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

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Roméo et Juliette: Dutch National Opera and Ballet seal merger with leaden Berlioz

Choral symphony, oratorio, symphonic poem — Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette does not fit into any mould. It has the potential to work as an opera-ballet, but incoherent storytelling and uninspired conducting undermined this production.

Donizetti : Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House

When Kasper Holten took the precaution of pre-warning ticket-holders that the Royal Opera House’s new production of Lucia di Lammermoor featured scene portraying ‘sexual acts’ and ‘violence’, one assumed that he was aiming to avert a re-run of the jeering and hectoring that accompanied last season’s Guillaume Tell. He even went so far as to offer concerned patrons a refund.

Five Reviews of Regina at Maryland Opera Studio

These are five very different reviews by students at the University of Maryland on its Opera Studio production of Regina — an interesting, informative and entertaining read . . .

Three Cheers for the English Touring Opera

‘Remember me, the one who is Pia;/ Siena made me, Maremma undid me.’ The speaker is Pia de’ Tolomei. She appears in a brief episode of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Purgatorio V, 130-136) which was the source for Gaetano Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei - by way of Bartolomeo Sestini’s verse-novella of 1825.

Andriessen's De Materie at the Park Avenue Armory

"The large measure of formalism which forms the basis of De Materie does not in itself offer any guarantee that the work will be beautiful," says Dutch composer Louis Andriessen of his four-movement opera.

Falstaff Makes a Big Splash in Phoenix

On April 1, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) in Phoenix. Although Boito based most of his libretto on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he used material from Henry IV as well. Verdi wrote the music when he was close to the age of eighty. He was concerned about his ability at that advanced age, but he was immensely pleased with Boito’s text and decided to compose his second comedy, despite the fact that his first, Un giorno di regno, had not been successful.

Svadba in San Francisco

The brand new SF Opera Lab opened last month with artist William Kentridge’s staged Schubert Winterreise. Its second production just now, Svadba-Wedding — an a cappella opera for six female voices — unabashedly exposes the space in a different, non-theatrical configuration.

Benvenuto Cellini in Rome

One may think of Tosca as the most Roman of all operas, after all it has been performed at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome’s opera house) well over a thousand times since 1900. Though equally, maybe even more Roman is Hector Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini that has had only a dozen or so performances in Rome since 1838.

Handel : Elpidia - Opera Settecento

Roll up! A new opera by Handel is to be performed, L’Elpidia overo li rivali generosi. It is based upon a libretto by Apostolo Zeno with music by Leonardo Vinci - excepting a couple of arias by Giuseppe Orlandini and, additionally, two from Antonio Lotti’s Teofane (which the star bass, Giuseppe Maria Boschi , on bringing with him from the Dresden production of 1719).

Roberto Devereux in Genova

Radvanovsky in New York, Devia in Genoa — Donizetti queens are indeed in the news! Just now in Genoa Mariella Devia was the Elizabeth I for her beloved Roberto Devereux in a new trilogy of Donizetti queens (Maria Stuarda and Anne Bolena) directed by baritone Alfonso Antoniozzi.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lawrence Zazzo [Photo courtesy of Harrison/Parrott Ltd]
23 Sep 2011

Lawrence Zazzo, Wigmore Hall

Lawrence Zazzo’s last visit to the Wigmore Hall, in April earlier this year, saw him present an intriguing sequence of American song from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Lawrence Zazzo, Wigmore Hall

Classical Opera Company. Conductor: Ian Page. Countertenor: Lawrence Zazzo. Wigmore Hall, London, Wednesday 21st September

Above: Lawrence Zazzo [Photo courtesy of Harrison/Parrott Ltd]

 

As I commented in my review, the recital amply demonstrated his declared intention to “push the envelope in terms of what countertenors can do” not just in terms of “different repertoire or singing higher, but showing that you can give a rounded performance that's acceptable on all different levels”.

On this occasion, Zazzo, accompanied by Ian Page and the Classical Opera company, returned to the more familiar countertenor ‘territory’ of the late-eighteenth century, while retaining an idiosyncratic twist by focussing on Mozart’s youthful, and lesser known, operas and concert arias from the 1770s.

Following a crisp performance of the brief Intrada from Apollo and Hyancithus, composed when Mozart was just eleven years old, Zazzo opened with ‘Iam pastor Apollo custody greges’ from this same opera, in which Apollo appears before the King and subjects of Laconia to reassure them of his favour and willingness to protect them. Dressed as a shepherd, the god is modest and unassuming, and Mozart’s vocal lines have a fitting grace and simplicity. Though he sang with assurance and control, I felt that Zazzo did not always capture Apollo’s quiet dignity, although his technical finesse was apparent in the more elaborate melodies of the aria’s second half.

Indeed, while Zazzo undoubtedly possesses a natural and engaging theatricality, dramatic impact is sometimes achieved at the expense of vocal beauty and formal grace. In the first half of the recital, his voice seemed at times a little unyielding, the phrasing rather rigid. In the 1776 concert aria ‘Ombre felice ... Io ti lascio’, in which Alsace bids farewell to his wife, the accompanied recitative was enlivened and dynamic, but though penetrating, the necessary contemplative quality was sometimes absent from his subsequent reflection that they may never meet again.

The sentiments expressed by Farnace in his aria ‘Venga pur, minacci e frema’ from Mitridate, re di Ponto, were more suited to Zazzo’s musical temperament. Vowing to defy and overthrow his father, the King of Pontus, the duplicitous Farnace reaches fiery emotional heights as he whips up a fierce and furious storm of resentful pride. With breathless excitement, Zazzo captured in music the vitality upon which the dramatic situation hinges; the demanding coloratura proved no problem and was employed as a natural, forceful expression of the aria’s emotion.

After the interval two arias from Ascanio in Alba,‘Perchè tacer degg’io?’ and ‘Al mio ben mi veggio avanti’, were delivered with greater eloquence and with a keen appreciation of the overall musico-dramatic structure of each number. The extended recitative which precedes ‘Perchè tacer degg’io?’ in which Ascanio vacillates impulsively between frustration and adoration, was particularly impressive, and led into an outpouring of uninhibited passion and joy.

Returning to Mitridate, re di Ponto to conclude the performance, Zazzo revealed how much the dishonourable Farnace has been transformed by his experiences in an eloquent interpretation of ‘Vadasi ... Già dagli occhi il velo è tolto’, in which Farnace repents his misdeeds. The relaxed central section was especially relaxed and sincere.

Handel’s delicate ‘Yet can I hear that dulcet lay’ from Handel’s The Choice of Hercules was a beautiful and moving encore; Zazzo shaped the phrases expertly and conveyed deeply affecting emotions.

The concert also featured two lively symphonies, which may or may not be the work of the teenage Mozart, but certainly indicated a burgeoning individuality. Ian Page drew committed and incisive playing from the Classical Opera Company Orchestra in K.74, striving for energy and textural clarity, although I felt that the dynamic contrasts were sometimes over-emphasised, diminishing the overall fluency and elegance. Moreover, while the small forces accompanied the soloist sensitively, in the instrumental works the two horns were inevitably a little exposed. Despite this, in the second of the two symphonies performed, they produced some sweet, sustained pianissimos. In the Italianate K.81, the violinsts sparkled, especially in the thrilling first movement, the rushing motifs of which fully display the piquant musical imagination of the young prodigy.

Claire Seymour


Programme:

W. A. Mozart:

Intrada and ‘Iam pastor Apollo custodio greges’ from Apollo et Hyacinthus K.38
‘Ombre felice ... Io ti lascio’ K.255
Symphony No. 10 in G K.74
‘Venga pur, minacci e frema’ from Mitridate, re di Ponto K.87
‘Perchè tacer degg’io and ‘Al mio ben mi veggio avanti’ from Ascanio in Alba K.111
Symphony in D K.81
‘Vadasi ... Già dagli occhi il velo è tolto’ from Mitridate, re di Ponto K.87

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):