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 Performances

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

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.

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.

Extravagant Line-up 2017-18 at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany

The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Susanna Phillips as Lucia and Giuseppe Filianoti as Edgardo [Photo by Dan Rest]
18 Nov 2011

Lucia di Lammermoor, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor as its second production of the current season with Susanna Phillips taking on the role of the heroine torn between romantic love and familial pressures.

Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor

Click here for cast and other information.

Above: Susanna Phillips as Lucia and Giuseppe Filianoti as Edgardo [Photo by Dan Rest]

 

In the performance seen René Barbera replaced the indisposed tenor Giuseppe Filianoti in the lead role of Lucia’s lover Edgardo. Baritone Quinn Kelsey sang the role of Lucia’s brother Lord Enrico Ashton and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn the role of Raimondo. By coincidence in this performance all four lead roles were assumed by past or current members of the Ryan Opera Center. The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus were conducted by Massimo Zanetti in his debut season.

During the overture soft light shone through a blue scrim which returned and was varied at select points during the subsequent scenes. The woodwinds contributed notably to a generally well led performance of the overture, although the percussion was at times overly loud and pauses could be better seamed together. The male voices in the initial scene created a strong impression, one which remained consistent throughout the performance. As Normanno sung with urgent appeal by baritone Paul Scholten leads a search party to find Edgardo of Ravenswood, the male chorus members and Enrico join the group. In his aria and cabaletta Quinn Kelsey gave a nuanced and authoritative performance, clearly defining the venal character of Lucia’s brother. “Cruda, funesta smania” was sung with a true sense of line and color to emphasize words such as “horribile.” The cabaletta “La pietade in suo favore” proceeded naturally with well chosen vocal decoration, pitches sung flat to give additional emphasis, and effective top notes. The voice of Mr. Van Horn, so vital later in these performances, added here to the ensemble with chorus where his impressive range gave memorable support to the effect of the group.

In the second scene of Act One Lucia and Edgardo make their initial impressions, the heroine appearing before being joined by her outlawed suitor. As she relates to her confidante Alisa the tale of violence between lovers in an earlier generation of the Ravenswood clan, Lucia sings “Regnava nel silenzio” and claims to have seen the spirit of the dead girl at the fountain. As the narrative unfolds Ms. Phillips characterizes Lucia’s emotions by modulating her voice between full and hushed. In the second half of the scene showcasing the cabaletta “Quando rapito in estasi” Phillips drew on especially secure vocal decoration, as she negotiated the aria with all the repeats taken. Barbera’s Edgardo blended well with Phillips in their subsequent duet, his voice taking on a more declamatory tone when he sang solo lines. The exchange of rings and promise of future letters was sworn by both singers with lyrically believable tenderness.

The second act of this production was performed after the first without pause. Although the scene now changes to the interior of Enrico’s study, a stylized tree from the previous act staged outdoors can now be seen as through a window. The emotions attendant on that earlier scene drift into a conflict accelerating between Lucia and her brother: he insists in the confrontation here depicted that she marry Arturo Bucklaw in order to save the Ashton family. Both singers showed a skilled application of bel canto technique in their interaction, just as their dramatic outbursts were vocally in character. Once Enrico leaves her alone, Lucia is comforted and advised by Raimondo. Surely a highlight of this production was Mr. Van Horn’s performance of the aria “Ah, cedi, cedi,” a piece which has so often been cut from stagings of Lucia. Here Raimondo relies on humane persuasion and a tone of religious authority to convince Lucia that she should follow Enrico’s suggestion. Van Horn’s sonorous line and excellent low notes were matched in his cabaletta by a lightness and rhythmic sensitivity where noticeable articulation led to an impressively dramatic close. In the final scene of Act Two with all the principals on the stage the bridal couple is prepared for the wedding ceremony in festive attire. In assuming the role of Arturo Bucklaw Bernard Holcomb brought a good sense of diction and legato phrasing to his lines. Once the true beloved Edgardo reappeared, the sextet was performed with uniform commitment and individual voices soaring at appropriate moments. As Edgardo cursed Lucia’s perfidy the act concluded in a well staged ensemble. Van Horn’s thrilling calls of “Pace” sounded ever more futile as the enmity between Enrico and Edgardo predominated to the close.

Lyric Opera’s production of Lucia includes the scene outside the tower of Wolf’s Crag and hence divides Act Three into a trio of significant parts. In the first of these identified traditionally with the location Edgardo and Enrico confront each other on the grounds of the Ravenswood family estate. As they sang the duet (“Qui del padre ancora respira”) both Kelsey and Barbera chose decoration judiciously and allowed their characters to be defined by dramatic technique and a firm sense of legato. The growing rage between the two men and their assignation for a duel in the final scene helped clarify the plot and presents strong arguments for including the scene regularly in stagings of the opera. In the second scene the two major arias were sung with a memorable sense of integration into the dramatic flow. During the wedding festivities Raimondo bursts in to announce that Lucia has murdered her husband Arturo (“Dalle stanze ove Lucia”). Van Horn’s intonation in the aria expressed his horror at the discovery, just as his delivery of “infelice” followed by splendid top notes communicated Lucia’s state of madness to the revelers. When the heroine appears at the top of a precipitous staircase to sing the mad scene (“Il dolce suono”) Ms. Phillips acted and sang as one possessed. The effect of her fluid, secure delivery of the runs, trills, and roulades in this vocal challenge gave her Lucia the freedom to express visions and emotions in movement as well. Her ghostly singing of high notes pianissimo, punctuated with pitches delivered and held flat to enhance the sense of instability, added to this interpretation of a complex mental state. In the final scene of the opera Edgardo awaits Lucia’s brother in order to fight the duel that was agreed upon in the first part of this act. Mr. Barbera’s stylish delivery of the famous tenor aria (“Fra poco a me ricovero”) showed a supple approach with a welcome ring to high notes, as he ended the piece by taking the opportunity for introspective singing piano. When he realizes that Lucia has died and witnesses her funeral procession, Barbera inflected his cabaletta with wrenching emotion before stabbing himself to join his beloved in death.

Salvatore Calomino

Click here for a photo gallery and other information regarding this production.

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):