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

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Piotr Beczala as Roméo and Hei-Kyung Hong as Juliette [Photo by Marty Sohl courtesy of Metropolitan Opera]
18 Mar 2011

Roméo et Juliette, New York

Is Guy Joosten’s staging of Roméo et Juliette the best-looking production in the Met’s current repertory or what?

Charles Gounod: Roméo et Juliette

Juliette: Hei-Kyung Hong; Stephano: Julie Boulianne; Roméo: Piotr Beczala; Tybalt: Sean Panikkar; Capulet: Dwayne Croft; Mercutio: Lucas Meacham; Frère Laurent: James Morris. Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, conducted by Plácido Domingo. Performance of March 14.

Above: Piotr Beczala as Roméo and Hei-Kyung Hong as Juliette

All photos by Marty Sohl courtesy of Metropolitan Opera

 

With its faux marquetry sets by Johannes Leiacker and spectacular astronomical projections for the star-crossed and velvet-clad lovers (lighting by David Cunningham, costumes by Jorge Jara), the stage is always a delight to watch while this is on, no matter who is singing. I wish they’d use these sets for operas I liked better—Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, say, or Bellini’s I Capuletti ed i Montecchi (to keep the story on track), or Verdi’s Trovatore or Vespri, or Auber’s La Muette de Portici, or Mercadante’s Il Bravo, or Mascagni’s Parisina, or Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, or Korngold’s Violanta—just about anything Renaissance-themed and at least faintly Italian. It’s entirely too beautiful to leave it to rare encounters with sugary Gounod.

RJ_Met_2011_03.pngDwayne Croft as Capulet and Hei-Kyung Hong as Juliette

The current revival was to have placed gallant young Polish tenor Piotr Beczala beside Romanian glamour-girl soprano Angela Gheorghiu, but for whatever reason (illness, she says) Madame Gheorghiu was a no-show. I do not find the lady’s voice or her use of it persuasive enough to mourn her absence. Standing in for her was Hei-Kyung Hong, who with all the looks, twice the technique and three times the vocal gift of Gheorghiu, has never been a candidate for stardom but, rather, a totally assured first-class house singer of roles from Handel, Mozart and Verdi to Puccini and Wagner. If she has lacked the spark of individuality that inspires cult, her dedication to singing, to excellence, has made her a favorite with Met audiences for twenty-five years. She is still a pretty woman and an able actress, albeit lacking the little self-knowing and personal touches that a stage animal like Natalie Dessay brought to Juliette when this production was new. Too, she might be faulted for a certain coolness, a lack of passion—this Juliette does not grow into a woman convincingly, but that is partly due to the omission at the Met of her potion aria in Act IV. In any case, after a few nervous high notes in the coloratura showcases of Act I, Hong settled into a lovely, creamily sung performance.

RJ_Met_2011_02.pngJulie Boulianne as Stephano

Beczala, a tenor I have admired as Edgardo and Lenski, has the Slavic fault (I identify it with Hvorostovsky) of pausing between beautiful phrases that should be strung together in ardent, breathless apostrophe, but his “Lève-toi, soleil” was nonetheless a high point of a year of good tenorismo. He was ably supported by Sean Panikkar’s Tybalt; Lucas Meacham’s impressive Mercutio; James Morris’s rumbly Frère Laurent; and Dwayne Croft’s most distinguished Capulet. Mr. Croft is another of those house singers who brings class to anything he sings, and he seemed very much the host of this gala party. Wendy White was not up to her usual standard as the Nurse—I could hardly hear he in the wedding quartet, and I was sitting thirty feet away. Julie Boulianne, a mezzo with a developing reputation, sang Stephano: She puzzled me, as she has in the past, not for the occasional ringing and beautiful high notes, which are sure to please, but for the off-pitch or scattershot phrases that led up to them. The conductor was Plácido Domingo, and though his beat seemed draggy at times, he kept things trundling and never threw the singers for a loop, no doubt remembering occasions when he had to keep his eye on a vague baton.

RJ_Met_2011_04.png

The crowd-movements were passable but the dueling was not. I would not say this if I had not seen the street brawl and the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt done so very well in the old Met production of this opera, some of the most realistic swordwork by elegant young men in tights I’ve ever seen on any stage. The current version, which relies too much on knife lunges (that must fall on the right crescendo to be effective), is unnecessarily awkward and complex. The singers tried, but they could not make it seem natural. The Met should try to find the guy who set this scene up in 1996 and entreat him to do it again.

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):