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

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

Die Frau ohne Schatten at Munich

It was fascinating to see — and of course, to hear — Krzysztof Warlikowsi’s productions of Die Gezeichneten and Die Frau ohne Schatten on consecutive nights of this year’s Munich Opera Festival.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Susana Diaz [Photo courtesy of Daroca Artists International]
29 Aug 2011

L’elisir d’amore, Miami

“The number of recordings testify to the continuing popularity of Donizetti’s melodrama in two acts [L’elisir d’amore], which rivals Don Pasquale among his comic operas and is often rated the better on account of its superior libretto by Felice Romani.”

Gaetano Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore

Adina: Jessica Slatkoff Arteaga / Susana Diaz; Nemorino: David Pereira; Dulcamara: Oscar Martinez; Belcore: Daniel Snodgrass; Gianetta: Rebekah Diaz / Daisy Su; Notaro: Jesus Gonzalez. Miami Lyric Opera. Conductor: Beverly Coulter. Director: Raffaele Cardone. Chorus Master: Pablo Hernandez.

Above: Susana Diaz [Photo courtesy of Daroca Artists International]

All other photos courtesy of Miami Lyric Opera

 

Noel Goodwin’s observation is as topical today as it was in the early 1990’s: L’elisir shared the rank of sixth most produced opera in 2010 according to records compiled by Opera America; another resource that is gaining more credibility from opera scholars, OperaBase, finds that Donizetti’s bel canto comedy placed 12th on the list of most performed operas in the world from 2005-2010. In the recording (audio and video) annuls, L’elisir has a steady hold as each new generation of star singers commits their artistry to posterity in the work.

Pereira.gifDavid Pereira

Note that Goodwin ascribes credit for L’elisir ‘s hold in the repertoire to Romani’s text. Felice Romani was a librettist’s librettist. He wrote nearly 100, collaborating most notably with Bellini, Rossini, and Donizetti. L’elisir , with a musical surface — from its melodies — best described as lightweight and a base — from Donizetti’s chords — best described as solemn, will transmit its meanings best through words. Perhaps more than in any other opera, the means of its exposition can confuse — L’elisir’s story is primed to be misunderstood. That said, it’s a good thing that Romani’s text for L’elisir is playful, sarcastic and worldly. And, it’s a good thing that supertitles are up and running at Colony Theater for Miami Lyric Opera.

Individual performances brought this L’elisir to life despite listless stage action and sets (by Carlos Arditti) that did little, and indeed this is often the case in this opera’s productions, to lift la commedia. Belcore probably just pulled the weeds he so sloppily shoved in Adina’s hands; she, taking one look at the dry shrubs and, with some annoyance delivered her, “well, isn’t he modest”; Nemorino, packing a few extra pounds after his drinking binge, was a nicely engorged fellow that seemed genuinely altered pitching the line, “I’ve had plenty of this elixir”; the blueprints for laughter were sketched but the whole performance was missing jocular bite in the theater.

On its own, Donizetti’s music for L’elisir is peppered with “shiny happy people” quality, but the feel of the music can suggest a graver situation as it did on the night of August 13th, MLO’s second and final showing of L’elisir. It is not surprising that the orchestra sounded as polished as it did given that MLO music director and conductor Dr. Beverly Coulter was at the baton. A staunch promoter of and regular fixture in the classical music scene in south Florida, maestra Coulter is a musician’s musician. Coulter is the head of an opera program at a small university, having had the likes of soprano Elizabeth Caballero in her studio. Soprano Coulter has a singing CV herself; for MLO, she will repeat the lead in Marina (the Arrieta zarzuela) in a free outdoor concert presented by the company in November.

MLOElisirTrio.gifDavid Pereira (Nemorino), Susana Diaz (Adina), and Belcore (Daniel Snodgrass)

Coulter’s approach leans toward the technical, and she keeps a close watch over the stage; L’elisir’s many ensembles were models in keeping time with singers. The volume produced from instrumentalists was heavy (so much so that crescendos were hard to come by), the orchestral mechanics were tight. The playing included lustrous solo flute (Robert Billington) and harp (Ana Maria Bolivar) playing in the overture. Secco recitatives came from an electronic harpsichord behind the stage.

One factor that helped this evening was the chemistry that built up between principals Susana Diaz (Adina) and David Pereira (Nemorino). Diaz the distant “realist,” Pereira the defocused naïve — they became more involved, more comfortable, and by the end of the first act their teaming turned pleasing. In Adina, Romani created a wily fox. Though easier sung than portrayed, Daiz managed a bit of that in scoffing at Nemorino’s one-woman ways, “try my way, change lovers every day.” Program posters like the exotic good looks that Diaz has and, on the vocal front, she displayed control up to and over high C in a sweet “Prendi, per me sei libero.”

Pereira began the night with a shaky “Quanto è bella, quanto è cara.” Before long though, the light lyric tenor’s timbre warmed and his singing was more secure, although pinched acuti hung about. Lighting specialist Kevin Roman put a spotlight on Pereira to an otherwise darkened stage for “Una furtiva lagrima;” the tenor was hesitant through the first few bars, then getting a hold of the familiar aria, gave it with personal touch.

MLOSnodDiaz.gifBelcore (Daniel Snodgrass and Adina (Susana Diaz)

MLO sported a good singing Belcore and a strong singing-actor as Dulcamara — done spiritedly, either of these roles can easily run away with this show because of the rhyming verse that Romani supplies them. “A woman is a creature who defies understanding,” bemoaned Daniel Snodgrass, whose sound might be confused for a tenor’s. Not a problem for Belcore, whose music Snodgrass sings with strict passage work. Snodgrass gets much work in this area and has been with MLO since its first season. Of all the performers this evening, Oscar Martinez (Dulcamara) appeared to enjoy himself most. His knowledge of the role, and with the buffo aesthetic, is firm. Gianetta sets the tone early in this opera with her words, “what’s so funny?” A past MLO contributor, Daisy Su as Gianetta — Adina’s close friend — did well in her moments at center stage.

Another strength of this L’elisir was the MLO chorus — they sang clearly and strongly and took advantage of their conspicuous presence in the Donizetti opera. Entranced with Adina, they sang out Romani’s Italian for, “let us hear what you are reading.” Congratulations chorus master Pablo Hernandez.

A recent high school graduate with operatic aspirations, Jesus Gonzalez came off as a parody of the notary — the costume (by Pamela De Vercelly), and moustache, hung over Gonzalez a few sizes large. Chorus member Jared Peroune was an high-spirited fez-wearing spotter for Dulcamara.

MLOElisirDulcamara.gifDulcamara (Oscar Martinez)

If Donizetti’s part in L’elisir leaves listeners puzzled vis a vis the point of the story, Romani’s libretto activates the morals to be extracted. That charlatano, that slippery-wise Dulcamara brings you a big one: “It is risky business to try to buy or sell love.”

Robert Carreras

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):