Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Songs for Nancy: Bampton Classical Opera celebrate legendary soprano, Nancy Storace

Bampton Classical Opera’s 25th anniversary season opens with a concert on 7th March at St John’s Smith Square to celebrate the legendary soprano Nancy Storace.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A newly discovered song by Alma Mahler

It is well known that in addition to the fourteen songs by Alma Mahler published in her lifetime, several dozen more - perhaps as many as one hundred - were written and have been lost or destroyed.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.



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):