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

Peter Grimes in Princeton

The Princeton Festival presents one opera annually, amidst other events. Its offerings usually alternate annually between 20th century and earlier operas. This year the Festival presented Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, now a classic work, in a very effective and moving production.

Scintillating Strauss in Saint Louis

If you like your Ariadne on Naxos productions as playful as a box of puppies, then Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the address for you.

Saint Louis Takes On ‘The Scottish Opera’

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis took forty years before attempting Verdi’s Macbeth but judging by the excellence of the current production, it was well worth the wait.

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

On June 16, 2016, Los Angeles Opera with Beth Morrison Projects presented the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's Anatomy Theater at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT).

Shalimar in St. Louis: Pagliaccio Non Son

In its compact forty-year history, the ambitious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has just triumphantly presented its twenty-fifth world premiere with Shalimar the Clown.

Jenůfa, ENO

The sharp angles and oddly tilting perspectives of Charles Edwards’ set for David Alden’s production of Jenůfa at ENO suggest a community resting precariously on the security and certainty of its customs, soon to slide from this precipice into social and moral anarchy.

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

Tristan, English National Opera

My first Tristan, indeed my first Wagner, in the theatre was ENO’s previous staging of the work, twenty years ago, in 1996. The experience, as it should, as it must, although this is alas far from a given, quite overwhelmed me.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

Ever since a friend was reported as having said he would like something in return for modern-dress Shakespeare (how quaint that term seems now, as if anyone would bat an eyelid!), namely an Elizabethan-dress staging of Look Back in Anger, I have been curious about the possibilities of ‘down-dating’, as I suppose we might call it. Rarely, if ever, do we see it, though.

Holland Festival: Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, Amsterdam

Leading a very muscular Dutch Radio Philharmonic, Principal Conductor Markus Stenz brilliantly delivered Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with a superb Florian Boesch in the lead and a mesmerising Asmik Grigorian as Marie his wife.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Ian Storey as Tristan and Jayne Casselman as Isolde [Photo by Patrizia Lanna courtesy of Teatro Carlo Felice]
15 May 2010

Tristan und Isolde in Genoa

Tristan has been a fairly frequent visitor in Genoa over the past sixty years (post WW II). Tullio Serafin conducted the Isolde of Maria Callas there in 1948.

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

Tristan: Ian Storey; König Marke: Frode Olsen (Apr. 13, 16, 18) / Andrzej Saciuk (Apr. 28, 30 0; Isolde: Jayne Casselman (Apr. 13, 16, 18 ) / Elaine McKrill (Apr. 28, 30); Kurwenal: Jukka Rasilainen; Melot: Roberto Accurso; Brangäne: Hermine May (Apr. 18) / Monika Waeckerle (Apr. 28); A sailor: Antonio Poli; A steersman: Alessandro Battiato. Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Carlo Felice. Conductor: Gianluigi Gelmetti. Stage Director: Gianluigi Gelmetti. Set Design: Maurizio Balò. Assistant Director: Eleonora Paterniti. Moviment: Daniela Biava. Lighting: Luciano Novelli.

Above: Ian Storey as Tristan and Jayne Casselman as Isolde

All photos by Patrizia Lanna courtesy of Teatro Carlo Felice

 

But not in La Superba’s famed old, bombed out Teatro Carlo Felice but in its post-war movie palace turned verismo temple, the famed Teatro Grattacielo. Since then Wagner’s love story has found its way into the Genovese repertory once each decade (except the ‘70‘s) and always in the hands of Viennese schooled conductors.

Until now, and barely in time for its once in-a-decade appearance, Genoa’s latest Tristan und Isolde is back in the hands of an Italian maestro, Gianluca Gelmetti, and back in the now bizarre post-modern decor of the reconstructed Carlo Felice.

Maestro Gelmetti’s Tristan (April 18) elevated Wagnerian music drama to pure melodramma, amplifying Wagner’s subtle, insidious musical continuum into a powerful voice that roared and whispered, grunted and snorted and joyously sang out this tale of love. The Wagnerian complexities were turned into pure emotional punch, bringing us forever to the edge, never of resolution but always of explosion. And like in real verismo there was a sudden, earth shattering blow, and release — the death of Tristan!

For this Italian maestro the northern shores of Cornwall (Cornovaglia in the supertitles) and the hull a Nordic ship were Tristan’s Isle of Circe where love seduces and ultimately destroys men. The maestro’s third act English horn (prominently seated just out of sight on the side of the stage apron) urgently sang out the Siren’s call, and a young boy stirred in the early morning light already magically drawn to her call. In the midst of Tristan’s delirium a Siren (a beautiful young woman in a white art nouveau gown) materialized in the upstage darkness, mimicking the now outrightly delirious English horn, bringing Tristan to climax and death. At Tristan’s release was the sudden coup de theatre — muscular, semi-nude young men materialized in the surreal shadow of the upstage black miming battle, the primal male force sacrificed to love by Tristan!

Fantastic music, fantastic theater and yes, great opera.

And yes, you have probably got it by now, this Tristan was staged by the maestro himself. But if ever a Tristan, Welsh tenor Ian Storey, and an Isolde, American soprano Jayne Casselmann, needed a stage director these were they. Neither artist, and they indeed are, are innate actors, or intuitive comedians. Left to their own devices neither could embody a Wagnerian hero (were Tristan’s hands actually in his pockets during the first act love delirium?), but they could sing.

Mme. Casselmann and Mr. Storey offered a gorgeously sung second act love duet, standing side by side downstage facing the maestro (actually holding hands), Wagner’s music fortunately dissolved into a vision in the black void beyond the stage of a semi-nude young male and female in rapturous embraces. Well it was glorious until Isolde was required to move above the staff, perhaps a domain once well within Mme. Casselmann’s reach but no longer.

Mr. Storey possesses a youthful voice of great strength and beauty that he used with considerable artistry throughout this daunting tenorial escapade. In this Tristan the third act delirium was more than contemplation or exposition of pain — it was at times chilling emotional outburst. And finally the maestro gave his soprano the unique opportunity of delivering the Liebestod not as a prayer but as a grand lament! Alas Mme. Casselmann does not have the means to exploit the Wagnerian line or the Gelmetti passion.

I[1]-1.Storey,-J.gifIan Storey as Tristan and Jukka Rasilainen as Kurwenal

The scenery and costumes came from the 1998 Carlo Felice production designed by Maurizio Balò. The primary image was the huge curving timbers of a timeless ship, the upper portions of which disappeared to create the second act garden and the horizon of the third act. The imposing celestial adornments of the 1998 production were left in the warehouse thereby exposing a heavenly void that would so effectively host Mo. Gelmetti’s apparitions.

The extreme cross-stage curve of the ship hull forced the always-forward-facing singers to stand with one foot higher than the other often resulting in distorted, crippled postures — an example of the hazards of recycling productions. As well this extreme curve forced a very restricted playing area down stage center, well serving the musical values of the production (singers’ gazes could only be directed onto Mo. Gelmetti) but limiting its dramatic perspectives.

Norwegian bass Frode Olsen rose to the occasion to make King Mark’s soliloquies far more passionate than eloquent. Romanian mezzo-soprano Hermine May was the most stage worthy of the afternoon’s artists in a beautifully drawn and sung Brangâne, eloquently proclaiming her guilt in creating this tragedy for which Mo. Gelmetti stopped just short of having Kurvenal, the rough voiced bass-baritone Finn Jukka Rasilainen, slit her throat. Italian tenor Roberto Accurso was the Melot, and more than any other of the artists suffered from poor costuming and lack of direction.

Conductor Gianluca Gelmetti delivered a unique reading of Wagner’s magnificent score that cried out for a production of equivalent daring. So let’s be daring — if we must recycle productions why not impose Pesaro’s super brilliant, critically reviled Zelmira of last summer onto the Gelmetti Tristan? Italian dramaturg and stage director Georgio Barberio Corsetti used a meshed floor, a sand covered under-stage, video projection and a giant mirror to move amongst real and irreale worlds, and confuse the confines between the pit and the stage. And Mr. Corsetti is a man of the theater who would have known how to stage those three incisive, shattering intrusions of King Mark into the psyches of Tristan and Isolde. One can dream.

ADDENDUM: April 28 performance

For some unpublicized reason Carlo Felice scheduled an hiatus of ten days after the third of its five Tristan performances. For the reprise on April 28 much of the cast had changed, most notably the Isolde, now English soprano Elaine McKrill. Mme. McKrill, a veteran of smaller roles in prestige Ring productions, is an accomplished and experienced artist who arrived in Genoa vocally and dramatically well prepared, and definitely rearing to give a fine performance. That she did.

While not a youngster Mme. McKrill is a youthful Isolde, her wiles more innocent than knowing, her musicality more urgent than considered. Thus she gave Mo. Gelmetti an Isolde more human than mythical — she was not the sorceress that Mo. Gelmetti might imagine if Wagner’s opera were only the Tristan tragedy. Mme. McKrill’s Liebestod was understood as a hymn to femininity, her tragedy felt as the impossibility of attaining the paramount feminine ideal. Both heroes of this Tristan were victims of love, Isolde learned that love was but a myth, Tristan understood that to love he would sacrifice his life.

Conductor Gelmetti again exploited the hair-trigger responsiveness of the Carlo Felice orchestra to give this Tristan an urgency that could only end in tragedy. But unlike most Tristans this Tristan was a deeply human experience and not just a grandiose celebration of Romantic love. The triumph of this production was its language, and that language was purely musical. Mo. Gelmetti’s means were a full-throated Italian orchestra as motor of this shattering tragedy, and in this performance a Tristan and Isolde who could voice its deeper meanings.

The scheduled tenor for this performance was replaced inexplicably by Ian Storey. The Kurwenal was again baritone Jukka Rasilainen. Mr. Rasilainen made an unobtrusive Kurwenal who structured perfectly the third act Tristan delirium without adding personal dimension. It was a superb and appreciated supportive performance. The balance of the cast seemed unconnected to the production. The Melot was an unforgivable black hole.

Michael Milenski

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):