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

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms London

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms London

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

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.

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.

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.

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):