Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

La Fille du regiment, Royal Opera

Donizetti’s opera comique La Fille du regiment returned to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for its third revival.

Schoenberg and company

With Schoenberg, I tend to take every opportunity I can — at least since my first visit to the Salzburg Festival, when understandably I chose to see Figaro over Boulez conducting Moses und Aron, though I have rued the loss ever since.

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):