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

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017 - Winner Announced

Bampton Classical Opera is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2017 Young Singers’ Competition is mezzo-soprano Emma Stannard and the runner-up is tenor Wagner Moreira. The winner of the accompanists’ prize, a new category this year, is Keval Shah.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Kurt Streit as Bajazet [Photo by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of Royal Opera House]
08 Mar 2010

Tamerlano: Handel at the Royal Opera House, London

Handel’s Tamerlano, in the production by Graham Vick, is well known, but its run at the Royal Opera House is unusual because many of the cast are creating the roles for the first time. It isn't a live reprise of the DVD, but more challenging.

G. F. Handel : Tamerlano

Kurt Streit: Bajazet; Chreistine Schäfer: Asteria; Christianne Stotjijn: Tamerlano; Sara Mingardo: Andronico; Renata Pokupić: Irene; Vito Priante: Leone. Ivor Bolton: conductor. Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Graham Vick: director. Richard Hudson: designs. Matthew Richardson: lighting. Ron Howell: choreography. Royal Opera House, London. 5th March 2010.

Above: Kurt Streit as Bajazet

All photos by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of Royal Opera House

 

Plácido Domingo had been billed to sing five of the seven performances, but was rushed to hospital days before opening night. Kurt Streit had to step in at short notice. This is his first Bajazet, although he’s very experienced and professional. Domingo’s name sells tickets, but his withdrawal wasn’t an issue for me, sad as the circumstances are, for his Bajazet is a known quantity. I’d been planning to hear Streit anyway, later in the run.

Unlike Domingo, Streit is a baroque and Mozart specialist, so he brings a completely different perspective to the role. Bajazet is not a sympathetic character. He is used to being an autocrat, whose will is unquestioned:. Suddenly he’s in chains, defeated by “a common herdsman”. It’s so far beyond his comprehension that he cannot adapt. Suicide is his only option. It’s a kind of warped autonomy. Because he can’t learn or change, it’s the only form of self-preservation left to him.

Streit’s Bajazet is regally dignified. Men like he don’t do empathy, they rule. This makes the tenderness between father and daughter all the more poignant. Streit’s Bajazet is perceptive, for Bajazet is fundamentally isolated by his inability to relate to others. After swallowing poison, he has nothing to lose, so gives in to feelings. Streit’s calm, magisterial singing at this point conveys the sense that the Ottoman has found sublimation. Being an absolute monarch can be a burden, and perhaps Bajazet at last senses release.

Bajazet_et_al.gifChristine Schäfer as Asteria, Kurt Streit as Bajazet and Sara Mingardo as Andronico

Tamerlano represents the new order wiping away the old. His costumes constantly change, a dash of colour against the stark black and white design of the set. Eventually, Tamerlano appears in full wig and train, like a monarch of the Ancien Regime. It’s not in the libretto, but a telling observation, for Tamerlano became a tyrant. Handel didn’t need to spell this out explicitly, but the implications would not have been lost on him. Full credit to Graham Vick and his team (Richard Hudson, designs).

This production looks uncompromisingly modern, because Handel’s ideas are relevant to modern times : power, integrity, loyalty. The lighting (Mathew Richardson) is oppressively bright, but throws the moral issues in the opera into full focus. Because there’s no unnecessary detail, such details as they are become significant - rows of anonymous servants, moving in stylized obeisance, like machines. Great Empires function through rituals like these. Power is symbolized by a huge foot, bearing down on a sphere which perhaps represents the world. When Bajazet and Asteria crawl under, it feels dangerous, as it should be. They’re not crushed by the set but by what it means.

Irene_Pokupic.gifRenata Pokupić as Irene

Princess Irene appears astride a huge blue elephant. It’s marvelous theatre. But power “is” theatre. The elephant looks comic, like an illustration in a children’s book. But again, there is something faintly ludicrous about these monarchs handing out kingdoms as if they were candy.

Christine Schäfer is a superb Asteria. It’s her debut in this role, too, though like Streit, she has extensive experience in Handel and the Baroque. Indeed, they’ve appeared together, including Partenope at the Theatre an der Wien. The dynamic between them is good.

Schäfer’s Asteria is so strong that she really comes over as her father’s daughter. Such ferocity and strength of purpose. From Schäfer’s diminutive frame emits a voice so coolly resolute, it’s frightening. The famous “whiteness” of her timbre is ideal. Virginal as Asteria is, she has integrity. To honour her father, she’d kill and die. Ostensibly Tamerlano is attracted by her beauty, but her personality is more than a match for his. Perhaps he’s wise not to marry her. He’s safer with Irene.

Asteria’s purity is indicated in her simple white dress and pigtails. She’s a princess from a long line of bluebloods, but rates moral integrity far higher than worldly power. Irene, in contrast, loves power and status, which is why she won’t settle for second best. Renata Pokupić’s Irene makes a grand entrance on the blue elephant, but spends most of the opera huddled under a black veil. She’s biding her time. She sang the role in Madrid in 2008, so she sings it with assurance.

Tamerlano_Stotijn.gifChristianne Stotjin as Tamerlano

As Tamerlano, Christianne Stotijn makes a debut both in the role and at the Royal Opera House. Although she’s well known as a singer, Tamerlano is a tricky role. Few women can portray a tyrant as butch and as uncouth as Tamerlano must have been. Possibly more steel in the voice would have helped. Even though Tamerlano is prepared to spare Asteria, he isn’t a nice fellow. Acting this part is difficult, as it doesn’t remotely resemble Stotijn herself. Maybe she’ll distance herself as the run continues and play it with greater abandon.

Sara Mingardo is new to the Royal Opera House, too, though she sang Andronico in Madrid. She’s accomplished, but the part is very long and wordy. Handel wrote the whole opera in 24 days. Perhaps with more stringent revision he might have reshaped the part so it’s less verbose, so the singer doesn’t have to stretch herself so far for relatively little purpose. Even Leone, a relatively minor but critical part is sung by a newcomer to the Royal Opera House, Vito Priante.

Andronico_Mingardo.gifSara Mingardo as Andronico

I liked this first night performance for its freshness and immediacy. If some of the performances were a little tentative, they might mature as the run continues. But Streit and Schäfer are impressive, making this “new” Tamerlano a rewarding experience.

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):