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

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

Capriccio at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Although performances of Richard Strauss’s last opera Capriccio have increased in recent time, Lyric Opera of Chicago has not experienced the “Konversationsstück für Musik” during the past twenty odd years.

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

Un ballo in maschera in San Francisco

The subject is regicide, a hot topic during the Italian risorgimento when the Italian peninsula was in the grip of the Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, the House of Savoy and the Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Valery Gergiev [Photo by Steve J. Sherman]
17 Mar 2010

Les Troyens at Carnegie Hall

Les Troyens is the noblest grand opera ever composed by a Frenchman, one of those desert-island works of which it is impossible to tire because its depths can never be completely sounded.

Hector Berlioz: Les Troyens

Cassandra: Ekaterina Gubanova; Didon: Ekaterina Semenchuk; Anna: Zlata Bulycheva; Enée: Sergei Semishkur; Iopas: Daniil Shtoda; Hylas: Dmitry Voropaev; Chorèbe: Alexei Markov; Narbal: Yuri Vorobiev. Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, led by Valery Gergiev. At Carnegie Hall, Part 1 on March 9, Part 2 on March 10.

Above: Valery Gergiev [Photo by Steve J. Sherman]

 

Every hearing brings new beauties to attention, each representation attains new miracles — and every staging (at least, of the several I have seen) has lacked something essential, done something inane that ought to have been serious or something ponderous that ought to have been gossamer.

Berlioz, a traditionalist revolutionary, left none of the tools he made use of as they stood but developed the traditions on offer. From Gluck (and Lully and Cherubini) he took a style of declamatory singing that makes up in hieratic dignity for what it sometimes lacks in the sheer sensuousness of the contrasting Italian manner — though nothing in opera surpasses the quintet-septet-love duet sequence in Act IV of Les Troyens for sheer throbbing passion.

The forms in Les Troyens are traditional: soliloquy aria, aria with chorus, duet, concertato, ballet interlude, orchestral entr’acte, war chorus — but Berlioz employs none of them casually. Each verse of a strophic melody differs from each other, no line of a melody is repeated without altering an instrumental color, brightening the effect, speeding up or slowing down to suit the dramatic pulse of the scene. No matter how familiar the score, it is still full of undiscovered wonders. This is meat only for the most intent of conductors and the most committed singers.

All this being so, and staged performances being rare (in New York, we see it once a decade), a concert performance is no poor compromise, especially if the performers are worthy of the ambitions of a Berlioz. The chorus and orchestra of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, trained on the over-the-top grandeur of Russian epic opera, are clearly primed for Les Troyens, and the dynamic Valery Gergiev is a proven hand with this most idiosyncratic of composers. The only dubious side of the enterprise is the French accent of the Russian soloists — and those who are used to, say, Anna Netrebko’s Antonia or Manon will hardly find anything to object to even here. (Madame Netrebko was in the audience at Carnegie Hall, cheering on her old pals.)

With no sets to distract the eye and no choreographers to embarrass us during the ballets — not to mention no director’s follies to interrupt the orchestral interludes — Maestro Gergiev seems to have felt it wiser to do the piece in two parts, La Prise de Troie and Les Troyens à Carthage, as it often used to be staged. This stratagem kept the orchestra and the tenor fresh for the second evening. (Berlioz lovers in New York, to be sure, might have preferred to have it all on Tuesday and repeat it all on Wednesday, and we would have attended both evenings.)

210007-D_122-R.gifAlexei Markov (Chorèbe) and Ekaterina Gubanova (Cassandra)

First of all: a word about the orchestra, which played five hours of music without a single brass misfire or a mis-cue of the backstage band on its several entrances, a lush, various, delirious, precise reading, heartily theatrical as a theater orchestra should be. The chorus were solid as well. Gergiev, who leads without a podium, waggles his fingers as much as his stick, and dances in place, and clearly everyone knows what each wiggle implies. I sat in the orchestra on both nights, and did wish for an opportunity to hear the whole score again (immediately!) from the higher reaches of the hall, where the sound in more orchestrally intricate works like this one can attain a still more magical imprint.

Ekaterina Gubanova, who has been miscast at the Met (Giulietta? c’mawn!), sang Cassandra with great distinction and dignity and a well-managed rise to the top in a role often given to sopranos. Her thunder was rather stolen on the second night, when Ekaterina Semenchuk, the delicious Olga of last year’s Met Onegin, gave a passionate, tremendously involved account of Didon. She never stood still when “acting,” but emoted fervently, and her eyes grew warm with passion, sick with despair, while her voice, once it was warmed up, filled the house with urgent appeal — in very decent French, moreover. When she was not singing, she was clearly following every word and emotion of the score. There are other ways to perform this wonderful role — New Yorkers have been spoiled by Christa Ludwig, Shirley Verrett, Tatiana Troyanos peerless in passion, Jessye Norman’s hauteur, and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s lieder-singer attention to the detail of each phrase — but Semenchuk’s turn matched them in memorability. In the smaller female roles, I especially liked the glowing low notes of Zlata Bulycheva’s Anna.

Not even Valery Gergiev can conjure first rate tenors out of the thin air of Muscovy, where — perhaps due to early Russian Orthodox church music training (although that didn’t hold back Nicolai Gedda) — low voices tend to be the top grade ones: Russia has always been more famous for basses and mezzos than for tenors and sopranos. Sergei Semishkur declaimed expressively and got over the high passes without coming to grief, but his voice is hardly Heppner pretty or Vickers intense, and as for his French diction — well, it was clear that this is no longer the second language of St. Petersburg, as it was in Tolstoy’s day. Daniil Shtoda, an effective lyric tenor, sang Iopas’s aria with the proper courtly elegance, but Dmitry Voropaev, though possessing a good basic sound, phoned in Hylas’s music with a bad accent and none of that air’s delicate homesick sadness.

Alexei Markov’s Chorèbe was sung with ardent dignity and grace, Yuri Vorobiev sang a fine Narbal, and Alexander Nikitin and Timur Abdikeyev, who covered most of the small, lower roles agreeably, were especially charming in the comical duet for two Trojan sentries.

These were two long, long opera concerts that one wished would never end.

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):