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

Saint Louis Butterfly Soars

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis knew to trust the surefire potential of Madame Butterfly, and pretty much stayed out of its way.

Saint Louis: Gordon’s Revised Grapes

If opera is to remain a viable, accessible 21st century art form, it will be largely owing to the commitment of visionary companies like Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Titus Lightens Up in Saint Louis

Mozart’s opera seria, La Clemenza di Tito, performed in English at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis did something I did not think possible.

Il turco in Italia: Garsington Opera

Martin Duncan's production of Rossini's Il turco in Italia debuted in 2011, only the second production to be performed in Garsington Opera's then new home at Wormsley. Revived for the first time on 25 June 2017, David Parry was again conducting with Quirijn de Lang as Selim, Geoffrey Dolton as Don Geronio and Mark Stone as Prosdocimo returning to their roles, plus Sarah Tynan as Fiorilla, Katie Bray as Zaide, Luciano Botelho as Narciso and Jack Swanson as Albazar. Designs were by Francis O'Connor, with lighting by Mark Jonathan and movement by Nick Winston.

Glyndebourne's wartime Ariadne auf Naxos

It’s country-house opera season, and Glyndebourne have decided it’s time for a return of Katharina Thoma’s country-house-set Ariadne auf Naxos, first seen in 2013. Thoma locates Strauss’s opera-about-opera in a 1940s manor house which has been sequestered as a military hospital, neatly alluding to Glyndebourne’s own history when it transformed itself into a centre for evacuees from east London and the Christie children’s nursery became a sick bay.

On Trial in Saint Louis

That Opera Theatre of Saint Louis fearlessly embraces the cutting edge is once again evidenced by their compelling American premiere of The Trial.

A Traditional Rigoletto in Las Vegas

On June 9, 2017, Opera Las Vegas presented a traditional production of Verdi’s Rigoletto conducted by Music Director Gregory Buchalter with a cast headed by veteran baritone Michael Chioldi. A most convincing Rigoletto, Chioldi was a man in psychological pain from the begining of the opera. His fear and his vulnerability to the whims of the nobility were evident in every meaty, well-colored phrase he sang.

Thumbprint, An Amazing Woman Leaves an Indelible Mark

Thumbprint is the story of the young, innocent and illiterate Mukhtar Mai who was assaulted by a group of powerful men. Following the attack, Mukhtar, having supposedly been disgraced, was expected to commit suicide. Instead, she amazed everyone who knew her by going to the police and calling for the arrest of her attackers.

Kaufmann's first Otello: Royal Opera House, London

Out of the blackness, Keith Warner’s new production of Verdi’s Otello explodes into being with a violent gesture of fury. Not the tempest raging in the pit - though Antonio Pappano conjures a terrifying maelstrom from the ROH Orchestra and the enlarged ROH Chorus hurls a blood-curdling battering-ram of sound into the auditorium. Rather, Warner offers a spot-lit emblem of frustrated malice and wrath, as a lone soldier fiercely hurls a Venetian mask to the ground.

Don Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Vesselina Kasarova as Romeo and Ekaterina Siurina as  Giulietta [Photo: Wilfried Hösl / Bayerische Staatsoper]
14 Aug 2011

Starry-Crossed Lovers in Bavaria

In the waning days of the annual summer festival, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera fielded enough star power to fire up a minor galaxy with its wholly absorbing production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

Vincenzo Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

Romeo: Vesselina Kasarova; Giulietta: Ekaterina Siurina; Tebaldo: Dimitri Pittas; Capellio: Ante Jerkunica; Lorenzo: Carlo Cigni. Conductor: Yves Able. Director: Vincent Broussard. Set Design: Vincent Lemaire. Costume Design: Christian Lacroix. Lighting Design: Guido Levi. Chorus Master: Sören Eckhoff.

Above: Vesselina Kasarova as Romeo and Ekaterina Siurina as Giulietta [Photo: Wilfried Hösl / Bayerische Staatsoper]

 

The lovely Ekaterina Siurina can always be counted upon to sing sublimely and act meaningfully, but on this occasion she raised the bar past even her own high standard. Ms. Siurina embodied Giulietta with complete immersion in the heroine’s emotional state. There was nary a false move nor a wasted gesture, and the soprano managed a fully-rounded traversal of the heroine that was one moment stunningly economical, and the next extravagantly abandoned.

What a joy that her singing is not only faultlessly produced, but seems to emanate from the very soul of the doomed girl. Her shimmering, secure soprano is ample enough to fill the house at all volumes and throughout the extensive range of Bellini’s demands. Within the scope of her lyric instrument, Ekaterina skillfully suggests an amazing palette of vocal colors, witness the hollow, despairing reading of her opening phrases that inform the character’s mental state, and portend her eventual fate. Her meticulously sung, completely rendered theatrical portrayal had all the elements of Sills at her finest (and her slimmest!).

Miss S. had a worthy partner indeed in the Romeo of Vesselina Kasarova, arguably the starriest name in the cast. The Bulgarian mezzo has all the assets to triumph in the part: a heldentenorial timbre in the chest voice, a well-knitted passage into the lower middle, searing top notes, and an often jaw-dropping way with the fiendish fioriture. Ms. Kasarova is also blessed with a distinctive, dark vocal presence that is uniquely her own, making her uncommonly well suited to trouser roles.

Too, she has an unaffected swagger and such a fierce commitment that her confrontational moments suggested a lion about to claim its lunch. That said, this seasoned artist seemed to begin the evening a little off form. Her opening aria was punctuated by uncharacteristic gulps and glottal attacks, and the cabaletta was a bit hysterical and mannered (she firmly slowed the pace down with her first phrase). Thereafter, however, this house favorite settled into a riveting, and heartfelt impersonation, perhaps spurred on by her sublime Giulietta. Their extended duet passage work in thirds was breath-taking, their dissimilar vocal production providing a delectable musical texture.

Young tenor Dimitri Pittas’s straight-forward, solidly vocalized Tebaldo demonstrated just why his star is rising. The substantial, straight forward tone has good squillo and an engaging aural presence. Mr. Pittas also has some of the sweetest tones to be experienced at the top of the staff, and he bends and shapes phrases with tenderness and musicality. He decisively delivers robust outbursts in the upper voice although at the very fullest throttle, the warm tone loses a little of its pleasant spin. The high profile duet with Romeo fairly crackled with intensity, and staked its claim as one of the evening’s high points.

Carlo Cigni offered an unusually youthful Lorenzo, so persuasively served by his rolling, well-modulated bass-baritone that the role seemed larger than it was. Very impressive singing. Rounding out the principals, Ante Jerkunica deployed his soft-grained bass to fine effect as the paternally misguided Capellio.

Capuleti_Kasarova_Siurina_2.gifVesselina Kasarova as Romeo and Ekaterina Siurina as Giulietta [Photo: Wilfried Hösl / Bayerische Staatsoper]

The captivating staging and design was anything but slavishly representational, opting rather to created a spiritual and emotional environment in which the performers played out the intent of a story we know by heart. Instead of being confusing, it was almost wholly intriguing. Set designer Vincent Lemaire has devised a singer friendly box of sorts, with Batik-like patterns that had the curious ability to be soothing or disturbing. This was partly owing to Guido Levi’s ambitious multi-colored lighting design which was long on imagination, but short on subtlety with the many abrupt cross fades. I might urge Mr. Levi to smooth out the edges a bit.

Mr. Lemaire, however, has created some highly charged images suggesting escape, emotional instability, and inevitably fatal choices. From the rows of saddles and stirrups hanging ominously over the courtiers in the opening scene, to the floating sculpture of two lovers suspended in flight in Juliet’s chamber, to the eternal staircase at the party that rises from the bowels of the basement and is framed like a giant painting, these were dramatically powerful visual statements.

Legendary Christian Lecroix has greatly advanced the production concept with his lavish, character specific, intentionally anachronistic costumes. The men’s chorus sports Dickensian stove-pipe hats and frock coats; Giulietta is dressed in designer white undies, a teddy-ish creation with short puffy culottes, not unlike like those paper lamb cutlet dress-ups at finer restaurants. Thus semi-clothed, she desperately clutches to her torso, then drops, then retrieves a gorgeous diaphanous dress-up gown, thereby symbolizing her ambivalence to duty, gender roles, and obedience. The women’s party dresses were a riotously colored mix of Carnevale inspirations.

Director Vincent Broussard has drawn highly charged performances from his principals. The blocking is decidedly moody, frequently menacing, yet when required, effusively romantic. Perhaps he repeats certain devices once too often, like having a troubled character face the wall as though in a Time Out Room, or having two singers stalk each other in wide circles. But other images pay off handsomely, like having Giulietta gingerly walk the huge picture frame like a balance beam during her extended party scene address, or having the poison/potion takers merely mime swallowing a handful of pills. Where did they come from? Who knows? Who cares? It was truthful and it worked. A little more attention might be paid to crowd management in the choral scenes, as the grouping and re-grouping in trite choral line-ups lacked variety. But all in all, this was a director not only true to his staging ideas, but also true to the spirit of Bellini’s musical drama.

In the pit, Yves Able wrung a highly detailed, taut, impulsive reading of a score that can sometimes come off as preciously ‘sensitive.’ Not only did Maestro Able inject a wonderful rhythmic propulsion that buoyed the entire proceeding, but he also provided appropriate elasticity that supported the sensitive phrasing and nuanced delivery from the soloists. There was also remarkably fine solo playing, most especially from the principal horn and the clarinet, both of whom gifted us with awesome technique, dramatic fire, and distinctive musical personality.

That this collective team of top professionals collaborated to give us a tremendously realized I Capuleti e i Montecchi was evidenced by the sustained, vociferous approval at evening’s end. The rowdy festival crowd called the cast back for curtain call after curtain call after curtain call. A most fitting end to celebrate a richly rewarding experience.

James Sohre

Click here for video trailer.

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):