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 Performances

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.

Expressive Monteverdi from Les Talens Lyriques at Wigmore Hall

This was an engaging concert of madrigals and dramatic pieces from (largely) Claudio Monteverdi’s Venetian years, a time during which his quest to find the ‘natural way of imitation’ - musical embodiment of textual form, meaning and affect - took the form not primarily of solo declamation but of varied vocal ensembles of two or more voices with rich instrumental accompaniments.

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):