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

Rouvali and the Philharmonia in Richard Strauss

It so rarely happens that the final concert you are due to review of any year ends up being one of the finest of all. Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s all Richard Strauss programme with the Philharmonia Orchestra, however, was often quite remarkable - one might quibble that parts of it were somewhat controversial, and that he even lived a little dangerously, but the impact was never less than imaginative and vivid. This was a distinctly young man’s view of Strauss - and all the better for that.

‘The Swingling Sixties’: Stravinsky and Berio

Were there any justice in this fallen world, serial Stravinsky – not to mention Webern – would be played on every street corner, or at least in every concert hall. Come the revolution, perhaps.

The Pity of War: Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano at the Barbican Hall

During the past four years, there have been many musical and artistic centenary commemorations of the terrible human tragedies, inhumanities and utter madness of the First World War, but there can have been few that have evoked the turbulence and trauma of war - both past and present, in the abstract and in the particular - with such terrifying emotional intensity as this recital by Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano at the Barbican Hall.

First revival of Barrie Kosky's Carmen at the ROH

Charles Gounod famously said that if you took the Spanish airs out of Carmen “there remains nothing to Bizet’s credit but the sauce that masks the fish”.

Stanford's The Travelling Companion: a compelling production by New Sussex Opera

The first performance of Charles Villiers Stanford’s ninth and final opera The Travelling Companion was given by an enthusiastic troupe of Liverpudlian amateurs at the David Lewis Theatre - Liverpool’s ‘Old Vic’ - in April 1925, nine years after it was completed, eight after it won a Carnegie Award, and one year after the composer’s death.

Russian romances at Wigmore Hall

The songs of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov lie at the heart of the Romantic Russian art song repertoire, but in this duo recital at Wigmore Hall it was the songs of Nikolay Medtner - three of which were framed by sequences by the great Russian masters - which proved most compelling and intriguing.

Don Giovanni: Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera turned the art of seduction into bloodsport with its 2018/19 season-opener of Mozart’s dramma giocoso, Don Giovanni often walking a razor’s edge between hilarious social commentary and chilling battles for the soul.

Jonathan Miller's La bohème returns to the Coliseum

And still they come. No year goes by without multiple opportunities to see it; few years now go by without my taking at least one of those opportunities. Indeed, I see that I shall now have gone to Jonathan Miller’s staging on three of its five (!) outings since it was first seen at ENO in 2009.

Sir Thomas Allen directs Figaro at the Royal College of Music

The capital’s music conservatoires frequently present not only some of the best opera in London, but also some of the most interesting, and unusual, as the postgraduate students begin to build their careers by venturing across diverse operatic ground.

Old Bones: Iestyn Davies and members of the Aurora Orchestra 'unwrap' Time at Kings Place

In this contribution to Kings Place’s 2018 Time Unwrapped series, ‘co-curators’ composer Nico Muhly and countertenor Iestyn Davies explored the relationship between time past and time present, and between stillness and motion.

Cinderella goes to the panto: WNO in Southampton

Once upon a time, Rossini’s La Cenerentola was the Cinderella among his operatic oeuvre.

It's a Wonderful Life in San Francisco

It was 1946 when George Bailey of Bedford Falls, NY nearly sold himself to the devil for $20,000. It is 2018 in San Francisco where an annual income of ten times that amount raises you slightly above poverty level, and you’ve paid $310 for your orchestra seat to Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

Des Moines: Glory, Glory Hallelujah

A minor miracle occurred as Des Moines Metro Opera converted a large hall on a Reserve Army Base to a wholly successful theatrical venue, and delivered a stunning rendition of Tom Cipullo’s compelling military-themed one act opera, Glory Denied.

In her beginning is her end: Welsh National Opera's La traviata in Southampton

David McVicar’s La traviata for Welsh National Opera - first seen at Scottish Opera in 2008 and adopted by WNO in 2009 - wears its heavy-black mourning garb stylishly.

'So sweet is the pain': Roberta Invernizzi at Wigmore Hall

In this BBC Radio 3 lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall, soprano Roberta Invernizzi presented Italian songs from the first half of seventeenth-century, exploring love and loyalty, loss and lies, and demonstrating consummate declamatory mastery.

Staging Britten's War Requiem

“The best music to listen to in a great Gothic church is the polyphony which was written for it, and was calculated for its resonance: this was my approach in the War Requiem - I calculated it for a big, reverberant acoustic and that is where it sounds best.”

Moshinsky's Simon Boccanegra returns to Covent Garden

Despite the flaming torches of the plebeian plotters which, in the Prologue, etched chiaroscuro omens within the Palladian porticos of Michael Yeargan’s imposing and impressive set, this was a rather slow-burn revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s 1991 production of Simon Boccanegra.

Royal Academy's Semele offers 'endless pleasures'

Self-adoring ‘celebrities’ beware. That smart-phone which feeds your narcissism might just prove your nemesis.

The Eternal Flame: Debussy, Lindberg, Stravinsky and Janáček - London Philharmonic, Vladimir Jurowski

Although this concert was ostensibly, and in some respects a little tenuously, linked to the centenary of the Armistice, it did create some challenging assumptions about the nature of war. It was certainly the case in Magnus Lindberg’s new work, Triumf att finnas till… (‘Triumph to Exist…’) that he felt able to dislocate from the horror of the trenches and slaughter by using a text by the wartime poet Edith Södergran which gravitates towards a more sympathetic, even revisionist, expectation of this period.

François-Xavier Roth conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Works by Ligeti, Bartók and Haydn

For the second of my armistice anniversary concerts, I moved across town from the Royal Festival Hall to the Barbican.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Riccardo Muti
22 Apr 2011

Otello, Carnegie Hall

By the time he emerged from retirement with Otello, his twenty-seventh opera, at 73, there wasn’t much Giuseppe Verdi didn’t know about how to make an orchestra do his bidding, set the mood of each line of a good story, piling excitement on excitement and letting the tension mutate to something gentler at the right times in order to make the outburst to follow the more demoniac.

Giuseppe Verdi: Otello

Otello: Aleksandrs Antonenko; Desdemona: Krassimira Stoyanova; Iago: Carlo Guelfi; Emilia: Barbara Di Castri; Cassio: Juan Francisco Gatell; Rodrigo: Michael Spyres; Lodovico: Eric Owens. Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Riccardo Muti. At Carnegie Hall, April 15.

Above: Riccardo Muti

 

This makes the score one of particular delight to an instrument as skilled and as superbly led as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (and its equally illustrious chorus), and the opera’s appeal clear to its director, Riccardo Muti, a former music director of La Scala.

When, at sixteen, I told my father that I had discovered opera, he got me my first opera recording: the von Karajan Otello with Del Monaco and Tebaldi, both singers considered definitive interpreters of the roles at that time. (In the Rome Opera House, there is a wall-size bronze plaque dedicated to Del Monaco, with his profile and the bar lines for Otello’s opening “Esultate…,” a terrific way to remember a tenor, eh?) I listened to this first recording devoutly, and then encountered the opera in performance in perhaps Franco Zeffirelli’s finest bit of stagecraft at the Met, under Böhm, with Zylis-Gara, Vickers and Milnes singing and acting it superbly. And there have been many great Otellos for me since then (McCracken, Domingo, King, the frighteningly quiet Willow Song of Pilar Lorengar, the horrifying Iago of Wassily Janulako), but there were things in the orchestration that I had not noticed until the Chicago’s performance before a packed Carnegie Hall last Friday. This points up one of two advantages about a concert performance of an opera (the first being that no stage director to distract you from the piece being performed with his own irrelevance): You can hear the orchestra more clearly, often playing with more care, than you can in the opera house, where there is a covered pit and the distractions of the stage and the attention (and the limelight) squarely on the singers.

Riccardo Muti, who has conducted hardly any opera in this country, got his start in the opera house and his original fame as a stickler for the letter of the score. This has led to many productions of operas of an earlier era that aficionados deplore as lacking the high spirits that idiosyncratic singers (of the best sort) could bring to them. Muti’s attention to detail, to the symphonic picture and to dramatic propulsion suits some operas better than others, and Otello is a case where the composer knew just what he wanted and took infinite pains to achieve it. Muti has great fun with it, reaching out to each section with clutching, pleading hands, wooing them into the dynamic he desired. There were times during the lighter, merrier moments with which Verdi intended the dark drama to be studded—the drinking song, the “flower” chorus, the “handkerchief” trio in Act III—that an airier spirit sometimes eluded his attention, but placing the Chicago Symphony in the hands of such a technician produces gilded, glowing effect upon effect, each tremolo wind in perfect tune (from sighing violins to threatening, murmurous basses), each thunderous brass outburst ideally calculated.

The singers, all well chosen, were not in quite such superlative form as the orchestra and chorus. Aleksandrs Antonenko, singing though ailing, in Italian rather better than his French in last year’s Les Troyens at the same hall, demonstrated real tenor ping (as the aficionados say) on Otello’s abrupt rises from the conversational to the furious and was never overwhelmed by the orchestra. His quieter, more tragic moments were affecting as well. Krassimira Stoyanova, who has sung Desdemona to acclaim from Vienna to Barcelona, was occasionally flat in the Act I love duet, but her placid, dignified bewilderment in the rest of the opera was true and sweet, her Willow Song and Ave Maria quietly devastating. Carlo Guelfi, not always the most exciting of baritones, sang a worthy, menacing Iago, with diabolic energy to his cries of “O gioia!” as his wicked plots moved to fruition. Juan Francisco Gatell’s Cassio and the few (but full and lovely) notes of Barbara Di Castri’s Emilia made one eager to hear more of their singing. Only Eric Owens, the growling Lodovico, proved a disappointment.

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):