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 Performances

Fortepiano Schubert : Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Juan Diego Flórez as Count Ory (disguised as the Nun) [Photo by Marty Sohl courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
28 Mar 2011

Le Comte Ory, Metropolitan Opera

Rossini’s penultimate stage work, Le Comte Ory, belongs to the tradition of sexy scoundrel operas, along with such works as Don Giovanni, Zampa, Fra Diavolo, Barbe-Bleu, Les Brigands and Threepenny Opera.

Gioachino Rossini: Le Comte Ory

Comtesse Adèle: Diana Damrau; Isolier: Joyce Di Donato; Comte Ory: Juan Diego Flórez; Ragonde: Susanne Resmark; Tutor: Michele Pertusi; Raimbaud: Stéphane Degout. Production by Bartlett Sher. Metropolitan Opera chorus and orchestra conducted by Maurizio Benini. Performance of March 24.

Above: Juan Diego Flórez as Count Ory (disguised as the Nun)

All photos by Marty Sohl courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

 

You could make a case for adding supernatural scamps like Der Vampyr and Tannhäuser to the list. The hero may be a rogue—in fact, rogue is his job description—and may even be a cutthroat or worse, but he’s a lovable fellow for all that. And he almost never gets to home plate with the ladies whose hearts he flutters; the censors wouldn’t have stood for it. Thus the joke of Gilbert and Sullivan’s spoof in The Pirates of Penzance: Their chorus-full of reckless rogues lust “to be married with impunity” to the bevy of helpless females they are about to abduct. (Is it coincidence that most of the sexy scoundrel operas are French? No.)

COMTE_ORY_Pertusi_as_Tutor_.gifMichele Pertusi as The Tutor

The censors wouldn’t have stood for it then, but there are no censors now, and opera directors are all for full disclosure. This mars Bartlett Sher’s colorful if bare-bones staging of Le Comte Ory for the Met. Consider the final trio: Ory, our scoundrel, has disguised himself as a nun in order to enter Countess Adèle’s bed in her darkened chamber. Unbeknownst to him (but obvious enough to us), Adèle’s young suitor, Isolier, is also present, and in fact the Count is embracing Isolier as Isolier embraces Adèle. If this seems a bit racy for 1828, even in Paris, ne vous-inquiètez pas: Isolier is played by a mezzo soprano. Audiences didn’t mind watching a man fiddle with a boy so long as the boy was obviously a woman. (The first time I saw this opera, Lucky Pierre—sorry, Isolier—was played by a countertenor; he seemed to be enjoying the situation.)

But in Sher’s production, all three persons scramble around each other among the bedclothes as if this were just an ordinary three-way with no story to tell, and it is impossible for the Count not to be aware that he is in bed with two other people. Adèle, too, should not be aware of what is going on; here she’s a merry participant. It may seem a small point, and everybody around me found the slapstick hilarious, but the premises of farce must be taken seriously for the mad machine to work properly. Either Joyce DiDonato is a man or she isn’t; if she isn’t, why does Adèle hope to marry her? If she is, why does the skirt-chasing Count enjoy being in bed with him? It’s as if Lucy schemed to divorce Desi and demanded custody of his band: It violates the clear farcical contract for which we have been so carefully set up.

COMTE_ORY_Degout_as_Raimbau.gifStéphane Degout as Raimbaud

Sher, as in his previous Met shows, Barbiere and Hoffmann, is always willing to dump the plot to insert a dumb joke; this was also true in his disastrous staging of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. He only seems capable of theatrical discipline if the piece is, like South Pacific, sacrosanct, guarded by those who can keep him in line. He has no theatrical clarity of his own. Is this sort of anything-for-a-laugh mayhem what Peter Gelb means when he refers to a “new realism” in the opera house?

The singers have been encouraged not to play this charming piece straight. I would find the evening pleasanter (and probably funnier) if Diana Damrau, a fine singer as well as a fine comic actress, sang the dizzy Countess’s fruity tunes with a bit more attention to proper line and with fewer wildly mugged high notes, and if Juan Diego Flórez’s nasal tenor, never the most sensuous of instruments, were not quite so dry. He is choosing roles lately that do not exhibit his extraordinary virtuosity, and his is not an instrument to make it in bel canto otherwise. There are many far prettier tenor voices around.

COMTE_ORY_Damrau_Florez_DiD.gifDiana Damrau as Countess Adle, Joyce DiDonato as Isolier, and Juan Diego Flórez as Count Ory

What, I wonder, would Rothenberger and Gedda have made of the bedroom trio? With, say, Teresa Berganza as Isolier? I can’t help thinking they’d have each contrived to keep one foot on the floor, in old-time Hollywood fashion, but they would still have been funnier than Sher’s staging, and they would have sounded like a glimpse of heaven.

Joyce DiDonato, as Isolier, is a lovely performer who does not let her farce-making get in the way of torrents of beautiful Rossini, as heartfelt as they are pure. She is the reason to visit Le Comte Ory and the reason to linger to the very end. Susanne Resmark revealed a most attractive alto voice with more to display than was evident here in the Margaret Dumont-like housekeeper role. Michele Pertusi was all that could be desired as the Tutor and Stéphane Degout filled our grateful ears with dark baritone during his drinking song. Maurizio Benini kept the orchestral sound low so as not to interfere with singers’ audibility, though as Sher (as usual) pushed them all to the edge of the stage apron, this was probably unnecessary. In the old days, and not so very old either, singers could fill the Met from mid-stage and revel in the filling.

John Yohalem

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):