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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Ermonela Jaho as Violetta and Stephen Costello as Alfredo [Photo © ROH 2011 / Catherine Ashmore]
05 Jan 2012

La Traviata: The 454th Performance at the Royal Opera House

This performance of La Traviata was the 454th at the Royal Opera House, and the first performance in the 3rd revival this season of Richard Eyre’s production.

Giuseppe Verdi : La Traviata

Violetta : Ermonela Jaho, Alfredo Germont : Stephen Costello,Giorgio Germont : Paolo Gavanelli, Flora : Justina Gingyte, The Marquis : Jeremy White, Gastone : Ji Hyun Kim, The Doctor: Robert Lloyd, Annina : Hanna Hipp. Conductor : Maurizio Bemini, Director : Richard Eyre, Revival Director : Paul Higgins, Designs : Bob Crowley. Royal Opera House, London, 2nd January, 2012.

Above: Ermonela Jaho as Violetta and Stephen Costello as Alfredo

Photos © ROH 2011 / Catherine Ashmore

 

Each of this season’s revivals has been in the hands of a different revival director. This time, Paul Higgins oversaw Ermonela Jaho returning as Violetta and Stephen Costello making his Covent Garden role debut as Alfredo.

Since her last appearance here as Violetta, Jaho has made quite a stir with her performance as Suor Angelica in the new production of Puccini’s Il Trittico. Costello has previously appeared at the Royal Opera House in a concert performance of Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix and as Rinuccio in Il Trittico, so that Alfredo represents the singers biggest stage role yet at Covent Garden.

Bob Crowley’s designs still look very well and the production remains very handsome. It was new in 1994 and this run seems to be its 15th revival, so that one of the items of interest would be how the production was holding up. One always expects the party scene in Act 1 to be something of a mess and Crowley’s design seems to intentionally crowd the partygoers, but I did wonder whether the chaos could be more organised, whether there had been quite enough rehearsal time.

LA-TRAVIATA-2513ashm_337-GR.gifJustina Gringyte as Flora

Jaho is a slim, almost diminutive figure who has no problem at all looking fragile, which is always a help in this role. She was very studied dramatically, using a range of expressive but carefully choreographed movements. Not at all stiff or static, but rather as if Violetta had constructed a persona for herself; an interestingly valid point of view, though this may simply be Jaho’s natural style.

Technically Jaho is a lyric soprano with a tight vibrato and an attractively veiled quality to the voice. In Act 1 her coloratura was creditable rather than pin-sharp, and she had an occasional tendency to attack notes from below. But she also had the magical ability to thin her voice right down.

“Sempre libera” had a slightly desperate quality to it and you could almost feel Jaho saying thank goodness that was over at the end of the act. But then few sopranos manage all 3 acts of La Traviata with equal facility, that’s one of the role’s challenges.

Costello was nicely correct and callow as Alfredo, especially on his first entry into the party. Slim and good looking, his voice was a surprise being thicker and darker than expected, with a nicely focused Italianate tone. He brought a lovely lyric feel to the Brindisi. With both him and Jaho you felt that there was a good likelihood that their voices will move on to more dramatic roles.

LA-TRAVIATA-2513ashm_274-JA.gifErmonela Jaho as Violetta and Stephen Costello as Alfredo

Interaction between them was rather nervous and this seemed to reflect in their voices. You did not really believe that there was passion there. The intensity in Costello’s voice didn’t quite match his body language. Jaho seemed to find form in Act 2, expressing Violetta’s suffering with great expressiveness.

Jaho thinned her voice magically for “Dite alla giovine” and the duet with Gavanelli crackled with emotion in a way that hadn’t happened in Act 1. In Act 3, “Addio del passato” was beautifully sung and profoundly moving, but here and elsewhere in this act, Jaho did rather too much operatic staggering about; I happen to think that less is more here. Her death was dramatic and beautiful, but perhaps a little too ‘stagey’. Jaho’s performance was profoundly moving, but ultimately I found her to be a little too studied.

Costello was similarly impressive. I often feel that Alfredo is not the brightest button in the box and whether by accident or design Costello conveyed something of this. In the scene at Flora’s the duet between Jaho and Costello was thrilling, his anger blazed forth in a way that his passion did not. Unfortunately Costello reverted to looking stiff, though he sang with conviction and passion. He did spend a lot of times on his knees, which he seemed to find uncomfortable. Musically Costello turned in a passionate and stylish performance, but this was not always reflected in his body language. It seemed he would have benefited from greater rehearsal time with a strong director.

LA-TRAVIATA-2513ashm_436-GA.gifPaolo Gavanelli as Girogio Germont

It helped that Paolo Gavanelli’s Giorgio Germont was pure class. Every inch an aristocrat, severely controlled, not a blusterer, Gavanelli sang beautifully with profoundly expressive line. He conveyed the character’s breeding and inhibition, and it was lovely to hear it sung by a native Italian.

It was nice to see David Stout as the Baron and he turned in a stylish performance. The other smaller roles were well cast, with Justina Gingyte as Flora, Jeremy White as the Marquis and Ji Hyun Kim as Gastone. Robert Lloyd made a sympathetic Doctor and Hanna Hipp a strong Annina.

Maurizio Benini provided a safe pair of hands in the pit, with support for the singers and well placed flexible tempi. This wasn’t perhaps a vintage revival but it was certainly involving, with some strongly characterised performances.

Robert Hugill

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):