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

Haitink at the Lucerne Festival

Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music. His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.

BBC Prom 45 - Janáček: The Makropulos Affair

Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.

Two Tales of Offenbach: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.

Britten Untamed! Glyndebourne: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?

Salzburg encores

A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert.  Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.

Leah Crocetto at Santa Fe

On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.

Angela Meade at Sante Fe

On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.

Turco in Italia in Pesaro

When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.

Proms Chamber Music 5: Shakespeare at 400

It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.

La donna del lago in Pesaro

Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.

Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at …’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.

Santa Fe: Straussian Sweet Nothings

With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe’s Civil War Gounod

When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.

Coolly Elegant Vanessa in the Desert

Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.

Le Comte Ory, Seattle

Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.

Racette’s Golden Girl in New Mexico

Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.

Santa Fe’s Mozart Cast Sweeps All Before It

A funny thing happened on the way to Andalusia.

Die Liebe der Danae in Salzburg

The tale of a Syrian donkey driver. And, yes, the donkey stole the show! The competition was intense — the Vienna Philharmonic and the Grosses Festspielhaus in full production regalia for starters.

Snape Proms: Bostridge sings Brahms and Schumann

Two men, one woman. Both men worshipped and enshrined her in their music. The younger man was both devotee of and rival to the elder.

Cosi fan tutte in Salzburg

This Cosi fan tutte concludes the Salzburg Festival's current Mozart / DaPonte cycle staged by Sven-Eric Bechtolf, the festival's head of artistic planning.

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):