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 Reviews

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

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.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

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.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

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.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

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.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

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.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

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.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

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).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

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.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

The Metropolitan Opera Gala 1991
24 Oct 2010

The Metropolitan Opera Gala 1991

The 50th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera at the Lincoln Center is just a few years away, so, with something less than dispatch, a DVD of the 25th anniversary Gala appears.

The Metropolitan Opera Gala 1991

Click here for contents

Deutsche Grammophon 000440 073 4582 5 [2DVDs]

$34.99  Click to buy

Recorded in 1991, and spread out over two discs (for no apparent reason, except the higher price a two-disc set can carry), this Gala at least avoids the ubiquitous gala routine of an orchestral overture or two followed by a slow parade of singers laboriously trotting on stage, singing their number, enjoying their inflated gala ovations, and then trotting off again.

Instead, here we have two acts from two different Verdi operas, presented in their entirety on the Met’s then current sets, and then an abbreviated second act from Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, the act where a party scene often turns into a sort of gala. And so it does here, at much extended length. At least all the guests are on stage, and the Prince Orlofsky, Anne Sofie Von Otter, introduces each one in character (which brings its own tedium before long, unfortunately).

1991 Metropolitan Opera casting tends toward tenor superstars and sopranos of some contemporary stature, if not exactly star quality. The exception to that latter statement comes in the middle of the evening, when Placido Domingo brings his potent Otello to the stage, with the more than worthy partner of Mirella Freni as Desdemona, and a handsome but somewhat pallid Justino Diaz as Iago. This is act three, not the act four one might expect. The Met chorus gets a larger role, but only Domingo gets a real solo moment. Freni, however, makes the most of her character’s torment at the cruelty of her suddenly insanely jealous husband, and the Zefferelli sets and costumes make for an impressive show.

That act certainly has more dramatic edge than the opening one, the final act from Rigoletto. In Otto Schenk’s atmospheric but dark, dreary set, Luciano Pavarotti is not able to resort to his accustomed charm, and the high notes of his big solo number are very carefully approached. Leo Nucci is now established as a leading Rigoletto; in 1991 he is solid but unremarkable. Perhaps Cheryl Studer could have been called a true opera star in 1991; she certainly made enough recordings and garnered many high-profile assignments. Undoubtedly she still has her fans, but her Gilda here strikes your reviewer as typical of her signing - a pleasant but forgettable tone, lacking in individual touches or color, emanating from an uninspired stage persona. The scene does boast a nice turn from Nicolai Ghiaurov as Sparafucile, but Birgitta Svenden does not impress as Maddalena, and the quartet doesn’t take flight as it should.

The finest baritone of the evening dances out in Der Fledermaus - Hermann Prey. Act two doesn’t give him much to do, but his charm is irrepressible. In the gala sequence that soon follows, he chooses to sing an unchallenging Papageno aria. Von Otter’s Orlofsky is amusing enough, bearing a curiously strong resemblance to mid-1980s David Bowie. Barbara Daniels as Rosalinde displays an attractive physical presence and a vocal instrument of such bright, laser-like focus that it quickly becomes tiring to the ears.

The gala sequence strikes few sparks. Frederica Von Stade charms her way through a lightweight Offenbach piece. Described by Von Otter/Orlofsky as a “rising star,” Thomas Hampson all but shouts his way through “Largo al factotum.” After June Anderson’s piercing rendition of “Je suis Titania” from Ambroise Thomas’s Mignon (points for relative obscurity!), Sherill Milnes is introduced as the era’s reigning baritone. His reign is clearly in its last days, as Milnes struggles to keep pitch and line in Bernstein and Sondheim’s “Maria.“ Aprile Millo is in good voice for “La Momma Morta,” and Ferrucio Furlanetto does a fun turn with Don Giovanni’s catalog aria. Singing a Donizetti piece, Kathleen Battle displays her star power and none of the idiosyncracies that would eventually end her Met career. Samuel Ramey follows Milnes to Broadway with “The Impossible Dream,” in a ludicrously string-heavy arrangement that conductor James Levine beats to death. After Mirella Freni’s elegant aria from Adriana Lecouvreur, the gala finally earns the name with Luciano Pavorotti and Placido Domingo camping it up in the act three Boheme tenor/baritone duet. Domingo, of course, takes the Marcello line, and he has to push a bit in the lower range, but the performance is charming and enjoyable.

For any opera fans for whom the late 1980s and early 1990s were prime years may well treasure this document. For many others, it will be a telling reminder all times are indeed not golden.

Chris Mullins

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):