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

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Stéphane Degout as Guglielmo and  Jurgita Adamonytė  as Dorabella [Photo by Mike Hoban]
13 Sep 2010

Così fan tutte, Royal Opera House

Everyone loves Mozart. The Royal Opera House's 2010-2011 season began with Così fan tutte, and simultaneous live international broadcast.

W. A. Mozart: Così fan tutte

Ferrando: Pavol Breslik; Guglielmo: Stéphane Degout; Don Alfonso: Thomas Allen; Fiordiligi: Maria Bengtsson; Dorabella: Jurgita Adamonytė; Despina: Rebecca Evans. Conductor: Thomas Hengelbrock, Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House. Director and Designs: Jonathan Miller. Royal Opera House, London, 10th September 2010.

Above: Stéphane Degout as Guglielmo and Jurgita Adamonytė as Dorabella

All photos by Mike Hoban courtesy of the Royal Opera

 

Worldwide screenings are geared towards mass audiences, many of whom are new to opera. This production of Così fan tutte first heard in 1995 now in its seventh revival, was a safe choice.

Sir Thomas Allen’s presence guaranteed success. Like Don Alfonso, he’s a grandee, elevated above the common run. The lovers strut and fret their hour upon the stage, but Don Alfonso’s seen it all before. Allen has created Don Alfonso so many times that he has it down pat. Before the performance began, he sauntered on the Royal Opera House stage for some cheerful repartee. he’s a consummate charmer.

COSI-9990_1010-ALLEN-AS-DON.gifThomas Allen as Don Alfonso

As Allen said, “I spend a lot of time sitting about”, since Don Alfonso’s a suave observer, who hardly needs to pulls strings to make puppets dance. The part makes no heroic vocal demands and suits Allen’s range well. He’s mellowed so well into the persona that his acting is effortless. At one point he calmly makes golf swings in the air, without a club.

Rebecca Evans as Despina made a perfect foil. She, too, has extensive experience in the role and in this production. If anything, she’s now in her prime. Wonderfully agile singing, full of verve. Her tiny frame pulsates energy. She zips about with much more vigour than her youthful mistresses. Diction and phrasing are sharp, her singing so vivid you could listen eyes closed and enjoy. When she comes in disguised in operating theatre greens, she has a mask over her face. Even before she starts to sing, her body language is so expressive it conveys personality.

Despina is a wonderful part but it isn’t the whole opera, and Evans can’t make up for the other performances which were adequate, rather than scintillating.

Maria Bengtsson and Jurgita Adamonytė resemble each other physically, and while their voices differ, neither is vocally as distinctive as might be. Adamonytė was impressive as Blanche in Prokofiev’s The Gambler at Covent Garden earlier this year, but her Dorabella, while sweetly formed, could use more individuality. Bengstsson’s Fiordiligi was more forcefully projected, dramatically sound, if lacking in nuance.

COSI-9990_1590-BENGTSSON-AS.gifMaria Bengtsson as Fiordiligi

Neither Pavol Breslik’s Ferrando nor Stéphane Degout’s Guglielmo were specially engaging to listen to, so they were upstaged by their costumes. This is the production where the Albanians are dressed as Rockstars with bandanas and skull motif T shirts. At the premiere, this was shocking. Now it’s just corny, but in the absence of colour to listen to, it afforded some colour to look at.

Jonathan Miller’s production plays up the visual gags. Cell phones with camera applications, golf imagery, ultra-trendy costumes. This bland set looks like a caricature of “Regie” staging. It was probably more effective on film because the long flat horizontals on stage would have been foreshortened. Similarly, film would have allowed more detail than could be seen in the auditorium, enlivening the general lack of pace. Much of the action takes place off the stage. Perhaps Miller is trying to create the impression of “theatre-within-theatre” but it doesn’t work well live.

This is the sort of production gives minimalism a bad name, but unlike many where simplicity directs attention to the soul of the opera, this didn’t attempt to offer any insights. Its superficiality wouldn’t matter if the singing were uniformly impressive, but this wasn’t the case here.

COSI-9990_1332-(C)HOBAN.gifFrom Left to Right: Maria Bengtsson as Fiordiligi, Pavol Breslik as Ferrando, Rebecca Evans as Despina, Jurgita Adamonytė as Dorabella and Stéphane Degout as Guglielmo

Yet when Miller took his bows, he was wildly applauded. Perhaps this was because there was little tension in the ensemble, and the sharper edges of Mozart’s wit were blunted But Così fan tutte without challenge undersells Mozart. This is comedy, but not shallow. Nonetheless, jokes are entertaining. Here mobile phone tunes sang the message.

The real news this evening was Thomas Hengelbrock, the conductor. He cofounded the Freiburger Barockorchester.and later the Balthasar-Neumann Ensemble and Choir. Lively period instrument ensembles prove that historically-informed practice can be vigorous and modern in spirit.They can be very adventurous, experimenting with 19th and 20th century repertoire as well as baroque.

The Royal Opera House Orchestra isn’t a period orchestra, but Hengelbrock brings the vivacity for which he is famed. It’s ideal for Così fan tutte where timing and clarity are important. Excellent balance — the harpsichord continuo specially vivid. Hengelbrock will soon be conducting Agostino Steffani’s Niobe, Regina di Tebe at the Royal Opera House.

For more information, please visit the Royal Opera House website.

Anne Ozorio

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):