Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Íride Martinez as Norina and Barry Banks as Ernesto [Photo by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of the Royal Opera]
15 Sep 2010

Don Pasquale at the Royal Opera House

This show, a revival of Jonathan Miller’s 2004 production (first seen at the Maggio Musicale in Florence) is certainly a feast for the eyes.

Gaetano Donizetti: Don Pasquale

Ernesto: Barry Banks; Don Pasquale: Paolo Gavanelli; Doctor Malatesta: Jacques Imbrailo; Norina: Íride Martínez; Notary: Bryan Secombe. Conductor: Evelino Pidò. Director: Jonathan Miller. Associate Director: Daniel Dooner. Designs: Isabella Bywater. Lighting Designs: Jvan Morandi. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. Sunday 12th September 2010.

Above: Íride Martinez as Norina and Barry Banks as Ernesto

All photos by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of the Royal Opera

 

Isabella Bywater beautifully realises Miller’s clever visual concept, presenting us with an exquisite reproduction of an eighteenth-century doll’s house, the façade of which is drawn back to reveal a realistic and immensely detailed interior — the connecting corridors, doors and stairwells are perfect for upstairs-downstairs intrigues and affairs. Bywater is alert to every minor detail, the only anachronism being the arrival of boxes from Versace, Prada, Escada and La Perla after Norina’s extravagant post-marriage spending spree. Costumes are similarly precise and elaborate, the characters dressed as elaborate mannequins, with whitened faces, and gowns and cloaks of gharish reds, purples and pinks.

Beyond its visual appeal, this set has one clear advantage: it can be seen clearly from all corners and heights of the auditorium — not something that could be boasted off all recent ROH productions. However, enclosing the action in a succession of tiny chambers, three-storeys high, does produce a rather ‘distanced’ result, and at times the singers, trapped in their cubicles, struggled to project over the orchestral fabric and to communicate directly with the audience. It is thus quite a relief when, in the closing moments, the protagonists venture into the garden; as the door of the doll’s house is closed, a reassuring air of reality is intimately; these are real characters after all, not puppets, although the artificial world is still visible through a narrow chink, and the genuinely tragic and comic sentiments of this human drama are never fully evoked.

DP_ROH_02_2010.pngPaolo Gavanelli as Don Pasquale

As the eponymous old ogler, duped by his avaricious nephew, Paolo Gavanelli huffed and puffed, stamped and pounded, frustrated and exasperated almost to the point of self-combustion. While he hammed up the gags, Gavanelli’s baritone is a little heavy and his portrayal would have benefitted from some light buffo esprit — and from crisper diction. His patter-duet with Dr Malatesta, sung by Jacques Imbrailo, is the high point of the comedy, but it did not produce quite the excitement that it should, and was the wrong sort of ‘breathless’.

Imbrailo was a confident, wry Malatesta — a Dulcimara with style. Among the two-dimensional stereotypes, he conveyed a naturalism and credibility, sang with clear diction, and balanced lyricism with dramatic singing. A recent graduate of the Jette Parker Young Artist scheme, he’s one to watch.

Barry Banks, as Ernesto, was reportedly afflicted with an allergic reaction; his high, ringing tenor was a little unyielding at times, but, while he did not attain a truly Italianate bel canto lyricism, his voice has a freshness and focus which added vigour to a foppish role.

Making her house debut, Íride Martínez initially appeared somewhat nervous. This Norina was rather shrill and uncomfortable, but Martínez relaxed as the evening progressed and had no difficulty spanning the vocal compass of the role, or dispatching the coloratura demands of the final act. She revealed a sure sense of comic timing and gradually began to enjoy herself, metamorphosing from sweet young bride to scathing harridan.

DP_ROH_03_2010.pngJacques Imbrailo as Doctor Malatesta

The chorus have little to do musically until Act 3, but they kept themselves busy, dusting, cooking, gossiping…at times all this activity was a little distracting. When they did get the opportunity to sing, however, they produced an exciting, invigorated ensemble sound.

Perhaps sensing that the cast were rather constricted by the staging, Evelino Pidò injected some movement and fizz in the pit; tempi were pacy, textures were clear — there was some exquisite woodwind playing — and the accompanying patterns were energetic and light-footed.

Overall, the performances were solid but for this listener the parts did not add up to a totally convincing whole. Most unsettling of all, in this production the values articulated by this fairly straightforward farce were not absolutely clear - who are the ‘baddies’? We may pity our ‘hero’, Ernesto, as a lover deprived of his heart’s desire; but his campness is less appealing and his covetousness less admirable. Norina is an amusing minx but the slap she delivers to her long-suffering husband, sits uncomfortably among the frivolities and artifice, and dilutes our sympathy. Don Pasquale is a pitiful dupe, but also a dissipated old lecher. Even the calculating Malatesta is an ambiguous ‘villain’: his intentions are, after all, beneficent, and his manipulative scheming does have a happy outcome.

One can’t help feeling that things should either be more frothy or more revelatory. As it is, it’s hard to care about these marionettes in their artificial bubble.

Claire Seymour

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):