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

O/MODƏRNT: Monteverdi in Historical Counterpoint

O/MODƏRNT is Swedish for ‘un/modern’. It is also the name of the festival — curated by artistic director Hugo Ticciati and held annually since 2011 at the Ulriksdal’s Palace Theatre, Confidencen — which aims to look back and celebrate the past ‘by exploring the relationships between the work of old composers and the artistic and intellectual creations of modern culture’.

Late Schumann in context - Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler, London

Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler at the Wigmore Hall, London, an intriguing recital on many levels. Goerne programmes are always imaginative, bringing out new perspectives, enhancing our appreciation of the depth and intelligence that makes Lieder such a rewarding experience. Menahem Pressler is extremely experienced as a soloist and chamber musician, but hasn't really ventured into song to the extent that other pianists, like Brendel, Eschenbach or Richter, for starters. He's not the first name that springs to mind as Lieder accompanist. Therein lay the pleasure !

Guillaume Tell, Covent Garden

It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Giuseppe Verdi: Un ballo in maschera
24 Aug 2010

Un ballo in maschera at the Teatro Real

The greatest dramatic tenor and soprano roles have proven irresistible to Marcelo Alvarez, who started primarily as a lyric tenor, and Violeta Urmana, whose first career success came as a mezzo.

Giuseppe Verdi: Un ballo in maschera

Riccardo: Marcelo Álvarez; Amelia: Violeta Urmana; Renato: Marco Vratogna; Ulrico: Elena Zaremba; Oscar: Alessandra Marianelli; Silvano: Borja Quiza; Samuel: Miguel Sola; Tom: Scott Wilde; A Judge: Orlando Niz; Amelia's Servant: César San Martín. Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Real, Madrid. Jesús López-Cobos, conductor. Mario Martone, stage director. Recorded live at the Teatro Real, Madrid, on the 25 and 28 September 2008.

Opus Arte OABD7048D [Blu-Ray]

$36.99  Click to buy

Both offer a stage persona with a sort of “Golden Age” stature — they are attractive creatures, if generously proportioned, and neither is much of an actor. Sadly, what is less than “Golden Age” for both Alvarez and Urmana is the quality of their vocalism. Alvarez has ample voice and a pleasant tone. He lacks, however, a final reserve of power and authority to truly put across the big moments that stand as landmarks in the most famed roles of Verdi and Puccini. Urmana manages the higher stretches in soprano roles better than some may have predicted after her transition from mezzo roles, but her voice has less color and warmth in the stratosphere.

The audience at Madrid’s Teatro Real for this production of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera tends to favor Urmana’s Amelia over Alvarez’s Riccardo, judged by the ovations heard in the DVD taken from live performances on September 25 and 28th, 2008. A voice heard live has much more impact than one heard recorded, even if recorded in the clean, detailed audio picture available on this Blu-Ray edition. Urmana’s Amelia is convincingly tormented over her misbegotten and adulterous passion for Alvarez’s “Governor,” though she and her co-star have next to no chemistry. Nothing she does in the role’s biggest moments has much originality, but she undoubtedly has the role in her voice. Alvarez, however, seems a shade too small at times, and even in the lighter, “comic” side of his role’s music, he comes across as goofy more than endearingly light-hearted. He works hard, producing some good moments, but the sheer effort gets a bit wearing.

Urmana dwarfs her on-stage husband, Marco Vratogna as Renato. With his shaved head, lean figure, and outsized-golden earring, Vratogna manages to cut a masculine figure and yet one not necessarily believably interested in Urmana. Modern stagings have sometimes played with a homo-erotic context to the romantic rivalry between Riccardo and Renato. Director Mario Martone doesn’t seem to be suggesting that here. Neither Urmana’s Amelia nor Alvarez’s Riccardo seem the type for Vratoga’s Renato. Martone doesn’t seem to be suggesting much of anything, at any rate. This is one of those expensive-looking productions lacking an incisive perspective to make the drama come to life. Sergio Tramonti’s sets range from the fussy detail of act two’s concrete ruins to the tastefully stark mirrored ballroom of the last act. It’s all stylish and yet dramatically inert.

Elena Zaremba as Ulrica and Alessandra Marianelli, at opposite ends of the female voice spectrum and in roles that can either steal the spotlight or really annoy, manage to be effective but not all that memorable. Jesus López Cobos and the Madrid forces provide all these singers with excellent accompaniment — lush, rhythmic, and propulsive as needed.

At the moment there may not be better casts for these roles and this opera than found here. The great act two duet comes off well, and Vratogna strikes some sparks in his later scenes. Anyone with a sudden urge to see a recent Ballo may find enough entertainment value here. But it’s far from “Golden Age.”

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):