Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



Christianne Stotijn [Photo by Marco Borggreve]
28 Mar 2010

Christianne Stotijn at the Wigmore Hall

Unlike instrumental players, singers “are” their instrument. They aren't machines. Performance is affected by many shifting factors, which need to be understood.

Christianne Stotijn at the Wigmore Hall — Pfitzner, Wolf, Debussy, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Loewe

Christianne Stotijn (mezzo), Joseph Breinl (piano)

Above: Christianne Stotijn [Photo by Marco Borggreve]


In Tamerlano, recently at the Royal Opera House, Christianne Stotijn made her debut both in the title role and at Covent Garden. Tamerlano is a brutal tyrant, and male. Modern audiences are perhaps more used to hearing a lower voice expressing such things. But Handel isn’t Verdi. He wrote the role for female voice, which makes it all the more difficult to create the role convincingly for modern expectations. Tamerlano’s personality doesn’t come naturally to Stotijn, though part of the art of acting means becoming a character completely different to yourself.

Stotijn’s voice is attractive, capable of warmth and sensitivity. She’s Bernard Haitink’s singer of choice, particularly for Mahler. She’s very good in Lieder, so I was looking forward to her song recital at the Wigmore Hall, London.

Her programme was wide-ranging: Pfitzner, Wolf, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Debussy, Strauss and Loewe. This is the kind of recital singers often create to show their prowess, though Stotijn is well known enough to have passed the stage where she needs to show her facility with languages and styles. The danger with programmes like these is that they stretch singers out too thinly, militating against depth of interpretation.

What Stotijn needed was a vehicle to show how she could penetrate a composer’s unique idiom.The Strauss set showed her at her best. Traum durch die Dämmerung was nicely paced, bringing out the rocking motion between light and shade. The song centres near the middle of the voice, so the flow is smooth, not forced. Similarly Ich schwebe and Die Erwächte Rose benefited from her gentle, lilting approach.

Yet there’s more to Lieder than charm. Loewe’s Herr Oluf was an odd choice, for this song is brutal. It’s often a star turn for baritones who can express its horror. Stotijn was lost, even when she sings the second part, where the bride sings innocently, wondering where Her bridegroom may be. She lifts a cloth and there he is dead. But it didn’t seem to register. Similarly, her Walpurgisnacht didn’t capture the hysteria of a child witnessing demons mother can’t see. Luckily, she sang Loewe’s Erlkönig, rather than Schubert’s, which doesn’t require as much vocal dramatization.

Part of Stotijn’s problem is that her voice is currently underpowered. Sound seems trapped in her chest, not fully projected, either in volume or intensity. Building up her technique will help, and strengthening the middle of her voice. Consonants define words, so sharpening these will increase clarity and attack.

The pianist was Joseph Breinl. He made fast paced, complex tempi flow freely, almost to the extent he was carried away with the vividness of his playing. This was most marked in the beginning of the recital with the Pfitzner songs Stimme der Sensucht and Nachts. To his credit, he pulled back as the recital progressed. Part of being a pianist for song means being sensitive to the singer, especially when she needs support and confidence. In songs like Strauss’s Ruhe meine Seele! where voice is unaccompanied for much of the time, Stotijn could be heard without effort.

Unlike instrumental players, singers “are” their instruments. Unlike machines, their performance can vary, depending on many different factors. Stotijn was born with a good voice, capable of great warmth and sensitivity, but at the moment, something is getting in the way. At times like these, technique comes to the rescue. Indeed, good technique has saved many a lesser voice.

If she takes the opportunity to refine her skills and rebuild her confidence, she’ll emerge from this period with credit. Just as fire strengthens steel, perhaps these current difficulties can strengthen Stotijn in the longer term.

Anne Ozorio

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):