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 Performances

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17. Perfection, as one would expect from arguably the finest Rameau interpreters in the business, and that's saying a lot, given the exceptionally high quality of French baroque performance in the last 40 years.

Adriana Lecouvreur Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.

Rossini is Alive and Well and Living in Iowa

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Gergiev : Janáček Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

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.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

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.

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.

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):