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 Performances

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Extravagant Line-up 2017-18 at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany

The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus

The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.

Mahler Symphony no 8 : Jurowski, LPO, Royal Festival Hall, London

Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.

Rameau's Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques: a charming French-UK collaboration at the RCM

Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.

St Matthew Passion: Armonico Consort and Ian Bostridge

Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he embodied a perfect Rodolfo.

New opera Caliban banal and wearisome

Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its less-than-tragic plight.

Two rarities from the Early Opera Company at the Wigmore Hall

A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Aleksandra Kurzak as Fiorilla and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Selim [Photo by Clive Barda courtesy of The Royal Opera]
05 Apr 2010

Il Turco in Londra

It may be possible that there is no more effervescent entertainment on stage in London now than the tirelessly clever revival of Il Turco in Italia now playing at the Royal Opera House.

Gioachino Rossini: Il turco in Italia

Fiorilla: Aleksandra Kurzak; Don Narciso: Colin Lee; Don Geronio: Alessandro Corbelli; Selim: Ildebrando D’Arcangelo; Prosdocimo: Thomas Allen; Zaida: Leah-Marian Jones; Albazar: Steven Ebel. Directors: Patrice Caurier, Moshe Leiser. Set Designer: Christian Fenouillat. Costume designs: Agostino Cavalca. Lighting: Christophe Forey. Conductor: Maurizio Benini.

Above: Aleksandra Kurzak as Fiorilla and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Selim

All photos by Clive Barda courtesy of The Royal Opera

 

As imagined by the directorial team of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, Turco recalls the heyday of 60’s Italian cinema, with images unashamedly evocative of La Dolce Vita, 8-1/2 et al, and comedy rendered in the vein of a rather ribald sitcom; I Love Lucy with a fully functioning queen size bed, instead of those two maddening twins, if you will. (Where was Little Ricky conceived in that chaste boudoir?)

Mssrs. Leiser and Caurier waste no time in jump-starting the action with (mostly) meaningful busy-ness that is (mostly) cleanly executed by the well-tutored ROH chorus under the direction of Renato Balsadonna. Amid much amassed rushing on- and off-stage, and much laying on of (mostly) primary colors on gliding flats, the all-important Pirandellian narrator Prosdocimo is dynamically introduced, and he immediately engages the audience directly in his quest to write the very opera we are viewing.

TURCO-100331_0436-LEE AS NARCISO-(C)BARDA.pngColin Lee as Narciso

The inventiveness never flags, and it is to the directors’ credit that they manage to (mostly) avoid upstaging stars and story with distracting business. And when they score (which is often), they score big. Can there have been a more spectacular star entrance than that devised for the white-clad Selim, back to us, atop the massive prow of a yacht that tracks into view upstage, complete with pop-up Turkish flag? As the bass turns around to let us size him up visually just before he sings, it completes a perfectly judged dramatic moment. The preening Narciso rides in on a motor bike, another telling character introduction. Would that Fiorilla’s rather weak entrance have had the same cheeky punch. Still, the lady gets to roll around on the afore-mentioned bed in a passionately madcap sex show with her horny Turk, that is, until Don Geronio lurches through the door effecting a highly comical ‘show-itus interruptus.’

Principals arrive for the meeting on the beach on all mode of transport, snazzy sedan, cheap compact, and the tenor-topped Vespa; and Selim’s subsequent making out with Zaida in the back seat was a goof that resonated with 60’s park-and-snog atmosphere. The cast was exceptionally well blocked and the whole evening was crafted with well-defined character relationships as evidenced by meaningful, varied stage business.

That said, there was an occasional mis-step. Or minced step. When the chorus does those supposed-to-be-funny-pattering-feet-run-abouts, well, we are drawn out of an otherwise honest evening by the falesehood of the movement. This Turco is so overwhelmingly funny and delightful because of its honest trust in the material, that such insincere applications matter. I would urge the team to re-look the staging to eliminate those few fleeting distractions. And an inherent problem in today’s’ opera world remains that the (clever) surtitles sometimes get the laugh in lieu of, or in advance of the singer/director. Maybe delaying the punchline projection would give the performer the advantage?

TURCO-100331_0079-PRODUCTION IMAGE-(C)CLIVE BARDA.pngScene from Il turco in Italia

The directorial duo was given stellar support in their efforts starting with an eye-popping, riotously colorful set design by Christian Fenouillat. The pleasing clutter and motion of flats at the top of One filled the space with a volatile, multi-layered geometric design, with floating blocks of color reminiscent of, say, Mark Rothko. While the texturing of the set pieces seemed a little rudimentary on occasion, there is no doubt that it functioned beautifully, constantly morphing into such surprises as the fold out bed room (complete with a painting of an erupting Vesuvius over the head board), and a 60’s Kitsch disco complete with mirror ball for the party scene.

Of equal quality were the well-gauged costumes by Agostino Cavalca. Fiorilla was got-up as a Gina Lollobrigida stand-in and her glamor knew no bounds. Va-va-voom. Narciso’s yellow Elvis-meets-the Pillsbury-Dough-boy pop-rocker jumpsuit was giddily prankish. And the manly, well-tailored costumes for the title character managed to make him look handsomely exotic rather than stock-issue-silly. Indeed, the entire ensemble of performers was clothed in character-specific attire in a well-calculated color palette. Christophe Forey’s spot-on (pun intended) lighting was a critical component in the over-all triumph of design.

As Selim, Ildebrando d’Arcangelo swept all before him with a commanding presence, good comic sensibilities, amorous abandon, and oh, yes, an imposing world class bass voice with the suavity and richness of a dark Godiva chocolate sauce. He must own this role right now, so definitive was his performance.

Young Aleksandra Kurzak had much to recommend her as Fiorilla: a secure, silvery lyric soprano with excellent agilty; a lovely physical appearance; a supremely confident stage demeanor; superior acting skills. This was a beautifully sung account, cleanly and effortlessly delivered, save for a bit of sraight-toned stridency that crept into the very loudest notes above the staff. However, unlike her other successful repertoire (Adina, Susanna, Norina), Fiorilla asks for that extra measure of Divadom that is not yet hers to command. This is a vehicle that cries out for the unique fire-power and charismatic gifts of a Callas, a Sills, a Bartoli. If only Ms. Kurzak could go the the Evita shop and buy a “little touch of star quality,” for she decidedly has all the other goods and then some. Ah well, she is young and gifted. My bet is that time and experience will find her growing ever further into this role assumption

If his securely sung and impersonated Prosdocimo is any evidence Thomas Allen’s illustrious career remains an evergreen joy. The buffo Alessandro Corbelli acquitted himself exceptionally well as the weary Geronio, missing nary a nuance as the demoralized spouse. Leah-Marian Jones was a lovely, and lively Zaida, her plummy vocalizing a wonderful complement to Aleksandra’s limpid soprano. Collin Lee’s light-voiced tenor had all the pleasing notes in place as Narciso, although there was occasional gear-shifting around the passaggio that made for a handful of clumsy musical phrasings. Jette Parker Young Artist Steven Ebel made an assured impression as Albazar.

On this occasion, the pit seemed off form initially with Maurizio Benini leading a rather scrappy overture. There was little fire or presence at the downbeat, and the horn solo was not only a hair under pitch but also sounded like it was well off-stage. It wasn’t until the jaunty string figure re-appeared that the band seemed to settle into a more inspired comic frame of mind. There were also some rhythmic mis-connects with the chorus getting ahead, then Geronio in his patter, then the chorus again, then Narciso, that are atypical of Covent Garden’s high standard. However, by a third of the way into Act One the musical ensemble settled down, and the whole thing began to sparkle. No doubt future performances will have righted these minor imperfections.

All told, London’s Il Turco in Italia is an engaging evening of witty stagecraft, rife with winning portrayals, and featuring secure singing from some of the day’s top artists. In short, ROH has served up a veritable Turkish Delight.

James Sohre

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):