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

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

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]’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Igor Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress
14 Sep 2010

The Rake’s Progress at Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie

At some point it became a matter of honor for elite composers to have at least one go at a full length opera.

Igor Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress

Anne Truelove: Laura Claycomb; Tom Rakewell: Andrew Kennedy; Nick Shadow: William Shimmell; Baba the Turk: Dagmar Peckova; Sellem: Donal J. Byrne. Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of La Monnaie - De Munt, Brussels. Kazushi Ono, conductor. Robert Lepage, stage director. Recorded live at Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels on 26 and 28 April 2007.

Opus Arte OA BD7038 D [Blu-Ray]

$36.99  Click to buy

The resulting work usually becomes treasured by critics but somewhat less warmly received by the broader opera-going public. Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande is a gorgeous piece and almost surely a money loser when staged, at least for American companies. Of American companies as well, only the Metropolitan Opera seems able to gird its financial loins and put on Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron every few years. More recent works in this vein that tickle the rarefied fancies of professional opera journalists include Messiaen’s Saint Francois d’Assise and Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre. The scores of these works, unsurprisingly, often demonstrate a sophistication and complexity beyond the reach of the humbler composers whose popular works keep opera house doors open. But an opera is more than a score.

For his sole full-length operatic venture, Igor Stravinsky composed a score to W. H Auden and Chester Kallman’s libretto for The Rake’s Progress that marries his brilliant rhythmic hi-jinks with a neo-classical homage, including set numbers for the characters. However, once Stravinsky’s mature compositional self emerged from the shadow of Rimsky-Korsakov, he hardly established himself as a memorable composer of melodies, and much of The Rake’s Progress glides by in a kind of tart musical glaze that seems ready to form an appealing tuneful idea but never does. The libretto earns points for its clever mutation of the original source material, a series of sketches by Hogarth. Despite having a world-class poet as part of the writing team, much of the language is weirdly awkward, and the story becomes just another twist on Faust/Mephistopheles tale. Stylized to the point of aridity, this is very very dry wine for connoisseurs.

The sheer theatrical imagination and sharpness of Robert LePage’s staging of The Rake’s Progress only reinforces these convictions for your reviewer. Filmed here in April 2007 at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, the cameras actually don’t do the optimal job of preserving the effect of Lepage’s best ideas as seen in the house (your reviewer saw this production in San Francisco a few years ago). Close-ups bring the viewer too near the theatrical make-up and flatten the charm of some of the best ideas, such as the inflatable trailer home, a delightful event seen live but less charming on film. The design, by Carl Fillion, appears to be inspired by the CinemaScope expanses of the American west as seen in George Stevens’ Giant. The connection to the material is dubious but it makes for some striking visuals.

An able but uncharismatic cast is one big part of the reason why this DVD is less entertaining than it promises to be. Tom Rakewell is almost as much of a bore when dissolute as he is when innocent at the opera’s start. Andrew Kennedy has a lyric tenor with some substance but little color, and he is one key performer done no favors by a farsighted camera person. Laura Claycomb sings a very pretty Anne Truelove, and there isn’t much more to do with the role than that. Surely Mephistopheles can afford a premium hair stylist, but William Shimmell’s Nick Shadow has the thinning hair and pasty complexion of a middle-aged politician. He’s more unappealing than demonic. As expected, Dagmar Peckova steals her scenes with a perky, limber Baba Turk.

Kazushi Ono conducts the La Monnaie forces with the attention to precision the score demands. Many people do esteem this work highly, and for those, this DVD surely counts as essential. For all others, the best option for this opera in this staging is to catch it live.

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):