Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

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):