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

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

Kindred Spirits: Cecilia Bartoli and Rolando Villazón at the Concertgebouw

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has been a regular favourite at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam since 1996. Her verastile concerts are always carefully constructed and delivered with irrepressible energy and artistic commitment.

Cav/Pag at Royal Opera

When Italian director Damiano Michieletto visited Covent Garden in June this year, he spiced Rossini’s Guillaume Tell with a graphic and, many felt, gratuitous rape scene that caused outrage and protest.

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):