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

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Kim Sheehan as Livia and Nicholas Merryweather as Milord Arespingh [Picture(s) by Anthony Hall courtesy of Bampton Classical Opera]
21 Sep 2011

The Italian Girl in London, Bampton Classical Opera

As one of the most successful Italian opera composers of the late-eighteenth century, Domenico Cimarosa’s reputation lasted well into the following century during which his operas were staple repertoire in all the major European opera houses.

Domenico Cimarosa: The Italian Girl in London

Livia: Kim Sheehan; Madama Brillante: Caryl Hughes; Sumers: Adam Tunncliffe; Don Polidoro: Nicholas Merryweather; Milord Arespingh: Robert Winslade

Above: Kim Sheehan as Livia and Nicholas Merryweather as Milord Arespingh
All picture(s) by Anthony Hall courtesy of Bampton Classical Opera

 

Revered by artists and intellectuals, he was (according to an informative programme essay) considered by Delacroix to be superior to Mozart, while Stendhal asserted that his genius was equal to that of Raphael!

Nowadays, Cimarosa is best known primarily for his comic masterpiece, Il matrimonio segreto (The Secret Marriage). However, once again Bampton Classical Opera have delved into the archives and located another melodious, charming gem richly deserving of a wider audience.

Covering a single day during a time of war, and set in a London hotel, The Italian Girl in London is a typically daft buffa tale of muddle, misunderstanding and mayhem. Resident are an eclectic bunch of Europeans: an eminently sensible, if self-righteous, Dutchman, Sumers; Don Polidoro, an ardent Italian; and the morose English aristocrat, Milord Arespingh — their needs catered for by the émigré Italian hostess, Madama Brillante, assisted by her French waitress, Henriette. The foreign visitors find English manners and customs baffling, but despite their national differences, all three men are equally entranced by the captivating Henriette. In fact, ‘Henriette’ is actually Livia — formerly affianced to, and jilted by, Milord, who has been ordered by his father to marry the ghastly Diana. Polidoro is the object of Madama’s own amorous attentions, but she is determined to embarrass him for his infatuation with Livia. So, she explains that the girl can make herself invisible using a magic bloodstone, and tricks him into making amorous advances to thin air. Meanwhile, Sumers has learned of Milord’s forthcoming marriage and resolves to protect Livia from the inappropriate attentions of others. The protagonists lurch from one melodrama to the next: the deluded Polidoro searches for his own bloodstone in order to advance his courtship with Livia; driven to despair by thoughts of a life with Diana, Milord demands that the Italian spares him his fate by running him through with a sword; Livia is arrested (a ruse intended by her father to prevent her running away from home), before the chivalrous Sumers comes to her rescue. Inevitably, there is a sentimental resolution to the pandemonium: the puzzles are solved, the disorder dispelled, and both lovers and nations celebrate peaceful reconciliations.

Following fully staged performances earlier this season at Bampton, Westonbirt and at the Buxton Festival, Bampton Classical Opera presented the opera at St. John’s Smith Square with only costumes and minimal props to recreate the Victory Bar at the down-at-heel ‘Nelson Hotel’; a Rubik Cube (which fascinates but defeats the dim-witted Milord) and a rack of Charles & Di postcards serve to establish the year, 1982. At Buxton sets and staging were wittily deployed to complement the entertaining translation by Jeremy Gray and Gilly French, and this visual humour was missed, especially in the barmy finale to Act 1. Perhaps some side flats would have helped, but, although the stage business was necessarily quite limited given the restrictions of the St. John’s performing space, the young cast did succeed in conjuring up a frothy, sunny atmosphere — although the nautical cutlasses were more anachronistic when drawn from the umbrella stand than they had been when plucked from a wall display of maritime memorabilia!

_MG_9513.pngThe finale of Act I

Although the commedia dell’arte stereotypes are rather two-dimensional, focused acting from the whole cast quickly established strong characterisation: Nicholas Merryweather demonstrated a typically sharp appreciation of comic timing and gesture, and Adam Tunncliffe made much of the rather ‘flat’ role of Sumers, engaging the audience’s attention effectively in well-acted, focused recitatives. He demonstrated a flexible, pleasing tenor as he introduced a much-needed touch of sobriety into the inane proceedings. Even the silent roles — Rosa French, as the hotel’s gum-chewing maid, and director Jeremy Gray, attempting to restore order with his police officer’s hand-cuffs — contributed considerably to the capers and drolleries.

The singers enjoyed Cimarosa’s graceful, shapely vocal lines; while there is little flamboyant coloratura, the well-crafted phrases do allow for textual clarity, and diction was uniformly clear. Merryweather excelled in this regard; moreover, he charmingly varied his tone to indicate the passionate Italian’s whims and wiles — his crafty whispered asides, with perfect intonation and crisp enunciation, were particularly impressive. As a poised and dignified Livia, Irish soprano Kim Sheehan produced a pleasing round tone, never strident at the top, and conveyed tender pathos when destined for imprisonment.

Bass Robert Winslade Anderson (Milord) seemed a little hesitant at first, and on occasion strayed from conductor Thomas Blunt’s beat, but to be fair, placed in front of the orchestra and without a monitor to aid them, all the cast had to work hard in this regard. And, in an explosive jealous outburst in his Act 2 aria, Anderson presented a confident portrait of blustering pomposity, making excellent use of the text to develop characterisation. As the knowing, worldly Madama Brillante, Caryl Hughes’ Act 2 cavatina was particularly lively and bright.

Placed centrally on raked staging behind the singers, Bampton Classical Orchestra delivered a neat, precise performance, understated and accurate, never overwhelming the young voices. Textures were elegant, articulation appropriately nimble, and Charlotte Forrest’s continuo accompaniments were elegantly decorative. Blunt judged the tempi well, particularly in the galloping Act-finales; after a series of solo arias he confidently led cast and players as the momentum accumulated towards the cheerful, buoyant conclusion.

Claire Seymour

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):