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

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola, whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

Billy Budd in Madrid

Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.

A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw

American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera, Nixon in China.

English song: shadows and reflections

Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.

A charming Pirates of Penzance revival at ENO

'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.

Johan Reuter sings Brahms with Wiener Philharmoniker

In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker

I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series programmes opening the New Year.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher in Lyon

There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.

A New Look at Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio

On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.

Giasone in Geneva

Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.

Falstaff in Genoa

A Falstaff that raised-the-bar ever higher, this was a posthumous resurrection of Luca Ronconi’s masterful staging of Verdi’s last opera, the third from last of the 83 operas Ronconi staged during his lifetime (1933-2015). And his third staging of Falstaff following Salzburg in 1993 and Florence in 2006.

Traviata in Seattle

One of Aidan Lang’s first initiatives as artistic director of Seattle Opera was to encourage his board to formulate a “mission statement” for the fifty-year old company. The document produced was clear, simple, and anodyne. Seattle Opera would aim above all to create work appealing both to the emotions and reason of the audience.

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal, Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy and with a clever twist,

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part I: Stölzl’s Psychedelic Parsifal

Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) consistently serves up superlatively sung Wagner productions. This Fall, its productions of Philipp Stölzl's Parsifal and Kasper Holten's Lohengrin offered intoxicating musical affairs. Annette Dasch, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Peter Seiffert reached for the stars. Even when it comes down to last minute replacements, the casting is topnotch.

Donna abbandonata: Temple Song Series

Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Nina Stemme as Ariadne [Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera]
05 Mar 2010

Ariadne auf Naxos, New York

As the first familiar themes of Ariadne came from the pit, I felt myself sinking — sinking from a tense, dreary, daily world into a sort of ecstatic fantasy — a place where all was happy, funny, romantic, inane, fateful and surprising all at once — Sarah Connolly superb, Kathleen Kim charming, Nina Stemme full-throated,

Richard Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos

Ariadne: Nina Stemme; Zerbinetta: Kathleen Kim; Composer: Sarah Connolly; Najade: Anne-Carolyn Bird; Dryade: Tamara Mumford; Echo: Erin Morley; Bacchus: Lance Ryan; Music Master: Jochen Schmeckenbecher; Harlekin: Markus Werba; Brighella: Sean Panikkar; Scaramuccio: Mark Schowalter; Truffaldino: Joshua Bloom. Production by Elijah Moshinsky. Chorus and orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, conducted by Kyrill Petrenko. Performance of February 15.

Above: Nina Stemme as Ariadne

All photos by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

 

Kyrill Petrenko bringing out all the elegant, edgy Schwarmerei of a score that is supremely sophisticated without being too sophisticated to believe in fanciful dreams, and the production, for once in a long while, was a production of the opera being performed, so that all the parts fit together instead of sticking out like bleeding, inefficiently amputated limbs. All was bliss. I can’t remember the last time I so thoroughly enjoyed being at the Met.

You remember the colorful Elijah Moshinsky production, with its vertiginous three-story farthingales on the earth spirits, its rather overdone acrobatics, its sky map giving way to shipscape giving way to setting (or is it rising?) sun? Well it’s as charming as ever. Laurie Feldman’s redirection has no doubt been hampered by having a cast of comparatively slim singers for once — her Brighella, has to wear a false tummy to live up to commedia expectations — but all were game, and the clowns tossed Zerbinetta about in the air in mid-roulade without hampering her breath control. (Diana Damrau, over in La Fille du Régiment, take notice.)

ARIADNE_Kim_and_Connolly_03.gifKathleen Kim as Zerbinetta and Sarah Connolly as the Composer

Sarah Connolly, who sang the Composer radiantly, is not a pretty woman, and she makes her looks work for her in her frequent assumption of trouser roles (Giulio Cesare, Romeo, Ariodante). As a lover, she is sometimes less than convincing, but she was irresistibly right this time for the adolescent, idealistic musician, Strauss’s tribute to his beloved Mozart: clumsy-charming and visibly a-quiver when a seated Zerbinetta casually leaned on his knee. Connolly sang the little air to Cupid and the fervent hymn to Music (the two gods, one might say, who preside over this opera) with a fervent delight that reminded more than one listener of Troyanos and was certainly the most enthralling account of the part to be heard at the Met since her day.

ARIADNE_Ryan_as_Bacchus_282.gifLance Ryan as Bacchus

I think I’ve never heard a bad Zerbinetta — they’re either good or terrific in my experience, which goes back to Reri Grist — and Kathleen Kim (if not quite Swenson or Dessay) was on the terrific end of the spectrum. She is one of the tiny Zerbinettas (a group including Grist and Dessay), and she makes use of her size and agility to boss big folks to great comic effect. Her bewitchment of the hapless Composer is quite believable. In the early scenes her trills were on the colorless side, but all was in place by the time her “Grossmächtige Prinzessin” began. In that bravura number, where the cascades of ornament can often lack color, she made the notes identifiable notes and brought down the house.

Nina Stemme is too rare a visitor on these shores, as the great dramatic German roles are currently in disfavor here or tend to be performed by second-rate Americans. She sang Ariadne with torrents of earth-deep sound in colors of cognac and sherry, rising to superb heights, rich with frustrated — and then idealized — emotion. She is also as slim as any lover of the opera could desire, and plays a glamorous send-up of a diva.

The trio of “earth-spirits” were charming — and in the higher reaches of the house, I’m told, blended with unusual delicacy.

Though all very decent, the men were not quite so fine as the women in the cast. This is not a tragedy in Strauss, who would have done without male voices entirely if he’d been permitted to do so. Lance Ryan sang the high-lying role of Bacchus without a squall or a crack, in itself an achievement, but with a dryish color that did not always give pleasure. Jochen Schmeckenbecher sang an admirable Music-Master, and the comedians were ably handled by Markus Werba as Harlekin — one has heard more sensuous serenades — Mark Schowalter, Joshua Bloom and Sean Panikkar. In this staging, Scaramuccio and Truffaldino have very little to do and no distinction, but Panikkar gave Brighella a distinctive sound and antics.

Michael Devlin — surely not the man I heard sing Ptolemy to Sills’s Cleopatra forty years ago! And the Count to Te Kanawa’s Countess thirty years ago! But yes, it was he — performed the speaking role of the Major-Domo with archducal hauteur, a man so snooty he regards singing in an opera as beneath his dignity.

Kyrill Petrenko demonstrated clarity and genuine feeling for Strauss’s mingling of delirious motifs, and produced not just a musical fabric but a philosophic statement. The singers all found him easy to work with — they went about their comical antics without appearing to pay him any attention, but they were always together and he was always having fun. So were we.

John Yohalem

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):