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

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

Cast announced for Bampton Classical Opera's 2017 production of Salieri's The School of Jealousy

Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Handel's Partenope: surrealism and sensuality at English National Opera

Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a lesson in Patience

A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.

Tara Erraught: mezzo and clarinet in partnership at the Wigmore Hall

Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.

Opera Across the Waves

This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful producers of opera.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.

A Winter's Tale: a world premiere at English National Opera

The first production of Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera, based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is clearly a major event in English National Opera’s somewhat trimmed-down season. Wigglesworth, who serves also as conductor and librettist, professes to have been obsessed with the play for more than twenty years, and one can see why The Winter’s Tale, with its theatrical ‘set-pieces’ - the oracle scene, the tempest, the miracle of a moving statue - and its grandiose emotions, dominated as the play is by Leontes’ obsessively articulated, over-intellectualized jealousy, would invite operatic adaptation.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

The Elixir of Love [Image courtesy of English National Opera]
21 Sep 2011

The Elixir of Love, ENO

It’s easy to dismiss the undoubted charms of Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love with a wry smile and a dash of condescension.

Gaetano Donizetti: The Elixir of Love

Nemorino: Ben Johnson; Adina: Sara Tynan; Belcore: Benedict Nelson; Dr Dulcamara: Andrew Shore; Giannetta: Ella Kirkpatrick. Conductor: Russ Macdonald. Director: Jonathan Miller. Revival Director: Elaine Tyler-Hall. Set Design: Isabella Bywater. Lighting Design: Hans Äke-Sjöquist. English National Opera, London Coliseum. Thursday 15th September 2011.

Above image courtesy of English National Opera

 

But, if we imagine that love potions, placebos and quackery, are a thing of the past, we only have to remember that there’s still a vibrant market for Viagra and rhino horn.

So, it’s clear that the follies and frailties which are gently lampooned in Donizetti’s tale have not yet been eradicated, and Jonathan Miller’s production, while indulgently charming, never lets the cynical gaze drop: Nemorino’s transfiguration from simple-minded mechanic to James Dean look-a-like is effected by a lusty swig of cheap Kentucky bourbon; the gushing adoration of the female population is motivated more by his recent monetary good fortune than any sudden recognition of his innate qualities as a lover and husband. Human gullibility is still going strong.

First seen at ENO in February 2010, Miller’s 1950s Mid-Western re-location works a treat — the rolling golden plains and sky-blue expanse which stretch as far as the eye can see evoke an innocent place far from modern urbanity; the homespun folk are just ripe for exploitation by an itinerant charlatan.

We are invited to relax and enjoy ourselves at ‘Adina’s Diner’, a bustling watering hole superbly imagined by Isabella Bywater, in a naturalist recreation of the era, all clashing complementary tones of vibrant pink and green. This revival hasn’t managed to overcome an innate challenge presented by the set, however; for while the resourceful rotation of the design is inventive, the interior itself is rather too cramped. When the whole town crowd inside there’s barely room to breathe, let alone sing and dance, and the chorus are often static and unengaging. That said, in the opening scene Nemorino (Ben Johnson) seemed further forward than I remembered from the previous run, enabling him to be more clearly heard above orchestra and chorus, and effectively drawing the audience’s attention to his downheartedness and romantic dilemma from the start.

Andrew Shore’s performance as the nattily dressed Dr Dulcamara, equipped with a silken tongue and a sharp nose for commercial opportunities, won him an Olivier nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Opera in 2010, and he’s certainly the star of the show. Gliding into the town in a gleaming Cadillac cabriolet — even the desert dust can’t dampen the dazzle of his entrance — this slick fraudster so genuinely relishes his own ingenuity, warmly encouraging all who dash to sample his wares that he’s almost impossible to dislike. As usual, Shore’s diction is exemplary — no need for surtitles as he assuredly launches into his glib advertising sales pitch: “If you reek of halitosis/ Then take a couple of doses”.

He’s undoubtedly the star-turn, but there is a danger that it might seem as if the whole production has been designed as a Shore-showcase, were it not for the impressive performance of Sarah Tynan returning to the role of Adina. The pert blonde bob flawlessly coiffed, the Monroe-wiggle honed to perfection, Tynan evinces confidence and allure, her voice luscious and full.

As the naïve, nerdy, love-struck Nemorino, Ben Johnson certainly pulled the heartstrings. He is in full command of the Italianate style, his phrases elegantly shaped; and his attractive tone is complemented by convincing acting, the comic gestures discreet but telling. The ardent yearnings of “Una furtiva lagrima” can seem a little out of place after the preceding light-hearted mischief, and I found Johnson rather too intense: it seemed impossible that this garage dunce could feel passions so profound, and express sentiments so earnest. However, Johnson had all the notes — although there were a few rough edges as he strove for depth of feeling — and the aria was well-received; it evidently moved the hearts of the audience, if not the money-grabbing girls of the town.

Benedict Nelson, as Belcore, demonstrated a pleasing, focused tone, although his voice is a little too light-weight for this auditorium and did not always carry. Nelson’s was an intelligent dramatic interpretation: he did not overdo the brash blustering, and for once it did not seem incredible that Adina might fall for Belcore’s charms. And, in his Act 2 confrontation with Nemorino the two men worked effectively together.

Despite fine performances from all the principals — including Ella Kirkpatrick as an alert, smart Giannetta — the show did not always sparkle, however. Russ Macdonald’s tempi were simply too slow, the instrumental playing too leaden; and the overall effect was more toffee apple than candyfloss. That said, the astuteness of Miller’s perceptions, aided by Kelley Rourke’s witty ‘translation’ (although while the Americanisms — “knuckle sandwich”, “hello cupcake” - pay effective homage to Porter and Sondheim, the cast’s American accents are less consistent), and impressive performances in the central roles, make for a highly agreeable, satisfying evening.

Claire Seymour

Click here for access to a gallery of photos, audio and video sections and other information.

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):