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

Cold Mountain, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia deserves congratulations on yet another coup. The company co-commissioned Cold Mountain, an opera by Jennifer Higdon based on Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Charles Frazier’s celebrated Civil War epic.

Christian Gerhaher Wolfgang Rihm Wigmore Hall

For their first of two recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber devised an interesting programme - popular Schubert mixed with songs by Wolfgang Rihm and by Huber himself.

Götterdämmerung in Palermo

There are not many opera productions that you would cross oceans to see. Graham Vick’s Götterdämmerung in Sicily however compelled such a voyage.

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

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):