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

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

Jonas Kaufmann : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.

Garsington Opera For All

Following Garsington Opera for All’s successful second year of free public screenings on beaches, river banks and parks in isolated coastal and rural communities, Handel’s sparkling masterpiece Semele will be screened in four areas across the UK in 2017. Free events are programmed for Skegness (1 July), Ramsgate (22 July), Bridgwater (29 July) and Grimsby (11 October).

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus

The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.

Mahler Symphony no 8 : Jurowski, LPO, Royal Festival Hall, London

Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.

Rameau's Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques: a charming French-UK collaboration at the RCM

Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.

The Royal Opera House announces its 2017/18 season

Details of the Royal Opera House's 2017/18 Season have been announced. Oliver Mears, who will begin his tenure as Director of Opera, comments: “I am delighted to introduce my first Season as Director of Opera for The Royal Opera House. As I begin this role, and as the world continues to reel from social and political tumult, it is reassuring to contemplate the talent and traditions that underpin this great building’s history. For centuries, a theatre on this site has welcomed all classes - even in times of revolution and war - to enjoy the most extraordinary combination of music and drama ever devised. Since the time of Handel, Covent Garden has been home to the most outstanding performers, composers and artists of every era. And for centuries, the joyous and often tragic art form of opera has offered a means by which we can be transported to another world, in all its wonderful excess and beauty.”

St Matthew Passion: Armonico Consort and Ian Bostridge

Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he embodied a perfect Rodolfo.

New opera Caliban banal and wearisome

Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its less-than-tragic plight.

Two rarities from the Early Opera Company at the Wigmore Hall

A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Lorenzo Regazzo as Don Alfonso [Photo by Robert Millard courtesy of LA Opera]
10 Oct 2011

Così fan tutte, Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Opera Company’s charmingly understated new production of Così fan tutte will please your eyes and delight your ears, but its story might grieve your romantic soul.

W. A. Mozart: Così fan tutte

Ferrando: Saimir Pirgu; Guglielmo: Ildebrando D’Arcangelo; Don Alfonso: Lorenzo Ragazzo; Fiordiligi:Aleksandra Kurzak; Dorabella: Ruxandra Donose; Despina: Roxana Constantinescu. Conductor: James Conlon. Original Production: Nicholas Hytner. Director: Ashley Dean.

Above: Lorenzo Regazzo as Don Alfonso

All photos by Robert Millard courtesy of LA Opera

 

Its libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte, who despite the fact that he was both a priest and a professor at Columbia College (not at the same time) had attained notable fame in his youth for licentiousness. The opera’s title means “all women are like that” and its subtitle “La scuola di amante” means “school for lovers.” Ostensibly an education in love, in Da Ponte’s and Mozart’s hands the opera’s lesson is that all women are fickle.

coz6065.gifRoxana Constantinescu as Despina

Guglielmo and Ferrando, two handsome young men engaged to sisters Fiordiligi and Doraballa, swear to Don Alonso, their old philosopher friend that the girls will be faithful to them forever. The cynical Alonso’s assertion that the girls will take new lovers in less than 24 hours if the men follow his instructions, results in a bet. Don Alonso elicits the help of the young women’s maid servant, Despina. The women are told that their heroes have been called to war, and shortly thereafter the two men disguised as “Albanians” appear to declare their passionate, (and sometimes comical) love — but to each other’s girl. Torn by conscience and tempted by the joys of love, the girls suffer a few pangs, but soon give in, each to her sister’s fiancé, whereupon to their mortification, the treacherous scheme is revealed. Then somehow — maybe Mozart didn’t like unhappy endings — there’s a cheerful sextet in which all the characters agree, “let’s get over this and look at the sunny side of things.” But who did the girls go home with? Their first lovers or their second? Mozart and Da Ponte don’t tell us! And if women study this “school’s” lesson a little deeper, they may wonder, “Are all fiancés like that?”

This is an attractive well-matched cast. Happily, the two male leads resemble each other enough to muddle their identities while in disguise, so there’s no little worm to gnaw at your aching-to-believe brain saying, “How could the girls not recognize them?” The production that Nichols Hytner, originally created for Glyndebourne with its tawny sets and blazing blue Neapolitan skies are crisp and elegantly restrained.

coz4180.gifSaimir Pirgu as Ferrando, Ruxandra Donose as Dorabella, Aleksandra Kurzak as Fiordiligi and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Guglielmo

But it’s the music that triumphs. Maestro Conlon personally chose the cast of European singers for their facility with Italian recitative, as well I am sure, for the quality of their voices. Bass Lorenzo Ragazzo, delivered a cheerful, perhaps not cynical enough Don Alfonso. Bass-baritone, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Guglielmo, pranced agilely when required — what a “Mefistofole” he would make! Saimir Pirgu’s Ferrando’s “Un’aura amorosa”and Aleksandra Kurzak’s “Come scoglio” hit their difficult marks. While the tessitura of Fiordiligi’s role unquestionably requires a soprano, the roles of Dorabella and Despina, here mezzos Ruxandra Donose and Roxana Constantinescu, respectively, are not as clearly defined in terms of range and can be sung by sopranos. Most frequently, it is Despina (think saucy Susanna in the Marriage of Figaro) who is cast as a soprano. Constaninescu, however, is perhaps too young to make a properly worldly-wise and arch Despina. The similarity of her sound to Donose’s Dorabella’s reduced the impact of her role and had me wishing for a bright soprano sound.

The essence of this Così is the sense of ensemble: the balance between orchestra and voice, and the clearly visible rapport between the singers and Maestro Conlon. When Conlon stretched past his score with this arms high over his head, and looked directly at his singers, it seemed as if the baton in his hand was a magic wand eliciting spontaneous song.

And did they all have fun with their curtain calls!

Estelle Gilson

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):