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

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

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):