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 Reviews

Two song cycles by Sir Arthur Somervell: Roderick Williams and Susie Allan

Robert Browning, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Charles Kingsley, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A.E. Housman … the list of those whose work Sir Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) set to music, in his five song-cycles, reads like a roll call of Victorian poetry - excepting the Edwardian Housman.

Roger Quilter: The Complete Quilter Songbook, Vol. 3

Mark Stone and Stephen Barlow present Volume 3 in their series The Complete Roger Quilter Songbook, on Stone Records.

Richard Danielpour – The Passion of Yeshua

A contemporary telling of the Passion story which uses texts from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions to create a very different viewpoint.

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Natalya Romaniw - Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul

Sailing home to Corinth, bearing treasures won in a music competition, the mythic Greek bard, Arion, found his golden prize coveted by pirates and his life in danger.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille

Among the few compensations opera lovers have had from the COVID crisis is the abundance – alas, plethora – of streamed opera productions we might never have seen or even known of without it.

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

In 1877, Ethel Smyth, aged just nineteen, travelled to Leipzig to begin her studies at the German town’s Music Conservatory, having finally worn down the resistance of her father, General J.H. Smyth.

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

This new recording of excerpts from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen is quite exceptional - and very unusual for this kind of disc. The words might be missing, but the fact they are proves to have rather the opposite effect. It is one of the most operatic of orchestral Wagner discs I have come across.

Wagner: Die Walküre, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle, BR Klassik

Simon Rattle has never particularly struck me as a complex conductor. He is not, for example, like Furtwängler, Maderna, Boulez or Sinopoli - all of whom brought a breadth of learning and a knowledge of composition to bear on what they conducted.

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799)
30 May 2011

Les Noces de Figaro in Paris

This is the one by Giorgio Strehler that opened at Versailles in 1973 and since has endured twenty-three incarnations, first at the Garnier and later at the Bastille.

W. A. Mozart: Les Noces de Figaro

Christopher Maltman, Il Conte di Almaviva; Dorothea Röschmann, La Contessa di Almaviva; Julia Kleiter, Susanna; Erwin Schrott, Figaro; Isabel Leonard, Cherubino; Ann Murray, Marcellina; Maurizio Muraro, Bartolo; Robin Leggate, Don Basilio; Antoine Normand, Don Curzio; Zoe Nicolaidou, Barbarina; Christian Tréguier, Antonio/ Dan Ettinger, Conductor; Giorgio Strehler, Stage director and lighting; Humbert Camerlo, Realisation; Ezio Frigerio, Sets and costumes; Jean Guizerix, Choreography; Marise Flach, Movement assistant. Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Above: Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799)

 

Anyone who is anyone in the pantheon of Mozart interpreters over the last forty years has gone through the paces of this Strehler masterpiece.

It did have a brief respite during the Gerard Mortier five year reign of terror. To everyone's relief it is back now ostensibly as a tribute to Rolf Liebermann (the celebrated progressive impresario who succeeded in staying in conservative Paris for seven years in the nineteen-seventies) but actuality it is an appeasement to Parisian audiences for whom it has become, purely and simply, the Mozart masterpiece.

Based on its current edition at the Bastille it is a Marriage of Figaro none of us should go without. Not to worry if you have missed it so far. It will surely be back, and with whoever are the stars of the moment. The Strehler Noces is as Parisian as is, well, the Opéra or for that matter the Tour Eiffel. It is the embodiment of the elegance, refinement and grace that define La Ville-Lumière.

Its roots are in mannerisms, the little movements of physical comedy that were sculpted by the comedians of the Italian renaissance, then refined by Italy's eighteenth century dramatists, and finally distilled by Giorgio Strehler. It is like the theatrics of the French royal courts that have become elaborated over the centuries into French politesse, haute couture, cuisine, etc. Simply to say that the ultra controlled, hyper refined theatrics of Giorgio Strehler very well mirror an idealized French spirit.

Though strange to say it was the musical refinement of the current production that very nearly upstaged the Strehler elegance. Israeli conductor Dan Ettinger unleashed the lyricism Mozart lavished on the individual instruments of the orchestra that brought this familiar music to new plateaux of delicate pleasures. The horn duet in Se vuol ballare, the oboe solo in Dove sono, the resonant pizzicato strings in Deh vieni leap out as examples, but the overwhelming orchestral lyricism was everywhere and always.

The cast was perfection. The program bio of Uruguayan bass Erwin Schrott unabashedly declares him to be the Figaro of the moment, a claim well proven by his distinctive dark voice, physical agility and sympathetic authority. His nearly speech-like delivery of recitative was remarkable. The Susanna of German soprano Julia Kleiter was physically, even vocally well matched to the Countess of German soprano Dorothea Röschmann to make Strehler's very presentational staging of the disguises far less tiresome than usual.

Both sopranos are no-nonsense artists, penetrating the heart of the music and letting it naturally flow to the obvious great pleasure of the maestro who melted Mozart's eloquent orchestra to their voices. It was extraordinary music making. British baritone Christopher Maltman brought bark and bite and unusual fun to the Count, plus new, sly insight into his often tiresome aria that perceptibly deepened his character and enlivened the denouement of Figaro's financial predicament.

4584_-ND31569.gif

American mezzo Isabel Leonard may now compete with Federica von Stade as the Cherubino of your dreams, combining easy postures with consummate charm, upholding the impeccable musicianship that validates this travesty. The there-can-be-no-opera-in-Paris-without corps de ballet crashed the wedding scene, and the intrusion only gained validity when Mlle. Leonard leapt into the balletic fray with a virtuostic display of dance that conclusively proved her manhood (one did wonder how la Von Stade and all the others pulled this scene off).

The Marcellina of British mezzo/comedienne Ann Murray was exemplary. The Bartolo of Maurizio Muraro and the Basilio of Robin Leggate were rendered less present than usual in this production by the persuasive musicality of the five principals.

The extant members of the original production team were said to be involved in mounting this latest incarnation — Ezio Frigerio (sets and costumes), Franca Squarciapino (costumes), Marise Flach (movement). The actual credit for this and perhaps many other incarnations of the Strehler Noces belongs to Humbert Camerlo, an original member of the Libermann directorial staff who will have adapted the individual personalities of its current interpreters to the original Strehler conception.

Michael Milenski

4582_-ND30976.gif

Click here for a video clip.

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):