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

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola, whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

Billy Budd in Madrid

Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.

A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw

American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera, Nixon in China.

English song: shadows and reflections

Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.

A charming Pirates of Penzance revival at ENO

'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.

Johan Reuter sings Brahms with Wiener Philharmoniker

In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker

I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series programmes opening the New Year.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher in Lyon

There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.

A New Look at Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio

On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.

Giasone in Geneva

Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.

Falstaff in Genoa

A Falstaff that raised-the-bar ever higher, this was a posthumous resurrection of Luca Ronconi’s masterful staging of Verdi’s last opera, the third from last of the 83 operas Ronconi staged during his lifetime (1933-2015). And his third staging of Falstaff following Salzburg in 1993 and Florence in 2006.

Traviata in Seattle

One of Aidan Lang’s first initiatives as artistic director of Seattle Opera was to encourage his board to formulate a “mission statement” for the fifty-year old company. The document produced was clear, simple, and anodyne. Seattle Opera would aim above all to create work appealing both to the emotions and reason of the audience.

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal, Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy and with a clever twist,

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part I: Stölzl’s Psychedelic Parsifal

Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) consistently serves up superlatively sung Wagner productions. This Fall, its productions of Philipp Stölzl's Parsifal and Kasper Holten's Lohengrin offered intoxicating musical affairs. Annette Dasch, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Peter Seiffert reached for the stars. Even when it comes down to last minute replacements, the casting is topnotch.

Donna abbandonata: Temple Song Series

Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

C Major 706104
09 Sep 2011

Les Troyens by La Fura dels Baus

When the opera opens, a chorus of Trojan is rejoicing that the Greeks have abandoned the war and gone home.

Hector Berlioz: Les Troyens

Énée: Lance Ryan; Chorèbe: Gabriele Viviani; Panthée: Giorgio Giuseppini; Narbal: Stephen Milling; Iopas: Eric Cutler; Ascagne: Oksana Shilova; Cassandre: Elisabete Matos; Didon: Daniele Barcellona; Anna: Zlata Bulycheva. Valencia Regional Government Choir (Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana). Valencian Community Orchestra (Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana). Valery Gergiev, conductor. La Fura dels Baus, staging. Carlus Padrissa, stage director. Ronald Olbeter, stage designer. Peter van Praet, lighting designer. Chu Uroz, costume designer. Recorded live from the Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofia”, Valencia, Spain, 2009.

C Major 706104 [Blu-Ray]

$37.99  Click to buy

They are dressed as contestants in a hockey game—at the end of the second act we will learn, from Casssandra’s jersey, that they play for Team Troy.

This is startling. On closer inspection we see that the costumes also have elements of the clone warriors in Star Wars, and many other sorts of mechano-futuristic adventure-kitsch will appear later: the Trojan Horse is a kind of space capsule, made of steel planes that become whirling blades; when, in the first act pantomime, Hector’s little orphan puts an offering on his father’s tomb, it turns out to be a toy monster-truck. Later, in the Carthaginian acts, Dido and her court inhabit a space ship: four huge octagonal rings with a nose cone in back, and eight giant gray inflated cylinders protruding forward, creating an allusion to a hull. Dido has left Phoenicia to build a city, not in Africa, but in outer space.

Berlioz’s singers undergo a great many transports, and rapture, in this low-gravity environment, always means levitation. Cassandra and the other suicidal women rise out of the clutches of the Greek rapists; Dido and Aeneas rise into the air as the they sing their duet, at the end of which Mercury flies by in a satellite to urge Aeneas to leave Dido and fulfill his mission; Hylas, at the beginning of act 5, is not in the crow’s-nest of a ship but floating in a space suit, tethered to a satellite, with Greenland far below.

Carlus Padrissa, the stage director, has other technologies in his armamentarium. The cast often lug computer monitors with them: during the lovely act 4 septet, the monitors show treble clefs and other music-notation detritus, reinforcing the idea that this opera is, in fact, an opera. At the end of act 2, the rear projection displays a computer monitor sending alarming messages of system failure and virus alert. Indeed the production seems designed to be seen less in an opera house than on a computer screen: at the end of act 5, as Dido commits suicide, she stands on the nose cone (now outfitted as a kind of bed), upon which computer monitors are erected, showing the image of the Trojan Horse from act 1: Dido is dreaming of a new Trojan Horse to lay waste the second Troy that Aeneas will build in Italy. Objects continually threaten to flatten into digital images, in this extremely pixeled production.

I admire the way in which Padrissa attended to the strictly narrative and metaphorical aspects of the text: aspects that Berlioz left undramatized, Padrissa dramatized. When Cassandra sings of the vultures that will eat the Trojans’ bodies, the circumvolving smoke on the rear projects starts to turn into shadowy images of huge pecking birds. When Aeneas narrates the death of Laocoon, strangled by sea serpents, two gray cylinders (which will be part of the space ship in act 3) come to life and (with dancers strapped to the ends to represent mouths) start to devour Laocoon. The visual elements become a second orchestra, telling what Berlioz’s staging was (in Berlioz’s time) unable to show.

Musically, the production is beyond anyone’s dreams of excellence. Lance Ryan’s Aeneas is rhythmically careless in places, but outdoes Vickers in vehemence and (maybe) vocal power; Elisabete Matos’s Cassandra and Daniela Barcellona’s Dido are merely superb. Gergiev conducts with ardor, subtlety, and decisiveness. But: not many members of the cast can sing French vowels without discoloration.

Daniel Albright

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):