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

Cooperstown and the Hood

Glimmerglass Festival continues its string of world premiere youth operas with a wholly enchanting production of Ben Moore and Kelly Rourke’s Robin Hood.

Glimmerglass Oklahoma: Yeow!

Director Molly Smith knew just how to best succeed at staging the evergreen classic Oklahoma! for Glimmerglass Festival.

An Invitation to Travel: Christiane Karg and Malcolm Martineau at the Proms

German soprano Christiane Karg invited us to accompany her on a journey during this lunchtime chamber music Prom at Cadogan Hall as she followed the voyages of French composers in Europe and beyond, and their return home.

Schoenberg's Gurrelieder at the Proms - Sir Simon Rattle

Prom 46: Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra, Simon O'Neill, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Karen Cargill, Peter Hoare, Christopher Purves and Thomas Quasthoff. And three wonderful choirs - the CBSO Chorus, the London Symphony Chorus and Orfeó Català from Barcelona, with Chorus Master Simon Halsey, Rattle's close associate for 35 years.

Le Siège de Corinthe in Pesaro

That of Rossini (in French) and that of Lord Byron (in English, Russian, Italian and Spanish), the battles of both Negroponte (1470) and of Missolonghi (1826) re-enacted amidst massive piles of plastic water bottles (thousands of them) that collapsed onto the heroine at Mahomet II's destruction of Corinth.

Dunedin Consort perform Bach's St John Passion at the Proms

John Butt and the Dunedin Consort's 2012 recording of Bach's St John Passion was ground-breaking for it putting the passion into the context of a reconstruction of the original Lutheran Vespers service.

Collision: Spectra Ensemble at the Arcola Theatre

‘Asteroid flyby in October: A drill for the end of the world?’ So shouted a headline in USA Today earlier this month, as journalist Doyle Rice asked, ‘Are we ready for an asteroid impact?’ in his report that in October NASA will conduct a drill to see how well its planetary defence system would work if an actual asteroid were heading straight for Earth.

Joshua Bell offers Hispanic headiness at the Proms

At the start of the 20th century, French composers seemed to be conducting a cultural love affair with Spain, an affair initiated by the Universal Exposition of 1889 where the twenty-five-year old Debussy and the fourteen-year-old Ravel had the opportunity to hear new sounds from East Asia, such as the Javanese gamelan, alongside gypsy flamenco from Granada.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Hibiki: a European premiere by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Proms

Hibiki: sound, noise, echo, reverberation, harmony. Commissioned by the Suntory Hall in Tokyo to celebrate the Hall’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 50-minute Hibiki, for two female soloists, children’s chorus and large orchestra, purports to reflect on the ‘human reverberations’ of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 and the devastation caused by the subsequent tsunami and radioactive disaster.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

Janáček: The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Grimeborn

A great performance of Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared can be, allowing for the casting of a superb tenor, an experience on a par with Schoenberg’s Erwartung. That Shadwell Opera’s minimalist, but powerful, staging in the intimate setting of Studio 2 of the Arcola Theatre was a triumph was in no small measure to the magnificent singing of the tenor, Sam Furness.

Khovanshchina: Mussorgsky at the Proms

Remembering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this Proms performance of Mussorgsky’s mighty Khovanshchina (all four and a quarter hours of it) exceeded all expectations on a musical level. And, while the trademark doorstop Proms opera programme duly arrived containing full text and translation, one should celebrate the fact that - finally - we had surtitles on several screens.

Santa Fe: Entertaining If Not Exactly (R)evolutionary

You know what I loved best about Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?

Longborough Young Artists in London: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

For the last three years, Longborough Festival Opera’s repertoire of choice for their Young Artist Programme productions has been Baroque opera seria, more specifically Handel, with last year’s Alcina succeeding Rinaldo in 2014 and Xerxes in 2015.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Full-throated Cockerel at Santa Fe

A tale of a lazy, befuddled world leader that ‘has no clothes on’ and his two dimwit sons, hmmmm, what does that remind me of. . .?

Santa Fe’s Trippy Handel

If you don’t like a given moment in Santa Fe Opera’s staging of Alcina, well, just like the volatile mountain weather, wait two minutes and it will surely change.

Santa Fe’s Crowd-Pleasing Strauss

With Die Fledermaus’ thrice familiar overture still lingering in our ears, it didn’t take long for the assault of hijinks to reduce the audience into guffaws of delight.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Micaela Carosi as Aida [Photo courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
21 Sep 2010

Aida in San Francisco

Opera as circus. The current San Francisco Aida comes from the English National Opera where an inspired and probably very excited administrator proposed a production by aging London fashionista Zandra Rhodes.

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

Aida: Micaela Carosi; Amneris: Dolora Zajick; Radames: Marcello Giordani; Amonasro: Marco Vratogna; Ramfis: Hao Jiang Tian; The King of Egypt: Christian Van Horn; Priestess: Leah Crocetto; Messenger: David Lomelí. Conductor: Nicola Luisotti. Director: Jo Davies. Production Designer: Zandra Rhodes. Lighting Designer: Christopher Maravich. Original Choreographer: Jonathan Lunn. Revival Choreographer: Lawrence Pech.

Above: Micaela Carosi as Aida
br/>All photos courtesy of San Francisco Opera

 

The program booklet credits include her various hair colors (“bright green later changed to a spectacular pink, sometimes radiant red”). Mme. Zandra, approximately 70 years of age according to the program booklet, was aided by British stage director Jo Davis whose credits include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the West End.

Gio2.gifMarcello Giordani as Radames

These ladies are nothing if not clever. They dealt with Verdi’s problematic three-ringer in a very business like fashion (among Mme. Rhodes listed credits is her successful retail outlet in fashionable Fulham Road). More often than not Verdi’s delicate masterpiece is crushed by its own weight (six big singers working out a sordid political mess caused by some runaway passions and a great big military victory, the situation finally resolved by sheer fatigue — that of the lovers themselves and invariably of the audience too).

The fatigue factor was very nearly solved by mesdames Rhodes and Davis who kept things moving right along by a pyramid shape that expanded and contracted according to moods and situations (the shutters closed completely, finally, on the dying lovers). Sometimes one of the triangle of lovers was left alone on the apron against blank, dark scenery to tell us a few things in private, and once the stage was opened up totally in blank white in stark contrast to the bright greens, spectacular pinks and radiant reds of an unusually flamboyant, 1960’s sensibility Egypt.

All this slick theatricality was unfettered by concept save the presence of the wrathful eye of Horus that oversaw much of the action and cleverly doubled as decoration too. The lower portion of Horus’ priests were covered by wide gold lamé skirts leaving the priests naked from the waist up (and that was a sight to see), coiffed by the appropriate falcon headdress. The Ethiopians and particularly Aida’s father Amonasro were spectacularly savage à la American indian or maybe Australian aboriginal, comically light years away from tall, proud, black Ethiopians who might have seemed actually threatening.

GioCar.gifMarcello Giordani as Radames and Micaela Carosi as Aida

All this was overseen by San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary music director, Nicola Luisotti who probably saw nothing of the above having maneuvered his singers out onto the stage apron where alone, in pairs, trios, etc., he vindicated the idea of the traditional Italian “numbers” opera and reinvented the idea of the “costume” opera (characters are identified by their costumes rather than by what they do). This positioning was ideal for Mo. Luisotti to commune with Verdi and with great big voices, and to create as much effect as possible. Suffice to say that the effect was in fact very nearly maximum, held back only by the fuzzy acoustic of the War Memorial Opera House.

So it was a great evening that teased critical sensibility, seamlessly morphing in and out of tongue-in-cheek caricature of spectacle opera to just plain big, thrilling opera like opera once was, or so we are told.

Zajick2.gifDolora Zajick as Amneris

Diva Dolora Zajick spat and soared in fine voice as Amneris, upholding her by now very long held reputation as the Amneris of our day. She was in ideal concert with the big musical and vocal ideas of the maestro and perfectly at home in the costume opera concept (a big blue dress with a huge sphinx like headdress). Mme. Zajick in fact and against all odds almost succeeded in making Amneris a living, feeling character, this achievement the magic of a true artist.

Likewise tenor Marcello Giordani and soprano Micaela Carosi, the ill-fated lovers, held their own with the maestro, Mr. Giordani bravely donning a truly ridiculous, unflattering warrior skirt while traversing the tenorial tessitura with ease and stylistic aplomb. Mme. Carosi soared to some beautiful pianissimos in the upper-most soprano registers, often the undoing of lesser singers, and otherwise exploited all Italianate mannerisms with conviction. Neither Mme. Carosi nor Mr. Giordani approached the vulnerability or sympathy of their characters, leaving the stage to Mme. Zajick.

Vratogna.gifMarco Vratogna as Amonasro

Baritone Marco Vratogna was puzzling as Amonasro. In his peculiar way-over-the-top costume he was inherently silly, and he delivered his role in a complementary fashion. He proved himself an excellent artist last season as Iago, thus the question remains whether he was directed into this strange histrionic performance or if he came up with it himself. The King of Egypt and the priest Ramfis were well sung respectively by Christian Van Horn and Hao Jiang Tian and were less controversial.

No account of an Aida production can avoid the triumphal scene. It moved quickly thanks to Mo. Luisotti and the mesdames Rhodes and Davis. They went for pure circus, complete with acrobats, a family dancing act and even the de rigueur elephant, here a whimsical, gossamer blue concoction that crowned the wit and fun of these clever ladies. The usual hundreds of supernumeraries had been reduced to a mere thirty-three, and there were no cuts. The scene flew by.

Michael Milenski

Click here for a photo gallery and video excerpts.

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):