Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance



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):