Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

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):