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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sandra Piques Eddy is Isabella [Photo by Chris McKenzie courtesy of Boston Midsummer Opera]
28 Jul 2011

Boston Midsummer Opera’s Italian Girl in Algiers

This year’s venture for the annual Boston Midsummer Opera is an elegant reading of Rossini’s fizzy masterpiece of 1813, l’Italiana in Algeri.

Gioacchino Rossini: The Italian Girl in Algiers (L’Italiana in Algeri)

Isabella: Sandra Piques Eddy; Lindoro: Bradley Williams; Taddeo: David Kravitz; Mustafa: Eric Downs; Elvira: Sara Jakubiak; Zulman: Julia Mintzer; Ali: David Lara. Vocal Quartet/Chorus: Sean Lair, Michael Kuhn, Stephen Humeston, Joshua Taylor. Music Director and Conductor: Susan Davenny Wyner; Stage Director: Drew Minter; Scenic Designer: Stephen Dobay. Tsai Performance Center, Boston, 27, 29, 31 July 2011.

Above: Sandra Piques Eddy as Isabella

All photos by Chris McKenzie courtesy of Boston Midsummer Opera

 

Undertaken in response to a desperate plea from the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice to fill a gap in the spring schedule, Rossini’s opera was completed in an astonishing twenty-seven days. It was the work of a young man — it could be argued that all of Rossini’s operas are the works of a young man, since he retired from the theater at thirty-eight — but by no means an inexperienced one: La scala di seta, La pietra del paragone, and Tancredi were already behind him. The impress of Mozart’s most ebullient moments is still heavy on the very young Rossini, but this is a kind of Mozart in constant and barely controlled agitation: not for Rossini the long lyrical lines of his friend in later life, Vincenzo Bellini. The libretto, which had already been set by Luigi Mosca just a few years earlier, is a farcical continuation of the European fascination with Turkish, and more broadly Middle Eastern, themes and ideas: the dauntless Isabella, fortuitously shipwrecked in Algiers, chances upon her lost lover, now enslaved, and contrives to free herself and him, while making a fool of the Bey Mustafa.

Director Minter and designer Dobay have resituated the piece in the present day, in a place more or less like the U.A. E. (so much for Algiers!), which has made an uneasy compromise with Western culture — the Bey and his wives in more or less traditionally Arab garb, while the Bey’s henchmen wear shirts and trousers. The dazzling single set suggested the jewel-toned interiors of a palace, with easy access to a stylized dock, while cinnamon-colored silhouettes suggested the towers of the city beyond and around the action; it made the best of the stage, urging the cast forward toward the audience. It seems to have been, if one reads the notes, the intention of both the music director and the stage director to bring an undercurrent of real danger to the proceedings (Barbary pirates! Sexism!), but happily this ambition had faded out within half an hour. For all that we know about Rossini’s flexibility in supplying new arias for new cities or singers, his dramaturgy at its best proceeds with ironclad determination: Rossini’s unstoppable music and the dramatic flow it illustrates tell us insistently that this is a farce, not a melodrama. There is no way to confuse Italiana with The Death of Klinghoffer. Mustafa is not menacing: he’s infantile; he’s been declawed by the end of the first act.

As the richly characterized Isabella, the fourth of the flexible roles for the low-meezo voice Rossini cherished (but not the last: Rosina and Angelina were to follow) Eddy sang with notable accuracy, and her remarkable beauty was underscored by her comic flair. Downs must be one of the younger and better-looking Mustafas on record. There was a certain active tone in his voice which, while a benefit to lyrical singing, slightly blurred some of his passage-work. As the hapless Lindoro, Williams sang well, very much in the manner of the Irish tenor, with that high and forward placement. Kravitz’s Taddeo was an agreeable goof, while Jakubiak, in the rather thankless role of the rejected wife, acquitted herself well, despite passing pitch inaccuracies in the first act. BMO reduced Rossini’s male double-chorus to four voices — the Bey’s muscle — which made sense dramaturgically, but effectively reduced the piece to a chamber opera. Wyner’s orchestra played with a clean accuracy, although the singers were occasionally tempted to get ahead of her.

ItalianG-4.gif(L-R) Sandra Piques Eddy as Isabella, Sara Jakubiak as Elvira, and Eric Downs as Mustafa

One of the challenges of Angelo Anelli’s quite serviceable libretto is the nature of Isabella’s relationship with the men in her life. Who is Taddeo (Kravitz) — cast-off lover? Failed suitor? Is he an old man, a pantalone, or just a luckless young or middle-aged one? One has the notion that Anelli never quite decided, and the age-old uncertainty hovers over this production as it does over most. How can Lindoro (Williams), passive in his captivity while awaiting his Isabella, seem more than effete? It is remarkably difficult to bring Lindoro into focus, and almost impossible, dramaturgically, to bring them into focus together. The comedy is almost reducible to a contest of wills between the spirited Isabella and the schoolyard-bully Mustafa. As the conductor’s notes rightly point out, it is a specimen also of the then-popular “rescue” opera. She fails to mention, however, its striking resemblance to the greatest “rescue” opera, which similarly features a surprising female rescuer: Fidelio, the first version of which predated Italiana by eight years, and the final version of which followed it by only a year. These operas, like the contemporary writings of Madame de Stael and Mary Wollstonecraft, ask: what is the capacity of a woman? In Rossini’s works, the woman steadily loses power, until she is a sinner (Semiramide), and then hardly more than a cipher (Comte Ory; Guillaume Tell).

IGIA-8.gif(L-R) Bradley Williams as Lindoro, Eric Downs as Mustafa, and David Kravitz as Taddeo

We have little trouble now in agreeing with the very young Rossini on the joys of seeing a woman exert all the force of her beauty and wit — but what of the mode alla Turca? Minter’s version, which connects the dots between the Turkish threat circa 1800 and today’s oil magnates with shady “shipping” practices, hardly diminishes the cultural chauvinism of the original, and concludes in the same place. It is just more fun, according to Anelli and Rossini, to be Italian than anything else, and Isabella and her friends want nothing better than to be back home, where women are free; Minter’s production, which concludes with the Bey’s thugs converted to pseudo-Italian clothing (to the point of waving little Italian flags), ready to expatriate, and the Bey himself, as well as his wife, in semi-Western garb, tacitly agrees with them, cultural anxiety notwithstanding. Still, Boston Midsummer Opera delivers a Rossini production of great verve and clarity — a real summer pleasure.

Graham Christian

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):