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

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Roméo et Juliette: Dutch National Opera and Ballet seal merger with leaden Berlioz

Choral symphony, oratorio, symphonic poem — Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette does not fit into any mould. It has the potential to work as an opera-ballet, but incoherent storytelling and uninspired conducting undermined this production.

Donizetti : Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House

When Kasper Holten took the precaution of pre-warning ticket-holders that the Royal Opera House’s new production of Lucia di Lammermoor featured scene portraying ‘sexual acts’ and ‘violence’, one assumed that he was aiming to avert a re-run of the jeering and hectoring that accompanied last season’s Guillaume Tell. He even went so far as to offer concerned patrons a refund.

Five Reviews of Regina at Maryland Opera Studio

These are five very different reviews by students at the University of Maryland on its Opera Studio production of Regina — an interesting, informative and entertaining read . . .

Three Cheers for the English Touring Opera

‘Remember me, the one who is Pia;/ Siena made me, Maremma undid me.’ The speaker is Pia de’ Tolomei. She appears in a brief episode of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Purgatorio V, 130-136) which was the source for Gaetano Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei - by way of Bartolomeo Sestini’s verse-novella of 1825.

Andriessen's De Materie at the Park Avenue Armory

"The large measure of formalism which forms the basis of De Materie does not in itself offer any guarantee that the work will be beautiful," says Dutch composer Louis Andriessen of his four-movement opera.

Falstaff Makes a Big Splash in Phoenix

On April 1, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) in Phoenix. Although Boito based most of his libretto on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he used material from Henry IV as well. Verdi wrote the music when he was close to the age of eighty. He was concerned about his ability at that advanced age, but he was immensely pleased with Boito’s text and decided to compose his second comedy, despite the fact that his first, Un giorno di regno, had not been successful.

Svadba in San Francisco

The brand new SF Opera Lab opened last month with artist William Kentridge’s staged Schubert Winterreise. Its second production just now, Svadba-Wedding — an a cappella opera for six female voices — unabashedly exposes the space in a different, non-theatrical configuration.

Benvenuto Cellini in Rome

One may think of Tosca as the most Roman of all operas, after all it has been performed at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome’s opera house) well over a thousand times since 1900. Though equally, maybe even more Roman is Hector Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini that has had only a dozen or so performances in Rome since 1838.

Handel : Elpidia - Opera Settecento

Roll up! A new opera by Handel is to be performed, L’Elpidia overo li rivali generosi. It is based upon a libretto by Apostolo Zeno with music by Leonardo Vinci - excepting a couple of arias by Giuseppe Orlandini and, additionally, two from Antonio Lotti’s Teofane (which the star bass, Giuseppe Maria Boschi , on bringing with him from the Dresden production of 1719).

Roberto Devereux in Genova

Radvanovsky in New York, Devia in Genoa — Donizetti queens are indeed in the news! Just now in Genoa Mariella Devia was the Elizabeth I for her beloved Roberto Devereux in a new trilogy of Donizetti queens (Maria Stuarda and Anne Bolena) directed by baritone Alfonso Antoniozzi.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

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.

LaVeritainCimento_04.gif

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.

LaVeritainCimento_01.gif

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.

LaVeritainCimento_02.gif

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.

LaVeritainCimento_03.gif

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):