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

Wolfgang Koch as Hans Sachs and Emma Bell As Eva [Photo © ROH 2011 / Clive Barda]
23 Dec 2011

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Royal Opera House

Perhaps it’s no accident that Graham Vick’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg returns to the Royal Opera House for the Christmas season. Red, green, gold, sumptuous colours that warm a long, grey evening.

Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Walther von Stolzing: Simon O'Neill, Eva: Emma Bell, Magdalene: Heather Shipp, David: Toby Spence, Veit Pogner: John Tomlinson, Hans Sachs: Wolfgang Koch, Kunz Vogelgesang: Colin Judson, Konrad Nachtigall: Nicholas Folwell, Fritz Kother: Donald Maxwell, Hermann Ortel: Jihoon Kim, Balthazar Zorn: Martyn Hill, Augustin Moser: Pablo Bensch, Ulrich Eisslinger: Andrew Rees, Hans Foltz: Jeremy White, Hans Schwarz: Richard Wiegiold, Nightwatchman: Robert Lloyd. Conductor: Antonio Pappano, Chorus master: Renato Balsadonna, Director: Graham Vick, Revival Director: Elaine Kidd, Designs: Richard Hudson, Original Lighting: Wolfgang Goebel, Movement: Ron Howell. Royal Opera House, London, 19th Decemeber 2011.

Above: Wolfgang Koch as Hans Sachs and Emma Bell As Eva

Photos © ROH 2011 / Clive Barda

 

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is a comedy and here’s it’s presented as the ultimate up market Xmas show. It’s extremely enjoyable, and an ideal introduction to the opera experience. Richard Wagner, though, gets sidelined.

Sir John Tomlinson is a definite reason for catching this revival. The days when he could sing Hans Sachs are past, but he creates an unusually vivid Veit Pogner. Tomlinson plays Pogner powerfully, as if he was a former Sachs, whose reasons for committing his daughter to this bizarre marriage make sense. He’s dedicating his daughter to art, not too shabby politics. Luckily for him, and for Eva, Walter von Stolzing arrives in the nick of time. Indeed, Beckmesser very nearly persuades the Meistersingers to drive Walter out of town. Things could so easily have turned out quite differently. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg may be comic, but it evolves against a background of tension. At any moment anarchy could breakout. Unless the Meistersingers adapt, they might not survive.

Wagner builds tension into the music. The Meistersingers sing at cross purposes, and in the riot scene, the turbulence of the chorus evokes the violence which comes with all revolution. That’s why the Night Watchman sings “bewahrt euch vor Gespenstern und Spuk, dass kein böser Geist eu’r Seel’ beruck’!” The music for the apprentice boys is energetic, a warning for those who remember Wagner’s protosocialism. This time, however, no dangerous ideas. We’re treated to a good natured Meistersinger, where the apprentices dance with little vigour, and the blows Sachs throws at David have no menace. Antonio Pappano received the longest applause of all on the first night,. Most audiences can relate better to joyful Romaticism in music better than to Wagner-on-edge, so it’s understandable. He clearly enjoys the life-affirming elements in this opera, which come over well. Christmas is not the right time for radical ideas, and this is not a production that would support them.

Graham Vicks’s riot scene is classic because it’s so well imagined. The townsfolk pop out of windows and hang precariously upside down over the stage. One man looks like he’s about to lose his footing (this happened in earlier productions, so it was planned) In their nightshirts the townsfolk look like escapees from an asylum, a good idea but not developed. The Festweise scene is masterfully blocked, so each guild is clearly defined. I liked the acrobats in the background, too. But these scenes aren’t for entertainment but emphasize the traumas in Nürnberg’s past.

Because John Tomlinson so dominates the first Act, Wolfgang Koch’s Hans Sach might be overlooked, but Koch understands the role. Sachs is an observer, who stands apart from the crowd, and who thinks before he acts. Koch’s Sachs is sung with sensitivity, and would be very effective in a more perceptive production which focuses on Sachs and not the scenery. Koch looks and sounds younger than the other Meistersingers and is rather more lyrical than Simon O’Neill’s Walther von Stolzing who is more hoch dramatisch than true Heldentenor. This was the best performance I’ve ever heard from O’Neill, and he was good, but it’s a part better suited to a more luminous timbre. O’Neill was, however, a good match for Emma Bell’s Eva, joyfully created though perhaps more Italianate than Wagnerian. In a cheerful, non-idiomatic production like this, it didn’t matter, and they conveyed the story. Popular favourite, Toby Spence, sang a very good David, but he’s more upper class than roustabout.

MEISTERSINGER-111216_0285.gif(L-R) Peter Coleman-Wright as Beckmesser, Wolfgang Koch as Hans Sachs, Heather Shipp as Magdalene, Simon O’Neill as Walther and Emma Bell as Eva

It was good to see many teenagers in the audience, another good reason for having a show like this in holiday time. Last week, David Chandler took his daughter to Kurt Weill’s Magical Night at the Linbury, (reviewed here) and she was ecstatic. We can give kids toys anytime, but the gift of a magical experience is beyond compare. And the same goes for adults, new to opera. This Meistersinger may not tell us much about the opera or about Wagner, but it’s an excellent night out.

Anne Ozorio

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):