Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

Arizona Opera Ends Season in Fine Style with Fille du Régiment

On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera ended its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.

Il turco in Italia, Royal Opera

This second revival of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 2005 production of Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia seems to have every going for it: excellent principals comprising experienced old-hands and exciting new voices, infinite gags and japes, and the visual éclat of Agostino Cavalca’s colour-bursting costumes and Christian Fenouillat’s sunny sets which evoke the style, glamour and ease of La Dolce Vita.

The Siege of Calais
——
The Wild Man of the West Indies

English Touring Opera’s 2015 Spring Tour is audacious and thought-provoking. Alongside La Bohème the company have programmed a revival of their acclaimed 2013 production of Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) and the composer’s equally rare The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo).

The Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor

Mary Zimmerman’s still-fresh production is made fresher still by Shagimuratova’s glimmering voice, but the acting disappoints

Voices, voices in space, and spaces: Thoughts on 50 years of Meredith Monk

When WNYC’s John Schaefer introduced Meredith Monk’s beloved Panda Chant II, which concluded the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk & Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, he described it as “an expression of joy and musicality” before lamenting the fact that playing it on his radio show could never quite compete with a live performance.

St. John Passion by Soli Deo Gloria, Chicago

This year’s concert of the Chicago Bach Project, under the aegis of the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, was a presentation of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

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):