12 Aug 2011
Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila in Antwerp
Bonus features on opera DVDs usually get generic names, such as “Interview” or “Backstage with ”
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.
Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.
Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.
Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.
Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.
Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.
Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.
The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.
Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.
Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).
Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.
The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.
A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.
Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.
This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful producers of opera.
Bonus features on opera DVDs usually get generic names, such as “Interview” or “Backstage with ”
This 2009 staging of Saint-Saens’s reliably goofy Biblical tunefest Samson et Dalila takes the prize for the most apt and amusing title for a bonus feature about the directors (yes, two in this case) of a “Regie” staging: “Amir Zuabi and Omri Nitzan explain the production and staging.” In the more obscure and complex Regie productions, such a bonus feature would probably pay big dividends. In the case of Zuabi and Nitzan’s take on Samson et Dalila, an explanation proves superfluous. One can admire the fact that one director is Israeli (Nitzan) and the other Palestinian (Zuabi), and that they have worked together to update the Biblical setting of the opera to the contemporary Middle East. Nevertheless, what is actually onstage (and before the cameras) is no more challenging to the average intellect than a traditional staging of this deliciously silly but potent opera.
Act one still betrays its origin as an oratorio, with the chorus standing mid-stage, with very little movement. The dress is modern, with khaki battle jackets and long neck scarves serving to suggest a Mideast setting. Sets are minimal. Act two still focuses mainly on Dalila’s bed, albeit with the huge leaves of some desert flower around it (which oddly close on the prostrate Samson at act’s end). Act three is no temple but some sort of bizarre fashion-cum-armory show, with young beauties of both sexes in black underwear, carting bazookas and grenade launchers. Undoubtedly the directors expected to shock with the revised climax, which has Samson in a suicide bomber’s explosive jacket, ready to push the button to bring down the temple when a blackout ends the show. The shock is in how little effect is actually produced, since everything leading to that point has been so innocuous. One can only admire the optimism of the EU Commissioner “for External Relations” who composed a note reprinted in the booklet, claiming that this production will “spearhead a successful and respectful inter-cultural dialogue.” Their Euros at work!
Given all that, any opera performance comes down to musical quality to prove its worth, and this performance actually has a fair amount going for it. After a few unsteady moments at the beginning, conductor Tomáš Netopil gets a rich, precise performance from the Vlaamse musicians. Don’t be surprised to hear some arpeggio sections that suggest Saint-Saens as a precursor to late 20th century Minimalist composers. As Samson, tenor Torsten Kerl is in fine voice, easily reaching up to the higher sections, and with a commanding strength throughout his range. Marianna Tarasova’s Dalila has a bit too much of that hooty quality not unknown in this part, but she is comfortable in the role. In the only other part with a real opportunity to make an impression, Nikola Mijalovič as the High Priest puts out a handsome flow of sound, even while, apparently, sodomizing Dalila. Don’t ask.
Strict traditionalist may get their feathers in a bunch over this production, but really the directors flatter themselves about their political risk-taking. In the end, it’s still Samson at Dalila — for good and bad. Catch this for some decent singing and a tasty performance of the score by the orchestra.