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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



Scene from Rigoletto [Photo courtesy of Opera Australia]
29 Nov 2010

Rigoletto, Opera Australia

Not revived too frequently this 1991 production by Elijah Moshinsky updates the story to the 1960s and the films of Federico Fellini inspire the sets and costumes.

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Rigoletto: Michael Lewis; Gilda: Emma Matthews (Natalie Jones 25 & 27 November); Duke of Mantua: Rosario La Spina; Sparafucile: Richard Anderson; Maddalena/Giovanna: Jacqueline Dark; Monterone: Jud Arthur; Marullo: Luke Gabbedy; Borsa: David Corcoran; Count Ceprano: Richard Alexander; Countess Ceprano: Jane Parkin; Usher: Clifford Plumpton; Page — Jodie McGuren. Director: Elijah Moshinsky (Revival Director: Cathy Dadd); Conductor: Marko Letonja; Set & Costume Designer: Michael Yeargan. State Theatre, The Arts Centre (November 22, 25, 27 December 1, 3, 7, 10, 18, 2010)

Above: Scene from Rigoletto [Photo courtesy of Opera Australia]


The revival is even more welcome thanks to the outstanding performances of Michael Lewis and Rigoletto and Emma Matthews as Gilda.

The swinging, cynical sixties Moshinsky creates is the perfect world for the Duke. Paparazzi swarm around his act one party where showgirls dance with bishops.

Act one springs along in this updated guise, the circus-like party music even sounding like the sort of music Fellini’s regular composer Nino Rota would have written had he lived a century earlier.

Michael Yeargan’s revolving ‘doll house’ set shows the Duke’s palace, the street where Rigoletto meets Sparafucile, Rigoletto’s house and Sparafucile’s inn. A quick quarter turn in acts two and four and you have some open space for Gilda’s abduction and the final father-daughter duet. It all works splendidly and is another of Opera Australia’s landmark productions. The set also concentrates the action close to the front of the stage so, when the many set pieces come along, the characters are conveniently up stage nicely placed to deliver their arias.

Michael Lewis is a model Verdi baritone, perfect diction, smooth legato and clear, ringing top. Lewis exploits every note of the music, sung and unsung, to convey character. Seen during the prelude, applying a grotesque clown make-up (anticipating Heath Ledger’s Joker from Batman), Lewis’s Rigoletto then stands to show this Rigoletto’s extra handicap. Crippled, Lewis beetles about on walking sticks. Lewis’s thirty years singing the role bring insights into the character’s words and music illuminate every dimension of Rigoletto’s tragedy big and small from his terrified freeze at Monterone’s curse to the perfectly timed pause and wild yowl when Gilda dies.

Emma Matthews is radiant as Gilda. Mentored in the role by Joan Sutherland, she now takes the highest alternatives at the close of “Caro nomo”, singing with a security and sophistication that would make her late, great predecessor proud. Matthews’s acting matches her singing and she creates an understandably fatalistic young woman out of Gilda. Her murder scene is actually shocking; she strides fearlessly into the tavern so Maddalena seems to see it is a woman, not a man, and shrieks with horror as Gilds is stabbed. Jacqueline Dark, in the unlikely double act of Gilda’s untrustworthy guardian and then co-assassin brings a Freudian undertone perfectly in keeping with the story.

Rosario la Spina makes less of the Duke than his colleagues seeming to sing without much involvement but this has the advantage of suggesting the Duke’s detachment from his many victims.

OA_Rigoletto_02.gifMichael Lewis as Rigoletto [Photo by Jeff Busby courtesy of Opera Australia]

Conductor Marko Letonja and Orchestra Victoria do some splendid work with shaping the tender moments. The Rigoletto/Gilda duets are as lovingly shaped as they are sung and the often-repeated ‘curse’ theme and storm music are thrilling without being bombastic.

Michael Magnusson

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