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Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure,
this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish
hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably
Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left
much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang
bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars
lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano
Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera
Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night
of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.
On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value
a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.
Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.
Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.
San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).
There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.
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.
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.
Piotr 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.
Nino 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.
Alfie 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
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.
Piotr 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