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

Cold Mountain, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia deserves congratulations on yet another coup. The company co-commissioned Cold Mountain, an opera by Jennifer Higdon based on Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Charles Frazier’s celebrated Civil War epic.

Christian Gerhaher Wolfgang Rihm Wigmore Hall

For their first of two recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber devised an interesting programme - popular Schubert mixed with songs by Wolfgang Rihm and by Huber himself.

Götterdämmerung in Palermo

There are not many opera productions that you would cross oceans to see. Graham Vick’s Götterdämmerung in Sicily however compelled such a voyage.

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sonia Ganassi as Rodelinda [Photo by Laera]
10 Aug 2010

Middle Ages Next to Come

According to Paulus Diaconus’ Historia Langobardorum, both Lombard sovereigns warring for supremacy in late 7th-century Italy — the legitimate king Perctarit and Grimuald the usurper — behaved rather fairly to each other and their families.

George Frideric Handel: Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi

Rodelinda: Sonia Ganassi; Bertarido: Franco Fagioli; Grimoaldo: Paolo Fanale; Garibaldo: Gezim Myshketa; Eduige: Marina De Liso; Unulfo: Antonio Giovannini. Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia. Rosetta Cucchi, director. Diego Fasolis, conductor. Palazzo Ducale, Martina Franca, Italy. Performance of 2 August 2010.

Above: Sonia Ganassi as Rodelinda [Photo by Laera]

 

Above all, there is no evidence that they would compete for queen Rodelinda, who instead was exiled to Benevento with her little son Cunincpert and lived peacefully there until Perctarit, after finally recovering the throne, summoned her back to the kingdom’s capital Pavia.

Turning into melodrama characters those practical barbarians, more interested in power than in romance or bloody vengeance, was the endeavor of such Baroque playwrights as the French Pierre Corneille and the Florentine Antonio Salvi. The latter’s 1710 libretto for Giacomo Antonio Perti (Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi), drastically pruned by Nicola Haym for the London stage, was set to music by Handel in 1725. It immediately proved a resounding success, also thanks to a cast including soprano Francesca Cuzzoni in the title role, the legendary Senesino as Bertarido, and some of the best singers available in the side-roles: tenor Francesco Borosini, bass Giuseppe Maria Boschi, and alto castrato Andrea Pacini.

7123.pngFranco Fagioli as Bertarido [Photo by Laera]

The present staging in Martina Franca, a festival traditionally claiming to “authentic” performing practice, plunged the romanticized 18th-century music drama back into the darkest Middle Ages, or into a “Middle Ages next-to-come”, as phrased by director Rosetta Cucchi. At least visually, through the combination of muddy and disheveled landscapes with costumes (by Claudia Pernigotti) featuring leather, rags, metal decorations, and heavy-duty boots. Entertaining enough, but how much “authentic” is questionable, if only one checks Senesino’s portrait as Bertarido in the flamboyant livery of a Hungarian haiduk, as painted by John Vanderbank in 1725. At the most, this is Regietheater that dare not speak its name, a compromise likely to dissatisfy modernists and authenticists alike.

The show’s musical side was far more convincing, with the Swiss conductor Diego Fasolis succeeding to elicit from the festival orchestra — equipped with modern instruments plus harpsichord, theorbo and Baroque flute — a sound that was both luscious and historically informed. Within an evenly balanced company, the Argentinean alto Franco Fagioli (Bertarido) towered for projection, agility, seamless transition between registers, unfailing musicianship. His manly color and stage charisma may set a new standard among countertenors. As Rodelinda, mezzo Sonia Ganassi tended to underact throughout and suffered some strain in the upper register. For her convenience, a couple of high pitches were transposed an octave lower, and her whole climactic aria “Ombre, piante” was set in G minor instead of the original B minor. Nevertheless, she sang with an elegant restraint hitherto unnoticed in her main repertoire, stretching from Rossini and Donizetti to Massenet.

Her sister-in-fiction Eduige (the established Baroque specialist Marina De Liso) outplayed her as to style awareness, consistently unfolding hot temperament and fanciful coloratura. On the contrary, both the villain Grimoaldo (Paolo Fanale) and the arch-villain Garibaldo (Gezim Myshketa) were absolute beginners in the field of early opera, yet delivered their fast runs and stalking utterances pretty nicely. A further pleasant surprise was the male alto Antonio Giovannini, who lent the loyal Unulfo mellow color, tasteful da capos and lots of acting stamina, particularly in the alternative E-minor version of “Sono i colpi della sorte” after the Hallische Händel-Ausgabe (HHA).

To many affectionate Handelians, the opportunity to hear this and some more passages restored to the composer’s final intentions was a novelty. Yet the claim of a “world premiere in Andrew V. Jones’ critical edition” is mere pressroom hype. The actual premiere with HHA material before official publication was in Glyndebourne 1998, followed by the Göttingen Händel-Festspiele in 2000 and sundry houses worldwide. Anyway, the new artistic manager in Martina Franca, Mr. Alberto Triola, can rightfully boast for bringing to attention a dramatic masterpiece which, despite its Italian subject, was hitherto neglected by the major opera theaters in Italy.

Carlo Vitali

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):