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 Reviews

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Sergey Prokofiev: L’Amour des trois Oranges (The Love for 3 Oranges)
15 Sep 2011

L’Amour des trois oranges on CD and DVD

Opera companies around the world — though relatively few in the United States — cannot resist the temptation to stage Sergei Prokofiev’s first major opera.

Sergey Prokofiev: L’Amour des trois Oranges (The Love for 3 Oranges)

Le roi de Trèfle: Philippe Rouillon; Le Prince: Charles Workman; La princesse Clarice: Hannah Esther Minutillo; Léandre: Guillaume Antoine; Trouffaldino: Barry Banks; Pantalon: Jean-Luc Ballestra; Tchélio: José van Dam; Fata Morgana: Béatrice Uria-Monzon; Linette: Letitia Singleton; Nicolette: Natacha Constantin; Ninette: Aleksandra Zamojska; La Cuisinière: Victor van Halem; Farfarello: Jean-Sébastien Bou; Sméraldine: Lucia Cirillo; Le Maître de cérémonie: Nicolas Marie; Le Héraut: David Bizic. Paris National Opera Chorus and Orchestra (chorus master: Peter Burian). Sylvain Cambreling, conductor. Gilbert Deflo, stage director. William Orlandi, set and costume designer. Joël Hourbeigt, lighting designer. Marta Ferri, choreographer. Recorded live from the Opéra national de Paris, 2005.

ArtHaus Musik 107241 DVD]

$29.99  Click to buy

The irony there is that L’Amour des trois oranges debuted in Chicago, and legendarily, almost bankrupted the company. Of course, the “March” from the score is one Prokofiev’s smash hits, and the entire suite the composer derived from his score contains much fine music, in the composer’s inimitable mix of idiosyncratic melodicism and ingenious orchestration.

The temptation to stage the opera should probably be resisted, however, and U.S. companies that live and die at the box office and by donors’ generosity have no problem doing so. That’s probably due to the fact that no matter how attractive Prokofiev’s music is, the opera is tiresome and dated in its “modernistic” blend of fairy tale and farce. The original Carlo Gozzi play may or may not be a fine piece of literature, but the libretto that the composer and Vera Janacopoulos adapted from it overestimates the ability of stock comic characters and surrealistic action to support a cohesive evening of musical theater.

3Oranges_Nagano.png

Two recent releases of the opera, one on DVD and one on CD, highlight the opera’s problems — ironically, by their sheer excellence. Despite the brilliant musical performance Kent Nagano leads in the 1989 Virgin Classics recording, without any visual element the score becomes a test of patience as the listener awaits the end of the “declarative” sections and an outburst of Prokofiev’s scintillating orchestral interludes. The cast is able but not compelling. Virgin provides, in its budget line, a third disc containing the libretto and notes.

On DVD, the 2005 Paris Opera production of director Gilbert Deflo can at least be enjoyed for its theatrical invention, with creative sets and costumes by William Orlandi. The performers are clearly having a wonderful time. However, the masks and make-up dampen even more the flat characters such reliable performers as Barry Banks and Beatrice Uria-Monzon inhabit. With no emotional involvement on the audience’s part, a few chuckles aren’t enough of a theatrical reward. Chuckles are better than groans, however, which many viewers will emit in the scene with a female character in blackface.

A 30 minute bonus feature, audaciously titled “How to Fall in Love with Three Oranges” only demonstrates the opera’s problems, as it mostly consists of the performers laboriously recounting their character’s actions and, without much conviction, trying to assign routine human motivations to the nonsensical action. Conductor Sylvain Cambreling selected a score edition which reprises the famous March so often that by the closing iteration one may not want to hear it ever again.

For those with more admiration for the score or opera than this reviewer, both these versions can be recommended for their overall high quality. For those in sympathy with the views expressed here, look for any orchestral performance of the suite. L’Amour des trois oranges is more than its famous “March” — but still not a successful opera.

Chris Mullins

 

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):