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

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Royal Symphony

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

Soldier Songs in San Diego

David Little composed his one-man opera, Soldier Songs, ten years ago and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas of New Haven, Connecticut, premiered it in 2011. At San Diego Opera, the fifty-five minute musical presentation and the “Talk Back” that followed it were part of the Shiley dētour Series which is held in the company’s smaller venue, the historic Balboa Theatre.

Barber of Seville [Hollywood Style] in Los Angeles

On Saturday evening November 12, 2016, Pacific Opera Project presented Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville in an updated version that placed the action in Hollywood. It was sung in the original Italian but the translation seen as supertitles was specially written to match the characters’ Hollywood identities.

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

A Butterfly for the ages in a Butterfly marred by casting ineptness and lugubrious conducting.

Kiss Me, Kate: Welsh National Opera at the Birmingham Hippodrome

In 1964, 400 years after the birth of the Bard, the writer Anthony Burgess saw Cole Porter’s musical comedy Kiss Me, Kate, a romping variation on The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare’s comedy, Burgess said, had a ‘good playhouse reek about it’, adding ‘the Bard might be regarded as closer to Cole Porter and Broadway razzmatazz’ than to the scholars who were ‘picking him raw’.

Beat Furrer FAMA - Hörtheater reaches London

Beat Furrer's FAMA came to London at last, with the London Sinfonietta. The piece was hailed as "a miracle" at its premiere at Donaueschingen in 2005 by Die Zeit: State of the Art New Music, recognized by mainstream media, which proves that there is a market for contemporary music lies with lively audiences

Franz Schreker : Die Gezeichneten (Les Stigmatizés). Lyon

Franz Schreker Die Gezeichneten from the Opéra de Lyon last year, now on arte.tv and Opera Platform. The translation, "The stigmatized", doesn't convey the impact of the original title, which is closer to"The Cursed".

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Umberto Giordano; Fedora
12 Mar 2011

Gheorghiu and Domingo in Giordano’s Fedora

A major label release of a new studio recording of a full opera — with the traditional booklet/libretto — wanders onto the scene almost like a lost and lonely unicorn.

Umberto Giordano; Fedora

La principessa Fedora Romazov: Angela Gheorghiu; Il conte Loris Ipanov: Plácido Domingo; La contessa Olga Sukarev: Nino Machaidze. Orchestre symphonique et chœurs de la Monnaie. Conductor: Alberto Veronesi.

Deutsche Grammophon 000289 477 8367 1 [2CDs]

$28.99  Click to buy

In the case of Deutsche Grammophon and this Fedora, the booklet inside cover gives a revealing detail — the actual recording happened in January 2008. Undoubtedly the contracts were signed some time before that. The tenor lead, Plácido Domingo, was still in his 60s, and Angela Gheorghiu, in the eponymous role, had attained the height of her stardom. The work itself may not be a title for which opera fans were clamoring for a modern studio version, but it has one number everyone knows (the big second act tenor aria, “Amor ti Vieta”), so it combines some of the appeal of both rare repertoire and a known quality.

With Domingo widely celebrated this year on reaching his 70th birthday while maintaining his tenor stardom (albeit, frequently in baritone roles these days), DG surely made the right decision to release this now, or face leaving it in the vaults forever. Perhaps the latter would have been the better option. Not that the recording is some monstrous calamity. It’s more a matter that the inherent weaknesses of Fedora that have made it an obscure work on opera stages, combined with the debatable casting, lend a sad, desultory air to the set.

Conductor Alberto Veronesi comes off best. He keeps the music moving, and the frequent passages of scene-setting — not composer Umberto Giordano’s strength — have ample color. At the score’s best moments — especially the afore-mentioned solo for tenor — the momentary melodic sweep of the score can almost make a listener understand what led the DG executives to think, at one time, that this was a worthwhile project.

Based on a Sardou play, the libretto of Arturo Colautti is a narratively clumsy contraption. Too much of the confusing action happens off stage, requiring the awkward appearance of messengers and letters with necessary exposition. One can point out any number of plot discrepancies in Puccini and his librettist’s adaptation of Sardou’s later play Tosca, but the genius of Puccini at least allows for a comprehensible narrative flow, and more importantly, his music simply attains a higher level of imagination and skill.

More harmful is the baffling appeal of the soprano heroine. She starts the drama so deeply in love with a Count that when the Count is brought to her, mortally wounded after a mysterious encounter in a park, she vows revenge against his killer. In act two she feels she has located the killer in the person of one Loris Ipanov — who, for unclear reasons, has found the time to know Fedora and fall in love with her. She feels some tug of romantic attraction, but she follows up on her vow of revenge by writing a letter to Ipanov’s home country’s security forces. By act three she is totally in love with Loris, who has explained his violent encounter with the Count to her in a way that allows her to regret her vow of vengeance. However, her letter has resulted in the deaths of his brother and mother. As he vows the same sort of revenge she had vowed in act one, she drinks poison rather than face her lover as the killer of his brother and sister.

It could be argued that this scenario presents two very complex characters, combining both heroic and villainous qualities, depending on the scenario before the audience at any point of the libretto. However, the characterization is far from complex, and the result is more a mish-mash of unappealing people distraught over their own unappealing actions. Feeble subplots tacked onto the action (which still totals barely 100 minutes) don’t help.

Those who know and have some admiration for this opera will expect a larger, more dramatic voice than that of Angela Gheorghiu in the title role. She would surely be totally wrong in a stage production, but as recorded, one can at least enjoy the innate beauty of her instrument. Perhaps the ludicrous dramaturgy requires a more vehement delivery, but your reviewer was thankful not to have to put up with guttural hysterics. Domingo’s character does not appear until act two, and it is hard to understand why anyone was satisfied with the recorded take used here, as the great tenor sounds tired and the instrument uncharacteristically wobbly for much of this act, including the big aria. He seems caught in better voice for act three. In a minor role, soprano Nino Machaidze adds some acid to her light voice and makes a very good impression.

The booklet reports that Fedora was the vehicle for Enrico Caruso’s major debut, and as long as audiences enjoy a rip-roaring Italian opera aria, “Amor ti Vieta” will live on. Based on this latest recording, those two facts will continue to be the salient ones to know about Fedora.

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):