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 Reviews

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

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):