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

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.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

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):