Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

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.

La Vestale, La Monnaie, Bruxelles

In the first half of the 19th century, Spontini’s La Vestale was a hit. Empress Josephine sponsored its premiere, Parisians heard it hundreds of times, Berlioz raved about it and Wagner conducted it.

Shattering Madama Butterfly Stockholm

An intelligent updating and outstanding performance of the title role lead to a shattering climax in Puccini's Japanese opera



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):