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Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure,
this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish
hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably
Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left
much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang
bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars
lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano
Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera
Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night
of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.
On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value
a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.
Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.
Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.
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.
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
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!
The 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
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