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

Cast announced for Bampton Classical Opera's 2017 production of Salieri's The School of Jealousy

Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Handel's Partenope: surrealism and sensuality at English National Opera

Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a lesson in Patience

A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.

Tara Erraught: mezzo and clarinet in partnership at the Wigmore Hall

Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.

Opera Across the Waves

This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful producers of opera.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.

A Winter's Tale: a world premiere at English National Opera

The first production of Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera, based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is clearly a major event in English National Opera’s somewhat trimmed-down season. Wigglesworth, who serves also as conductor and librettist, professes to have been obsessed with the play for more than twenty years, and one can see why The Winter’s Tale, with its theatrical ‘set-pieces’ - the oracle scene, the tempest, the miracle of a moving statue - and its grandiose emotions, dominated as the play is by Leontes’ obsessively articulated, over-intellectualized jealousy, would invite operatic adaptation.

Wexford Festival Opera announces details of 2017 Festival

Today, Wexford Festival Opera announced the programme and principal casting details for the forthcoming 2017 festival. Now in its 66th year, this internationally renowned festival will run over an extended 18-day period, from Thursday, 19 October to Sunday, 5 November.

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.

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):