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 Reviews

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.

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.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

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?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.

Puccini Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera House, London

Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Giacomo Puccini: Edgar
30 Aug 2010

Puccini’s Edgar at the Teatro Regio Torino

A world premiere of a new opera holds the promise of an exciting new addition to the fairly calcified collection of masterpieces that comprise the standard repertory.

Giacomo Puccini: Edgar

Edgar: José Cura; Fidelia: Amarilli Nizza; Tigrana: Julia Gertseva; Frank: Marco Vratogna; Gualtiero: Carlo Cigni. Conservatorio “Giuseppe Verdi” di Torino Boys’ Choir. Torino Teatro Regio Boys’ Choir. Torino Teatro Regio Chorus and Orchestra Yoram David, conductor. Lorenzo Mariani, stage director. Maurizio Balò, set and costume design. Christian Pinaud, light design. Recorded live from the Teatro Regio Torino, 2008.

ArtHaus 101378 [Blu-Ray]

$32.99  Click to buy

But opera companies have another strategy as well — to resurrect/rehabilitate forgotten works of proven masters. For Giacomo Puccini, the main beneficiary among his lesser-known operas has been La Rondine, a slight work with a mostly gorgeous score that has enjoyed a growing number of performances in recent years. Puccini’s extremely negative recorded comments on his first full-length opera, Edgar, seem to have kept the inquisitive away. The chief revelation of this 2008 Teatro Regio Torino staging of the full four-act Edgar is how right Puccini was to dismiss the work as hopeless. That does not mean, however, that the resulting DVD isn’t of interest. With strong male leads and a colorful, handsome staging by Lorenzo Mariani (with costumes and sets by Maurizio Balò), this Edgar makes for a mostly entertaining show.

After the initial failure of Edgar, Puccini convinced his publisher to find him another librettist than Ferdinado Fontana, indicating the theatrical sharpness that would guide the creation of the composer’s masterpieces to come. For Fontana, as judged by Edgar, was a hopeless librettist — narratively sluggish and prone to lumbering attempts at flights of poetry that never leave the ground. The opera’s basic story bears a strong resemblance to that of Wagner’s Tannhäuser — a young man can’t choose between a woman who excites him physically (Tigrana) and a more innocent woman who touches his heart (Fidelia). Fontana attempts a sort of love rectangle with the addition of Frank, another admirer of Fidelia who ends the opera at Edgar’s side, helping to restore Edgar’s reputation after his dalliance with Tigrana and flight to the army has led him to fake his own death. The story veers between being oppressively obvious and elliptically obscure. Later Puccini works would show the composer comfortable with sharp changes of mood and place between acts that require an audience to “catch up” with the story. That strategy doesn’t work here because the characters in Edgar, hobbled by Fontana’s verse, haven’t made a claim on the audience’s involvement.

José Cura’s portrayal of Edgar gains strength as the character darkens; the callow youth of the opening scene doesn’t fit him as well. The voice is as idiosyncratic as ever, with lines of forceful energy interspersed by unfortunate growls and yelps for high notes. A less charismatic tenor might sing the entire role better, but really only a stage animal like Cura has a chance of making the character believable at all. Cura is well-partnered in several key scenes by Marco Vratogna’s Frank, a very masculine and credible rival and, later, friend of the hero. Frank has a brief solo early on and not much of interest to sing after that, but Vratogna manages to hold his own anyway.

The two key female roles are less happily cast. Julia Gertseva has no choice but to ham up the overtly sexual, murderously jealous Tigrana. She is at least fun to watch and sings with attractive tone. As Fidelia, Amarilli Nizza never recovers from a long opening scene where her soprano sounds overly mature and strained. She does somewhat better in the last act, but her character’s passivity has long wore out her welcome by then.

Although the full blossoming of Puccini’s melodic talent was yet to come, much enjoyable music can be found in the score. Unfortunately, conductor Yoram David and the Torino forces sound tentative and undernourished. Be prepared, by the way, in the fourth act (discarded fairly early on by Puccini) to hear a great deal of the last act duet between Tosca and Cavaradossi.

Strangely, Richard Eckstein’s booklet essay ends abruptly with an ellipsis. Before that sudden conclusion, the writer covers the errant history of the opera satisfactorily. The Blu-Ray edition does a great job of presenting the bold colors and designs of the set and costumes. Only historical accuracy can explain the bizarre helmet of crow feathers Vratogna’s Frank and other soldiers have to sport in the third act.

Put the disc in your player expecting no more than some occasional patches of fine music and a great deal of insight into the early stages of Puccini’s career, and this Edgar will justify its existence.

Chris Mullins

 

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):