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

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

Carmen in Orange

Some time ago in San Francisco there was an Aida starring Luciano Pavarotti, now in Orange it was Carmen starring Jonas Kaufmann. No, not tenors in drag just great tenors whose names simply outshine the title roles.

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):