Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Macbeth in Lyon

A revival of the Opéra de Lyon’s 2012 Occupy Wall St. production of Verdi’s 1865 Macbeth, transforming naive commentary into strange irony, some high art included.

Barber of Seville Is Fun in Tucson

On March 4, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Tucson. Allen Moyer designed the bright and happy scenery for performances at Minnesota Opera,

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.



Antonio Vivaldi: La verità in cimento [Photo by Johan Persson courtesy of Garsington Opera Festival 2011]
26 Jun 2011

Viva Vivaldi — Garsington Opera 2011

Garsington Opera — in its superb new home on the Wormsley estate in rural Oxfordshire — has yet again confirmed the merit of its decision to promote Vivaldi’s long-ignored operas.

Antonio Vivaldi: La verità in cimento

Click here for cast and other production information.

All photos by Johan Persson courtesy of Garsington Opera Festival 2011


The most recent offering is his La Verità in cimento (Truth put to the test) and Garsington have a hit on their hands if the first two performances are anything to go by. The plot is absurd, convoluted and comes down to the effect of one decision, years ago, to switch two babies (and therefore their inheritance) which in turn drives this drama of human love, greed and cold-blooded power seeking. The characters are a dysfunctional royal family whose ruling Sultan is a well-meaning tyrant who makes that one big decision but then lives to regret it as his extended family start to tear each other’s throats out when they learn of the deception as the boys come of age.


This is high-baroque opera, written by the canny Red Priest in 1720, and it is interesting to note that like his near-contemporary Handel, Vivaldi finds the moral (and immoral) dilemmas of the ruling classes of the utmost interest and worthy of his finest musical expression — after all they were his paymasters and themselves much concerned with the problems of succession, inheritance and political marriage. Unlike Handel however, the Venetian composer doesn’t tend to investigate his character’s deepest emotional conflicts with an extensive series of formal arias in classic da capo form — his music is lighter, fleeter and less organised. And yes, let’s face it, less memorable. However, there are some stand-out moments in this charming and melodic score which reveal some very un-Handel -like trios and ensemble numbers which seem to prefigure an altogether different genre of opera writing still very much on the horizon.

As the machinations of this sumptuously-dressed family unfold (much fur, leather and silk worn by all in a clever mix of styles) there is little action per se other than inside each character’s head — so all credit to director David Freeman for making the most of a delightfully outré set designed by Duncan Hayler which offers us an icy palace of glass, metal and white fur rugs with a gleaming, huge white tree dominating as a centre piece. The tree, whose two main branches sweep to the far sides of the stage, presumably symbolises the two warring factions of the two sons and their respective mothers (Sultana Rustena and Mistress Damira) but it also acts as a refuge, love-nest, and lair with its varying levels of platforms and steps. This is clever use of space, and together with the rear and side exits this configuration helps the story zip along as effectively and wittily as does the music from the pit below, directed (and, it would sometimes seem, driven almost physically) by a bobbing, sweeping and multi-tasking Laurence Cummings.


With all the emphasis on the emotions and thoughts of the characters and little physical action or change of location, it is obviously supremely important to have the right bunch of performers and once again Garsington must be congratulated on getting it right. The casting splits into two near-equal halves of the three older generation characters of Sultan, his Sultana, and his long-established Mistress and the three main young characters of his two sons and a visiting Princess who they both (naturally) fall for. Paul Nilon, Jean Rigby and Diana Montague fulfil those elder roles with enormous energy, musicianship and effortless virtuosity: Nilon’s flexible and expressive tenor and stagecraft are as good as ever as the Sultan, Jean Rigby’s (Sultana Rustena) dark mezzo soprano lends itself to her character’s emotional highs and lows (she has a gorgeous slow aria of despair “Fragil fior”, with recorder obbligato, that drew deserved applause), and Diana Montague (Damira, mezzo soprano) was stunning in her portrayal of the wronged Mistress who plans revenge — elegant and fluent coloratura mixed with effortless long-lined phrasing which mirrored her equally elegant couture gowns. These seasoned performers were the musical core of the production, holding everything together with an easy command of the idiom.


Flying higher above them, musically at least, were the younger generation of singers and characters and here the casting was almost as sure-footed. The young soprano Ida Falk Winland (winner of the Song Prize in the 2008 Ferrier competition) divides her time between her native Sweden and the UK at the moment and has an attractive voice with both a bit of weight to it and an obvious facility for Vivaldi’s ornate lines. She was often singing with either one or both of her “suitors”, the two half-brother princes who, in this production (unlike in the original of 1720, )are sung by countertenors Yaniv d’Or and James Laing, and as it often the way with this voice type the soprano out-sang both in terms of sheer volume. This did tend to unbalance the music somewhat which was a shame as there is a terrific trio for the three which could have been stunning, and perhaps needed a little adjustment on the part of the young Swede for the greater good of the ensemble sound. Yaniv d’Or, ( Melindo), who is not well known in this country, sang and acted with commitment and verve but his voice is not one that immediately attracts. James Laing (Zelim) has a sweet tone, more even and polished than his stage-brother, and I liked his easy top and legato in his more reflective arias. Two non-speaking roles of butler and gardener (the latter oddly placed throughout at the side of the stage busily tying and untying bunches of herbs and flowers — your guess is as good as mine) are uncredited in the programme book.


This might not be world-class opera seria (or buffo) but it is fun, it’s musically fleet-footed and charming , it’s cleverly-produced and directed, and the singers are well-cast and attractive: what more does one need for a high-summer’s evening entertainment in the lush green of an English rural estate? Here’s to Garsington’s next exposé of Vivaldi’s “lost” operas — they are setting themselves a high standard.

Sue Loder

Next performances: 25th, 29th June and 1st, 4th, July. Garsington (at Wormsley), Oxfordshire, UK.

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):