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

Saint Louis Butterfly Soars

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis knew to trust the surefire potential of Madame Butterfly, and pretty much stayed out of its way.

Saint Louis: Gordon’s Revised Grapes

If opera is to remain a viable, accessible 21st century art form, it will be largely owing to the commitment of visionary companies like Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Titus Lightens Up in Saint Louis

Mozart’s opera seria, La Clemenza di Tito, performed in English at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis did something I did not think possible.

Il turco in Italia: Garsington Opera

Martin Duncan's production of Rossini's Il turco in Italia debuted in 2011, only the second production to be performed in Garsington Opera's then new home at Wormsley. Revived for the first time on 25 June 2017, David Parry was again conducting with Quirijn de Lang as Selim, Geoffrey Dolton as Don Geronio and Mark Stone as Prosdocimo returning to their roles, plus Sarah Tynan as Fiorilla, Katie Bray as Zaide, Luciano Botelho as Narciso and Jack Swanson as Albazar. Designs were by Francis O'Connor, with lighting by Mark Jonathan and movement by Nick Winston.

Glyndebourne's wartime Ariadne auf Naxos

It’s country-house opera season, and Glyndebourne have decided it’s time for a return of Katharina Thoma’s country-house-set Ariadne auf Naxos, first seen in 2013. Thoma locates Strauss’s opera-about-opera in a 1940s manor house which has been sequestered as a military hospital, neatly alluding to Glyndebourne’s own history when it transformed itself into a centre for evacuees from east London and the Christie children’s nursery became a sick bay.

On Trial in Saint Louis

That Opera Theatre of Saint Louis fearlessly embraces the cutting edge is once again evidenced by their compelling American premiere of The Trial.

A Traditional Rigoletto in Las Vegas

On June 9, 2017, Opera Las Vegas presented a traditional production of Verdi’s Rigoletto conducted by Music Director Gregory Buchalter with a cast headed by veteran baritone Michael Chioldi. A most convincing Rigoletto, Chioldi was a man in psychological pain from the begining of the opera. His fear and his vulnerability to the whims of the nobility were evident in every meaty, well-colored phrase he sang.

Thumbprint, An Amazing Woman Leaves an Indelible Mark

Thumbprint is the story of the young, innocent and illiterate Mukhtar Mai who was assaulted by a group of powerful men. Following the attack, Mukhtar, having supposedly been disgraced, was expected to commit suicide. Instead, she amazed everyone who knew her by going to the police and calling for the arrest of her attackers.

Kaufmann's first Otello: Royal Opera House, London

Out of the blackness, Keith Warner’s new production of Verdi’s Otello explodes into being with a violent gesture of fury. Not the tempest raging in the pit - though Antonio Pappano conjures a terrifying maelstrom from the ROH Orchestra and the enlarged ROH Chorus hurls a blood-curdling battering-ram of sound into the auditorium. Rather, Warner offers a spot-lit emblem of frustrated malice and wrath, as a lone soldier fiercely hurls a Venetian mask to the ground.

Don Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Plácido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra [Photo by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of The Royal Opera]
02 Jul 2010

Picture Perfect — Plácido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra, Royal Opera

Plácido Domingo isn’t a tenor, a baritone or even a singer. He’s a phenomenon. Dozens stood by the stage door at the Royal Opera House to greet him with bouquets.

Guiseppi Verdi: Simon Boccanegra

Paolo Albiani: Jonathan Summers; Piero: Lukas Jakobski; Simon Boccanegra: Plácido Domingo; Jacope Fiesco: Ferruccio Furlanetto; Amelia Grimaldi: Marina Poplavskaya; Gabriele Adorno: Joseph Calleja; Amelia’s maid: Louise Armit; Captain: Lee Hickenbottom. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Conductor: Antonio Pappano. Diuector: Elijah Moshinsky. Set Designer: Michael Yeargan. Costumes: Peter J Hall. Lighting: John Harrison. Royal Opera House, London, 29 June 2010.

Above: Plácido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra

All photos by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of The Royal Opera

 

The fans know he doesn’t need flowers. The flowers are symbols to thank Domingo for being who he is. He’s an institution, or as they say in Japan, a Living National Treasure.

Given Domingo’s hectic schedule and age, it’s a miracle that he sings at all. Yet the moment he appears, the atmosphere seems to ignite, though he shares the stage with luminaries like Ferruccio Furlanetto, Joseph Calleja and Marina Poplavskaya.

Domingo’s authority is all the more impressive because there aren’t any florid, crowd pleasing arias in the part. It’s not Boccanegra’s style. He’s a shrewd politician who lives on constant alert, surrounded by danger. Hence the austere vocal colour, cold steel and granite. Boccanegra reveals himself in declamation, not decoration, and in ensemble where he’s not exposed. Indeed the tension in Domingo’s voice at some points enhances his characterization of Boccanegra as a man ravaged by fruitless struggle.

Domingo was convincingly tender in the reconciliation scene with Amelia, but reached true heights later. His monologue “Ah! ch’io respiri l’aura beata del libero cielo!”was exceptional. Acting skills grow with experience, so even if a voice ages, a true artist like Domingo can bring out aspects in the character deeper than words alone. “Oh refrigerio!... la marina brezza!...”, he sings, as the strings oscillate eerily. Domingo at once portrays the old Doge, whose power brought no peace, and the heroic corsair he once was.

Antonio Pappano understands that this “breeze” is sinister, and that Boccanegra will soon be chilled by death. Pappano’s feel for the hidden depths in this opera manifested itself in the way he brought out the strange, wavering textures in the orchestration. Tragedy hangs on this opera like a shroud : there’s an implication that headstrong Adorno might one day end up as broken as Boccanegra. Yet Verdi writes with cool-headed stoicism. Sparse textures, solo melodies, intense restraint. In Act 3, the juxtaposition of wedding chorus and execution march is so destabilizing Verdi doesn’t need to overstate the horror.

The central relationship in Simon Boccanegra is between Boccanegra and Jacopo Fiesco. Patrician and plebian, old authority pitted against a new order. Ferruccio Furlanetto’s Fiesco is a strong counterbalance to Domingo’s Boccanegra. Furlanetto has stage presence enough not to be intimidated by Domingo’s aura. His vocal control, too, was so vigorous that he could only be faulted for sounding like a much younger man, not Amelia’s grandfather. But the plot is a means of expressing the titanic power struggle in 14th century Genoa. Much better that Furlanetto sounds forceful and potent.

When Domingo and Furlanetto sang the reconciliation, it was profound because what has gone before has been so intense, a battle between two formidable forces.

Amelia is the pivot on which the plot turns, though the love story is secondary to the hate story that pervades the background. Marina Poplavskaya sings Amelia so assertively that her Amelia is much more than a plot device. Poplavskaya captures Amelia’s charm but the firmness in the centre of her voice indicates strong personality. A girl with such genes would hardly be a cipher.

Calleja_et_al_Boccanegra_RO.gifFrom Left To Right: Joseph Calleja as Gabriele Adorno, Marina Poplavskaya as Amelia Grimaldi, Plácido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra and Jonathan Summers as Paolo Albiani

Joseph Calleja’s Gabriele Adorno is energetic so much the young hothead that it’s hard to imagine what he’d be when he becomes Doge. Calleja has personality in his voice, which makes it attractive.

Lukas Jakobski’s Pietro was impressive, too, since he’s still a Jette Parker Young Artist. He stands out, vocally as well as physically (he’s very tall). Jonathan Summers’s Paolo Albiani was good too.

Since this production has been revived over 100 times, it’s almost superfluous to comment, but theatre is as much part of an opera as singing. Otherwise we’d stick to concert performances.

The sets in this Simon Boccanegra, designed by Michael Yeargan are extremely beautiful, and musically intelligent, too. Chessboard marble floor — a hard foundation that adapts to changes in time and scene, like Genoa itself. It’s black and white, typically Italianate, but also evokes the black and white power struggle in the narrative. On the uprights appear words, sometimes in gold, and in Latin, like frescoes, sometimes roughly scrawled graffiti in Italian. Plebians and Patricians again. Literally, “The writing is on the wall”.

This is a very painterly production, inspired by Renaissance painting and architecture. Yet beauty alone isn’t enough on its own, as Verdi himself was to say of this opera. Fundamentally this isn’t a decorative opera, but an opera about extreme emotions, however repressed. The physical action in this production seems oddly lethargic and stilted. as if the parts are stepping out from a painting. It works, if you think of the production as a scene in a frame on a wall in a marble hall. Fortunately, the cast is so experienced that they can create their roles almost by instinct.

Domingo is a very important artist, and Simon Boccanegra is hugely significant for him. This Royal Opera House production of Simon Boccanegra will be broadcast internationally, online by BBC 2 television on Saturday 10th July at 7.30 pm London time. There will also be a BP Big Screen Live Relay on Tuesday 13th July at 7.30 pm London time at Trafalgar Square, Canary Wharf, Bradford, Bristol, Ipswich, Leicester, Manchester, Plymouth and Portsmouth. There will also be a concert performance at the BBC Proms, broadcast live, internationally, online and on demand. from 18th July.

Anne Ozorio

For more information, please see: www.roh.org.uk

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):