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

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Gergiev, Mariinsky

Sergei Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op 74, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus. One Day That Shook the World to borrow the subtitle from Sergei Eisenstein's epic film October : Ten Days that Shook the World.

A Prom of Transformation and Transcendence: Renée Fleming and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

This Prom was all about places: geographical, physical, pictorial, poetic, psychological. And, as we journeyed through these landscapes of the mind, there was plenty of reminiscence and nostalgia too, not least in Samuel Barber’s depiction of early twentieth-century Tennessee - Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

The Queen's Lace Handkerchief: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

Billed as the ‘First British Performance’ - though it had had a prior, quasi-private outing at the Roxburgh Theatre, Stowe in July - Opera della Luna’s production of Johann Strauss Jnr’s The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief (Das Spitzentuch der Königin) at Wilton’s Music Hall began to sound pretty familiar half-way through the overture (which was played with spark and elegance by conductor Toby Purser’s twelve-piece orchestra).

Glyndebourne perform La clemenza di Tito at the Proms

The advantage of Glyndebourne Opera’s performances at the BBC Proms is that they give us a chance to concentrate on the music making. And there was plenty of high-quality music-making on offer at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 28 August 2017 when Glyndebourne Opera performed Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito.

Rossini’s Torvaldo e Dorliska in Pesaro

The rare and somewhat interesting Rossini! Torvaldo e Dorliska (1815) comes just after Elisabetta, Regina di Ingleterra (the first of his nineteen operas for Naples) — a huge success, and just before Il barbiere di Siviglia in Rome — a failure.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Rigoletto [Photo by Johan Persson courtesy of Royal Opera]
16 Oct 2010

Rigoletto at Covent Garden

Dame Joan Sutherland, ‘La Stupenda’, sang her first Gilda at Covent Garden in 1957 under the baton of Sir Edward Downes, and sang the role many times and to great acclaim on the ROH stage.

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Rigoletto: Dmitri Hvorostovsky; Duke of Mantua: Wookyung Kim; Gilda: Patrizia Ciofi; Maddalena: Daniela Innamorati; Sparafucile: Raymond Aceto; Monterone: Michael Druiett: Marullo: ZhengZhong Zhou; Count Ceprano: Lukas Jakobski; Giovanna: Elizabeth Sikora; Matteo Borsa: Iain Paton. Director: David McVicar. Conductor: Dan Ettinger. Set design: Michael Vale.Costume design: Tanya McCallin. Lighting design: Paule Constable. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. Monday 11th October 2010.

Above: Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Rigoletto

All photos by Johan Persson courtesy of Royal Opera

 

The pre-performance announcement by ROH’s director, Elaine Padmore, of the sad death of this great soprano added an extra layer of emotional urgency to this revival of David McVicar’s now almost canonical production of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

David McVicar’s eighteenth-century Mantua is a hothouse of Bacchanalian orgies and Machiavellian deceit. Michael Vale’s Olivier-award nominated sets — transparent, spinning edifices, all crumbling stone, shadowy recesses and askew perspectives — powerfully suggest the literal and figurative decay of a city on the verge of moral collapse, and are complemented by the flaming reds and oranges of Tanya McCallin’s raunchy costumes for the opening Scene 1 which evoke Dante’s infernal realms. Nudity and violence, often combined, abound. Out of these fiery depths leaps a black leather-clad Rigoletto - a horned devil, spitting fury and curses. Fearlessly physical, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, usually seen in rather more suave and sophisticated guises, emits a startling viciousness and ferocity, foreshadowing the inhumanity to which the eponymous jester’s desire for all-consuming vengeance will subsequently propel him. Boundless stamina combined with limitless variety — now sweetly tender when recalling his wife, then cruelly bitter as his obsessive rage engulfs him — characterise a remarkable performance. Hvorostovsky is not afraid to push his baritone to its rougher edges, while his ability to spin an endless lyrical line never ceases to amaze and thrill.

RIG-2010JP_02126-CIOFI-AS-G.gifPatrizia Ciofi as Gilda

The shadow of the late lamented diva placed a heavy mantle on the shoulders of Patrizia Ciofi as this production’s Gilda. She took a little time to settle, occasionally sliding up or slipping down to notes at first, and at times employing an overly wide vibrato which supported her projection but muddied the intonation. But Ciofi is an experienced Gilda, well-versed in the idiom, confident in delivery, and she soon found her focus; her pristine tone captured the near-hysterical ecstasy of the young girl experiencing the pain of passion for the first time, and she dispatched ‘Caro nome’ with aplomb, revealing a true coloratura with seamless passagio. Paul Constable’s imaginative lighting added some exquisite touches to poignant moments. Thus at the end of Gilda’s first aria, the stage revolved casting subtle shadows and revealing subdued corners, as Gilda slowly mounts the crooked stairs to the attic hovel, her voice heartbreakingly waning with the fading light. Clothed in virginal white against his darker hues, Ciofi’s duets with Hvorostovsky were impassioned and penetrating, the latter’s mastery of the uninterrupted, arching melodic curves of Verdi’s score suggesting the heartfelt intensity of a paternal love which both protects and suffocates.

RIG-2010JP_01567-WOOKYUNG-K.gifWookyung Kim as Duke of Mantua

Korean tenor Wookyung Kim made his debut at the ROH in 2007 as the Duke of Mantua, and returned to reprise the role. Despite his musical prowess — unfailingly legato lines and even tone production — theatrically, he does not make for a natural Casanova. His interpretation is a little one-sided, fresh naivety not really matched by the requisite careless, even wicked, wilfulness.

Indeed, many of the cast were veterans of this production, and all held their own well in the company of the leading lights. The big, bold bass of Raymond Aceto emphasised Sparafucile’s sinister and twisted motivations. Mezzo-soprano Daniela Innamorati was a convincingly seductive Maddalena in the renowned quartet, her warm tone complementing the blending voices. Amid the ubiquitous debauchery and vice, it was hard for Michael Druiett as Monterone — who only appears twice in the opera — to make much of a mark as the voice of moral authority, but he was secure. Both of the Jette Parker Young Artists in this production also performed with accomplishment: Polish baritone, Lukas Jakobski, was a solid Ceprano, while the bright baritone of Zhenzhong Zhou as Marullo made a strong impression in a small role.

The young Israeli conductor, Dan Ettinger, making an impressive Covent Garden debut, really kept his foot on the pedal from the first downbeat, racing through the opening scene, injecting a terrifying air of menace, and sustaining the dramatic drive and frisson of risk and recklessness throughout. The opera rushed relentlessly on to its disturbing climax: Hvorostovsky’s terrible exultation over the dead body of his daughter. His perverted elation, in his belief that the dead Duke lies slain in the sack before him, is a disquieting moment of hubris.

McVicar presents a dystopian vision of crooked criminality and raw cruelty. If his vision underplays the balanced contrast between the light and the dark which, I believe, accounts for much of the emotional piquancy of Verdi’s opera, in favour of an unremittingly malevolence, it does so with an admirably precise and sustained focus. A first rate evening.

Claire Seymour

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):