Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Roger Quilter: The Complete Quilter Songbook, Vol. 3

Mark Stone and Stephen Barlow present Volume 3 in their series The Complete Roger Quilter Songbook, on Stone Records.

Richard Danielpour – The Passion of Yeshua

A contemporary telling of the Passion story which uses texts from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions to create a very different viewpoint.

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Natalya Romaniw - Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul

Sailing home to Corinth, bearing treasures won in a music competition, the mythic Greek bard, Arion, found his golden prize coveted by pirates and his life in danger.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille

Among the few compensations opera lovers have had from the COVID crisis is the abundance – alas, plethora – of streamed opera productions we might never have seen or even known of without it.

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

In 1877, Ethel Smyth, aged just nineteen, travelled to Leipzig to begin her studies at the German town’s Music Conservatory, having finally worn down the resistance of her father, General J.H. Smyth.

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

This new recording of excerpts from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen is quite exceptional - and very unusual for this kind of disc. The words might be missing, but the fact they are proves to have rather the opposite effect. It is one of the most operatic of orchestral Wagner discs I have come across.

Wagner: Die Walküre, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle, BR Klassik

Simon Rattle has never particularly struck me as a complex conductor. He is not, for example, like Furtwängler, Maderna, Boulez or Sinopoli - all of whom brought a breadth of learning and a knowledge of composition to bear on what they conducted.

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Cosi fan tutte (Salzburg Festival, 2009) (Blu-ray, Full-HD)
28 Dec 2010

Mozart at Salzburg Festival: Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte

Once a preserve of opulent traditional productions, the summer Salzburg Festival has become a destination for viewing more cutting edge stagings.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Così Fan Tutte

Fiordiligi: Miah Persson; Dorabella: Isabel Leonard; Guglielmo: Florian Boesch; Ferrando: Topi Lehtipuu; Despina: Patricia Petibon; Don Alfonso: Bo Skovhus. Vienna State Opera Chorus (chorus master: Thomas Lang). Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Adam Fischer, conductor. Claus Guth, stage director. Christian Schmidt, stage design. Anna Sofie Tuma, costume design Olaf Winter, lighting design. Recorded at the Haus für Mozart, Salzburg Festival, 2009.

Euroarts 2072538 [2DVDs]

$33.99  Click to buy

Perhaps the best-known of such from recent seasons is the Willy Decker take on Verdi’s La Traviata, a contemporary classic of a production that will soon debut at the Metropolitan Opera. The operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart have a special history for Salzburg (one of these DVDs has a title card that states “From the House of Mozart”). Director Claus Goth brought his updated vision of Don Giovanni to the Festival in 2008, and his Così fan tutte was recorded for performance in 2009. Both productions are in contemporary dress, with grim chuckles in place of any buoyant cheer produced by former Salzburg productions. This is Mozart as misanthrope, pouring out his melodious commentary on the sad and/or despicable characters of Lorenzo da Ponte’s librettos. Well sung, sharply acted, impeccably staged — both DVDs present classy performances. Just be prepared for a distinctly chilly atmosphere.

Christian Schmidt’s stage design for the Così offers the clean white walls, metal railings and glass panels of a cliched contemporary loft home. An ironic intent makes itself felt as the story of the two pairs of young lovers manipulated into deceit by a cynical older man proceeds — the attractive veneer of the set complements the good looks of the younger leads, and an emptiness behind the good looks of both the surroundings and the characters also makes itself felt. That doesn’t take away the culpability of Don Alfonso and even Despina; the Don seems more cruel in his scheming than ever, and that rubs off on the sour comedy of Despina’s antics.

The quartet of young lovers submit themselves almost too well into this scheme, with not much personality in Miah Persson’s Fiordilgi, Isabel Leonard’s Dorabella, Florian Boesch’s Guglielmo, or Topi Lehtipuu’s Ferrando. They sing cleanly, manage the Mozartean line well, and look their parts. Mozart does give each of them at least one major set piece to bring to life, and here is where the director’s clinical vision may have inhibited the singers’ ability to “stand out.” Bo Skovhus, on the other hand, gets to camp it up a bit as Guth choreographs as much as directs the Don and Despina — there’s a lot of mock dancing and posing. Skovhus lets a scratchiness in his production loose a little too often, however, for a character probably intended to be a bit more seductive in his wheedling. Patricia Petibon’s Despina reigns in the cuteness for a sort of hyperactivity, more ominous than charming. In her recorded recital discs she is a more interesting singer than indicated here — Despina offers no real challenges.

One unmitigated strength of the performance comes from Adam Fischer’s muscular, propulsive direction of the Wiener Philharmoniker. The score comes across with a youthful energy appropriate to the characters while suggesting the aggression behind the Don’s gambit. Guth’s direction may not age well — at times it already feels self-conscious — but as one alternate vision of Così, it is effective in context.

Euroarts_2072544.gifThe Don Giovanni Guth stages is stronger overall than the Così, at least partly because it has a more high-powered cast than that of the Così. Set designer Schmidt here provides a very realistic pine forest, the only discernible reason for which seems to your reviewer to center on differentiating Guth’s setting from the famous Calixto Bieto one (preserved on DVD in a performance at Barcelona's Liceu). Bieto used modern dress (as does Guth) and elements of an organized crime mileux to highlight the libretto’s potent and dangerous mixture of violence and sexuality. Guth has the same concern, and most of his “big ideas” come across as vaguely desperate efforts to make his vision distinct from Bieto’s. So in the action under the prologue, we see Christopher Maltman’s Don get shot by the Commendatore, a grievous stomach wound that seems to bother the Don from time to time during the rest of the action, until he finally succumbs with the Commendatore’s reappearance at the end — but propelled into hell by Leporello and a syringe of heroin. To underscore the darkness of his vision, Guth chose an edition of the score without the “happy ending” ensemble, which Bieto memorably used to underlay the victorious “good guys” mutilating the Don’s corpse.

A vocally strong, physically seductive group of singers work hard for Guth. Maltman apparently spent as much time in the gym as in the rehearsal hall, if not more, and if not as muscular as his physique, his voice still ripples with strength. Erwin Schrott’s Leporello is no sad sidekick, but almost as dangerously sexy as his master. Nonetheless, Schrott also has the comic chops to portray the character’s frustration and barely contained resentment. In a wimpy suit and glasses, Matthew Polenzani could have been yet another feckless Don Ottavio, but his expert singing gives his character some needed backbone. In an imaginative touch, Guth has Ottavio dig out his cell phone when the car he and Donna Anna are riding in “breaks down” in the forest.

The women are a bit less distinctive. Annette Dasch in particular lacks the full armory for Donna Anna , a difficult role that requires ample strength and beauty. Dorothea Röeschmann doesn’t portray Donna Elvira as a harpy, thankfully; on the other hand, her interpretation is almost too neutral for a role that should have some edge. Ekaterina Siurina as Zerlina and Alex Espositio as Masetto are modestly effective (the booklet credit list amusingly assigns each of these singers to the other’s role!).

Bertrand de Billy is the conductor here, leading an entirely professional performance. In spots the rather spare piano used for recitatives seems anachronistic.

Salzburg’s tickets have the reputation of being both scarce and expensive, so for those who would like a great view of the stage and to keep their wallets full, these DVDs are to be appreciated. Neither one of these stagings may become classics such as the Dexter Traviata, but they both have much to reward the attentive viewer.

Chris Mullins


W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni: Christopher Maltman; Il Commendatore: Anatoli Kotscherga; Donna Anna: Annette Dasch; Don Ottavio: Matthew Polenzani; Donna Elvira: Dorothea Röschmann; Leporello: Erwin Schrott; Zerlina: Ekaterina Siurina; Masetto: Alex Esposito. Vienna State Opera Chorus(chorus master: Thomas Lang). Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Bertrand de Billy, conductor. Claus Guth, stage director. Christian Schmidt, stage and costume design. Olaf Winter, lighting design. Recorded at the Haus für Mozart, Salzburg Festival, 2008.

Euroarts 2072548 [2DVDs]


 

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):