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

Armida in Pesaro

Armida (1817) is the third of Rossini’s nine operas for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, all serious. The first was Elisabetta, regina di Inghilterra (1815), the second was Otello (1816), the last was Zelmira (1822).

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

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.

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):