Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17. Perfection, as one would expect from arguably the finest Rameau interpreters in the business, and that's saying a lot, given the exceptionally high quality of French baroque performance in the last 40 years.

Adriana Lecouvreur Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.

Rossini is Alive and Well and Living in Iowa

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Gergiev : Janáček Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Angela Denoke as Salome [Photo by The Royal Opera/ Clive Barda]
08 Jul 2010

Salome, London

David McVicar’s production of Salome received its first revival at Covent Garden, though McVicar left its revival in the capable hands of Justin Way.

Richard Strauss: Salome

Narraboth: Andrew Staples; Herodias’s Page: Sarah Castle; First Soldier: Nicolas Courjal; Second Soldier: Alan Ewing; Jokanaan: Johan Reuter; A Cappadocian: John Cunningham; Salome: Angela Denoke; A Slave: Andrea Hazell; Herod: Gerhard Siegel; Irina Mishura: Herodias; First Jew: Adrian Thompson; Second Jew: Robert Anthony Gardiner; Third Jew: Hubert Francis; Fourth Jew: Steven Ebel; Fifth Jew: Jeremy White; First Nazarene: Vuyani Mlinde; Second Nazarene: Dawid Kimberg; Naaman: Duncan Meadows; Guests of Herod. Director: David McVicar; Revival Director: Justin Way; Designs: Es Devlin; Lighting: Wolfgang Göbbel; Choreography and Movement: Andrew George; Revival Choreography: Emily Piercy; Video Designs: Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer for Fifty-Nine Productions. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Hartmut Haenchen (conductor). Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Saturday 3 July 2010.

Above: Angela Denoke as Salome

All photos by The Royal Opera/ Clive Barda

 

The House of Horrors element that irritated considerably last time seemed softened, replaced by a lighter, more humorous form of camp. Perhaps this were so, or maybe it was just a case of knowing what was coming; at any rate, in this of all operas, a somewhat lower level of sensationalism was gratefully received.

SALOME-100701_0110-REUTER&D.gifJohan Reuter as Jokanaan and Angela Denoke as Salome

There is something to be said, I suppose, for the transformation of Herod and Herodias into comic characters, though there was perhaps a little too much of the world of the sitcom to their behaviour. More fundamentally, I remain unsure why the work was updated to the inter-war years 1920s: not that I have any specific objection to it, but little was made of it, beyond perhaps the sense of a violent society — but what society is not? — and the still-problematical caricaturing of the Jews. Wilde, Hedwig Lachmann, and Strauss really do not need any help in that regard. McVicar’s Dance of the Seven Veils witnessed second time around was no surprise, but it remains perverse. Salome gains clothes rather than lose them, as she appears to relive her childhood with the suggestion of Herod as her abuser. Es Devlin’s set retains its striking appeal, the split-level ‘upstairs-downstairs’ arrangement providing glimpses of the Tetrarch’s dinner party proceeding above, until the guests repair below — somewhat oddly, given the distinctly unglamorous nature of the basement. The costumes are generally equally striking, not least in the case of the typical McVicar array of extras: the guests and various household functionaries, including an array of pretty waiters in tight uniforms. And then there is Naaman, the executioner, whom McVicar has transformed into a principal — though necessarily dumb — character, played once again by the muscular street entertainer from Covent Garden market, Duncan Meadows. I have yet to be enlightened as to why he would have stripped off whilst down in the cistern, but his bloodstained reappearance doubtless titillated some. There was quite a bit of casual nudity elsewhere but the only truly erotic moment was that of Salome’s fatal kiss, which certainly retained its horror, and rightly so.

Hartmut Haenchen’s account of the score took a while to get going; I seem to recall a similar trajectory when I heard him conduct Salome a few years ago in Paris. However, after the first half an hour or so, he captured a fine balance between demands of the dance and colouristic fantasy. The orchestra was on fine form after a slight initial thinness of tone, strings gleaming as if instantiating the jewels with which the Tetrarch vainly tries to pay off Herodias’s daughter.

Angela Denoke put up a valiant attempt in that role. She paid commendable attention to the words, give or take a few peculiar consonants, but lacked the sheer physicality of Nadja Michael in 2008. Denoke appears a little too much the elegant woman of a certain age. Moreover, the more extreme demands placed upon her by Strauss found this Salome almost as severely parted as her predecessor, albeit closer to the prescribed pitches. McVicar’s conception of Jokanaan — a ‘Beckettian tramp soaked in sewage’ — does not assist a singer’s assumption of the role, but Johan Reuter proved a worthy successor to Michael Volle, providing an aptly lumbering physical presence, expressed through his voice as much as his acts. Gerhard Siegel and Irina Mishura impressed in their way as the Herods, amusing if not necessarily regal. Andrew Staples presented a credibly sympathetic portrayal of Narraboth, who is after all the only sympathetic character in the drama, though memories of Joseph Kaiser last time around were undimmed. Smaller parts were generally well taken, the chattering Jews especially — whatever resultant discomfort one might feel.

SALOME-100701_0102--PRODUCT.gifFrom Left to Right: Nicolas Courjal as First Soldier, Johan Reuter as Jokanaan, Sarah Castle as Page Of Herodias, Duncan Meadows as Naaman and Andrew Staples as Narraboth

If there was something of an end-of-term feeling to this revival, which comprises but five performances, everything was commendably professional. Ultimately, however, I do not feel that the production gets to the heart — if heart Salome has — of the work. I remain hopeful that Harry Kupfer’s stunning production for the Staatsoper Unter den Linden will see the light of day on DVD. In the meantime, there is amusement to be had here.

Mark Berry

Click here for video trailer of this production.

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):