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 Performances

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Monsters and Marriage at the Aix Festival

Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Piotr Beczala as Roméo and Nino Machaidze as Juliette [Photo by Bill Cooper courtesy of The Royal Opera]
27 Oct 2010

Piotr Beczala: Roméo et Juliette, Royal Opera

Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette is almost more musical than opera. Everyone knows the story, and it would be hard to compete with Shakespeare. Gounod wisely focused on music, rather than drama.

Charles François Gounod : Roméo et Juliette

Roméo: Piotr Beczala; Juliette: Nino Machaidze; Capulet: Darren Jeffrey; Gertrude: Diana Montague; Frère Laurent: Vitalij Kowaljow; Tybalt: Alfie Boe; Mercutio: Stéphane Degout; Stéphano: Ketevan Kemoklidze; Gregorio: James Cleverton; Duke of Verona: Simon Neal; Paris: Zhengzhong Zhou. Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Chorusmaster: Renato Balsadonna. Conductor: Daniel Oren. Revival Director: Stephen Barlow. Set designer: Carlo Tommasi. Lighting: Bruno Boyer. Fight Director: Philip Stafford. Royal Opera House, London. 26 October 2010.

Above: Piotr Beczala as Roméo and Nino Machaidze as Juliette

All photos by Bill Cooper courtesy of The Royal Opera

 

Hence the reputation of this opera has rested on its showpiece arias, and on good performances. Piotr Beczala defined this production at the Royal Opera House, London with an excellent Roméo, well shaped vocally and expressively full of character.

R&J-BC20101022228.gifPiotr Beczala as Roméo

Beczala is relatively new to Roméo, having created it at Salzburg in 2008, and again in August 2010. Nino Machaidze sang Juliette at Salzburg this year too, at later stages of the run, which started with Anna Netrebko and Beczala. Pairing Beczala and Machaidze for the London production was an inspired choice. Although the productions in Salzburg and London are completely different, Beczala and Machaidze carried over what they’d built previously.

The London production is Stephen Barlow’s revival of Nicholas Joel’s production, revived only for the second time since 1994.The sets are like picture postcards, and the pace of movement staid, almost unnatural. It’s worrying when the most vivid scenes are choreographed by the Fight Director, Philip Stafford. Admittedly, Gounod’s treatment of Roméo et Juliette doesn’t lend itself to intellectual depth, but fortunately Beczala amd Machaidze injected enthusiasm into the production.

R&J---BC20101023775.gifNino Machaidze as Juliette

Beczala’s Roméo defined the performance. Excellent pitch control, luscious timbre. A wonderful and deeply expressive “L’ amour, oui, son ardeur a troublé tout mon être!”. The love duets were beautiful, even if Beczala overshadowed Machaidze’s Juliette. Still, that’s not surprising, as he’s just more experienced. With Netrebko he must have been superb. In the last act, Beczala’s “Salut, tombeau sombre et silencieux!,” was well modulated, emotionally profound. marred very slightly when he had to turn backwards, projecting sound awry. I loved Beczala’s Shepherd in Szymanowski’s Król Roger and enjoyed hearing him develop over the years. Romantic Heroes are now his forte, but he has the depth, I think, to eventually tackle Heldentenor territory.

R&J-BC20101023116.gifAlfie Boe as Tybalt

Machaidze looks like Olivia Hussey in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film of Romeo and Juliet, which adds piquancy to her portrayal. Her voice is light and agile, the brightness of her timbre expressing Juliette’s youthful innocence, her firm lower register expressing the wilder parts of Juliette’s character. Like many 14 year olds, Juliette does extremes, as Shakespeare observed. Machaidze may not have the polish of many much more famous and experienced singers but she’s convincing enough. When she sings of waking too soon, holding Tybalt’s bloodstained hand, she sings with such fervour that you realize that this Juliette knows what risks she’s taking. Sweet as she is, Machaidze’s Juliette has a brain.

Good performance standards all round. Darren Jeffrey as Capulet towers physically over the other players, which is as well, for Gounod develops the part well. Vitalij Kowaljow’s Frère Laurent was also notable and Stéphane Degout as Mercutio.

Ketevan Kemoklidze’s Stéphano, Roméo’s Page, makes a delightful impression in the song about doves and vultures, but artistically the vignette adds little.

Alfie Boe as Tybalt received prolonged applause which he acknowledged as if he were a principal. He has a huge following because he does popular song but that adulation might be his undoing. Not long ago a fan complained when he was unwell and couldn’t adequately be replaced. That kind of audience isn’t into opera as such, but in chasing celebrity.

R&J-BC20101022221.gifPiotr Beczala as Roméo and Nino Machaidze as Juliette

Gounod’s choruses are justly celebrated and the Royal Opera House chorus responded well. Here they were directed to maximum advantage, and as usual, their performance was well executed.

For more information, please see 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):