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 Merry Falstaff in San Diego

On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.

New Production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.

A Salome to Remember

Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.

L’Elisir d’Amore Goes On Despite Storm

On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.

Boris Godunov in Marseille

There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola, whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

Billy Budd in Madrid

Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.

A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw

American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera, Nixon in China.

English song: shadows and reflections

Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.

A charming Pirates of Penzance revival at ENO

'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.

Johan Reuter sings Brahms with Wiener Philharmoniker

In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker

I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series programmes opening the New Year.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher in Lyon

There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.

A New Look at Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio

On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.

Giasone in Geneva

Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.

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):