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 Performances

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

Capriccio at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Although performances of Richard Strauss’s last opera Capriccio have increased in recent time, Lyric Opera of Chicago has not experienced the “Konversationsstück für Musik” during the past twenty odd years.

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lorina Gore as Tytania and Joshua Tate as The Indian Prince [Photo by Jeff Busby courtesy of Opera Australia]
06 Dec 2010

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Opera Australia

Transplanting Britten’s Shakespeare opera to an Indian setting seems at first an illogical step by Hollywood director Baz Luhrmann.

Benjamin Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Oberon: Tobias Cole; Tytania: Lorina Gore; Puck: Tyler Coppin; Theseus: Jud Arthur; Hippolyta: Catherine Carby; Lysander: Henry Choo; Demetrius: Andrew Moran; Helena: Lisa Harper-Brown; Hermia: Dominica Matthews; Bottom: Conal Coad; Quince: Richard Anderson; Flute: Graeme Macfarlane; Snug: Shane Lowrencev; Snout: Andrew Brunsdon; Starveling: Samuel Dundas. Opera Australia Children's Chorus. Orchestra Victoria. Conductor: Paul Kildea; Director: Baz Luhrmann (revival director: Julie Edwardson); Designers: Catherine Martin & Bill Marron; Lighting Designer: Nigel Levings State Theatre, The Arts Centre. December 4, 8, 11, 14, 16 & 18, 2010

Above: Lorina Gore as Tytania and Joshua Tate as The Indian Prince

All photos by Jeff Busby courtesy of Opera Australia

 

But the result made for a popular production. Dating from 1993 Luhrmann directed this long before his rise to fame but his flair for exotica and rich visuals was apparent even then. Luhrmann’s relocating of the story from ancient Athens to 1920s India cashed-in on the trend at the time for Bollywood movies and Indian inspired fashion and décor.

The world of Indian mysticism does, however, seem more suited to the mysterious world Britten creates in his score. These spirit beings are to be feared and to enter their realm should therefore be far more disturbing. Ravel did the same in L’Enfant et les Sortileges, his enchanted garden is an alluring but fearful place. So is Britten’s forest.

Having the fairies as Indian gods and the mortals as British Raj may confuse the text and storyline and Luhrmann’s tendency to keep the action busy often spoils the nocturnal, dreaminess of some of the music. An English bandstand set in a park somewhere in India in 1923 dominates the set. The roof becomes a platform where Oberon oversees his magical ministrations while on stage level there is a pond below the bandstand where fairies and mortals meet. The orchestra have been relocated from the pit to the middle level and, dressed in military band uniform, are constantly in view as are the subtleties and inventiveness of Britten’s score.

The loveliest of the opera’s scenes, where Tytania awakens to the transformed Bottom is beautifully done here. Lorina Gore’s increasing ecstatic and extravagant vocal lines float around Conal Coad’s trombone accompanied bellowing and braying as Bottom.

With his genial, rollicking bass, Coad leads the mechanicals in their three scenes with great success. In the guise of an army entertainment troop, the effect is straight out of an English Music Hall parody of Italian opera along the lines that Britten and librettist Peter Pears intended.

The quartet of lovers is superb. Henry Choo’s ardent and honey-voiced Lysander sounds very much in the British tenor tradition. Choo’s first scene with Hermia is beautifully sung. Even more so as he sang the repeated “I swear to thee” phrases running up and down a staircase! Lisa Harper-Brown’s plaintive soprano beautifully contrasts with Dominica Matthews’s mezzo in the famous squabble that, here, becomes a cat-fight ending with both splashing about in the pool. The physical prowess of Opera Australia’s singers often matches their vocal prowess.

The most physical performance of all is Tyler Coppin’s as Puck. Nobody seems to cast a boy in this part anymore as using an adult actor gives greater opportunity to create a character. With his small stature Coppin has the best of both worlds however, looking like an adult trapped in boy’s body. His slapstick performance contrasts nicely with Tobias Cole’s stealthy, almost sinister Oberon. Perched above the stage with waist length dreadlocks, white face, blue, clawed hands and backed by Britten’s melismatic music Cole’s performance reinforces this role as still one of the best in modern operatic literature for a counter-tenor.

MSDN_Australia_02.gifTobias Cole as Oberon and Lorina Gore as Tytania

In a sound-world all of its own, Oberon’s music benefited from Cole’s restrained performance. With their prominence on the stage Orchestra Victoria, lead by Britten authority Paul Kildea, were able to make every nuance of the fairies' scenes as well as the deliberately lumpen scenes for the rustics and their play.

This Midsummer Night’s Dream was a run-away success when first staged and, unlike any other production of a Britten opera, played to full houses. The production was so popular it was presented at the 1994 Edinburgh Festival. The sheer vitality of the playing, singing and production in this revival make any qualms about the logic of the setting fall away thanks to the hallmark ensemble work of this company.

Michael Magnusson

MSDN_Australia_04.gifTobias Cole as Oberon and Tyler Coppin as Puck

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):