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

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

Cast announced for Bampton Classical Opera's 2017 production of Salieri's The School of Jealousy

Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Handel's Partenope: surrealism and sensuality at English National Opera

Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a lesson in Patience

A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.

Tara Erraught: mezzo and clarinet in partnership at the Wigmore Hall

Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.

Opera Across the Waves

This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful producers of opera.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

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):