Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Ron Howard’s latest music documentary after The Beatles: Eight Days a Week and Made in America is a poignant tribute that allows viewers into key moments of Pavarotti’s career – but lacks a deeper, more well-rounded view of the artist.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

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):