pears’ drag impersonation of Joan Sutherland. The pace was well-sustained, physical movements deftly choreographed, and the lunacy of the proceedings kept just the right side of farce. Andrew Slater, as Bottom, sang warmly and surely throughout, while Mark Wilde (Flute) demonstrated confident comic timing and a sharp awareness of the impact of small gestures, musical and dramatic. Mayhem was balanced by majesty, Nicholas Lester’s Theseus and Lise Christensen’s Hippolyta injecting some solemnity into the proceedings. Similarly, the arrangement of the lovers at the foot of the performing platform, and their involvement in the concluding dance, lent an air of harmony and unity to the scene.

The fairies were less successful. Owing to the exigencies of touring, four young female sopranos were joined by a countertenor, and supplemented by eight local boys and girls. A little uncertain and hesitant, this mixed voice medley could not recreate the uncanny, ethereal timbre of a band of goblin brothers. In contrast, David Gooderson’s Puck was assured, his spoken text expertly and chillingly delivered. Just one query: why did he spend the evening with his arms taped to his side?

Andrew-Slater-and-Gillian-R.gifAndrew Slater as Bottom and Gillian Ramm as Tytania

In this opera, so much depends on the orchestral fabric, and it was evident from the opening glissandi sweeps, that the instrumentalists, under the skilful baton of Michael Rosewell would expertly lull us into the world of dreams, shimmering and enticing us with colours of enchantment.

Lise-Christiansen-and-Nicho.gifLise Christensen as Hippolyta and Nicholas Lester as Theseus

At the final curtain, true love and clear sight were thankfully restored. Slipping his arms free from the ropes that bound him, Puck assured us that all was now mended: “Give me your hands if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends.” The captivated audience was glad to oblige.

Claire Seymour

Jonathan-Peter-Kenny,-Gilli.gifJonathan Peter Kenny as Oberon and Gillian Ramm as Tytania

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):