Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.

Puccini Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera House, London

Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Giacomo Puccini [Photo courtesy of Festival Puccini]
19 Aug 2011

La Bohème at Torre del Lago

This is where Puccini composed many of his operas until the lake got so polluted he had to move to nearby Viareggio.

Giacomo Puccini: La Bohème

Click here for cast information.

Above: Giacomo Puccini
Photos courtesy of Festival Puccini

 

Like Bayreuth the Torre del Lago is devoted exclusively to the works of one composer. But unlike Bayreuth the Fondazione Puccini exerts little effort to glorify the legacy of this remarkable composer by staging productions that may fulfill the operatic expectations of the unwashed masses but leave serious Puccini disciples aghast.

Such was the effect of La Bohème (8/12) seen from press seats in the 26th row of the 3200 seat Gran Teatro all’Aperto Giacomo Puccini at the edge of Lake Massaciuccoli, a sort of swamp by the Mediterranean near Pisa. Actually the 26th row is even more distant from the action than it would ordinarily be because not only are there several wide lateral aisles between sections, there is also a lot of legroom (a boast of the management).

Thus those of us in this section felt rather remote from the performance, encouraging some seaside bathers sitting nearby to follow the libretto on the screens of their cell phones with the added advantage of not missing urgent text messages, and others to sotto voce the story to their children — the lack of supertitles thus compensated (though these kids were far too young to read). After the first act the audience readjusted itself and we found seats in the 16th row amidst more serious spectators.

Here at least there was something to appreciate — the well-schooled verismo conducting of Alberto Veronesi was apparent (Mo. Veronesi is Eve Queler’s successor at the Opera Orchestra of New York), and the proficient opera acting and idiomatic Italian tenor singing of Venezuelan Aquiles Machado as Rodolfo was pleasurable. The mature style and presence of Italian baritone Marzio Giossi balanced the lively young and appropriately Italianate Colline of South Korean bass Seung-Pil Choi (it had to be him though the program gave another name).

Italian soprano Anna Maria dell’Oste made some fun as a Musetta who knew all the classic moves. Of the principals only the Mimi of Italian soprano Serena Farnocchia disappointed, her Mozartian delivery and matronly presence failed to capture the musical and dramatic energy imparted by the rest of the cast. Most notably it was Mr. Machado who generated real Puccini magic in his third act farewell to Mimi and with his final cries at her death. He accepted his abundant applause with extravagantly florid bows.

LaBohemeGenerale2011Zalewsk.gif

Rome Opera resident stage director Maurizio di Mattia moved his very experienced cast with slick flair, though he imposed a tasteless appearance of Puccini himself to watch the death scene. Rome Opera scene painter Maurizio Varamo designed the sets and presumably it was he who painted a quite wonderful backdrop of Paris for his set. But its architecture betrayed crudeness and naivete, especially the kitsch Tour Eiffel. The production was first seen in Hong Kong where it was not un-appreciated.

In flagrant disregard of current performance practice principal bows were effected after each of the four acts cruelly lengthening the evening, interminable already because of the clumsy production could not possibly be organized into the now usual two part format. A lot of fine Pommery champagne, a sponsor of the festival, flowed between the acts making the sculptures in the large garden seem very witty indeed by the early morning hours of the next day.

Michael Milenski

Click here for a photo gallery.

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):