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

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sarah Connolly as Octavian [Photo by Clive Barda courtesy of English National Opera]
08 Feb 2012

Der Rosenkavalier, ENO

English National Opera’s revival of Richard Strauss’s fin de siècle Figaro is a heart-warming treat for a cold winter’s night.

Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

The Feldmarschallin: Amanda Roocroft; Octavian: Sarah Connolly; Baron Ochs: John Tomlinson; Valzacchi: Adrian Thompson; Annina: Madeleine Shaw; Sophie: Sophie Bevan; Herr von Faninal: Andrew Shore. Conductor: Edward Gardner. Director/Set Designer: David McVicar. Costume Designer: Tanya McCallin. Lighting Designer: Paule Constable. English National Opera, London, Wednesday, 1st February 2012.

Above: Sarah Connolly as Octavian

Photos by Clive Barda courtesy of English National Opera

 

Director David McVicar’s self-designed staging perfectly balances detail and spaciousness — an accomplished feat and a productive one; although the score is complex and infinitely nuanced, McVicar has been able to identify which details to foreground visually and which to allow to reside in the musical foundations. So, there is finely judged attention to detail but the resulting drama is not fussy or cluttered.

Rosenkavalier_ENO_2012_2.gifAmanda Roocroft as The Feldmarschallin

A single backdrop suffices: a curving Regency interior, slightly past its prime but still offering elegant evidence of the stylish sophistications of yesteryear — much like the Marschallin herself. Gilt and bronze drapes, curling creepers and cobwebbed chandeliers create a fairy-tale otherworldliness, and this is enhanced by Paule Constable’s clever lighting which, evoking subdued candlelight — the front of stage decked with row of crumbling candles (which Valzacchi snappily switches on at the start of the Mariendal scene) — establishes an ethereal distance. And, in the fading light of Act 1, a deepening, looming shadow of the Marschallin provides a visual echo of the ‘former’ self whose passing she laments.

McVicar’s direction judiciously mixes dense and intricate movements — as during the spooking of Ochs in the inn scene, when tumblers and goblins cavort and cartwheel wildly across the stage — with gentler gestures which flow as organically as Strauss’s score, particularly in the closing moments. The extremes of the wide stage are deployed to depict the emotional distance between characters; and at the close to emphasise the Marschallin’s isolation from the young lovers.

Rosenkavalier_ENO_2012_4.gifSophie Bevan as Sophie

John Tomlinson’s Baron Ochs of Lerchenau is a Falstaffian scally-wag, with all the bluff, swagger and ultimately forgivable self-interest of his Shakespearean predecessor. We may cringe at his hapless fumbling after any helpless female within arm’s reach; find his empty boasts and groundless vanity infuriating and his class-obsessed condescension distasteful. But, his candid self-knowledge and readiness to greet defeat with big-hearted generosity win our tolerance, tenderness and even, in the end, our pity. This is a comic turn par excellence, one which fortunately does not lapse into caricature; and, the humour is never achieved at the expense of musical control or accuracy. A master of crisp diction, Tomlinson’s every syllable is crystal clear. Weighty but flexible, his bright, gleaming tone is a joy, and it loses none of its gloss as he descends to the depths of his register. It may be a little over-strained at the top, but who cares? This Ochs relishes the amorous games even if they end in a rout; and Tomlinson’s complete delight in the theatrical and musical world which encompasses him is equally apparent.

As the elegant Marschallin, Amanda Roocroft is regal of bearing and radiant of voice; if she doesn’t quite have the velvety roundness of the ideal Straussian heroine, she uses light and shade to movingly reveal the Marschallin’s insecurities, the piano reflections of her Act 1 monologue wistfully conveying muted resignation.

The lustrous spin of Sophie Bevan’s response to the bestowal of the silver rose would melt the shining breastplate of even the most cold-blooded Rosenkavalier. Bevan captures both the tempestuousness of the feisty adolescent and the nascent serenity of the mature woman within. This Sophie is no slight soubrette; and in the Act 3 trio the Marschallin clearly recognises her rival’s powerful charm and determined will.

Sarah Connolly inhabits the eponymous envoy’s breeches with total authority, utterly convincing as the excitable young romancer who learns that the path of true love never quite runs smooth. By turns ebullient and grave, bullish and wistful, Connolly has unostentatiously mastered every nuance of character, even adopting a convincing rural brogue for the Act 3 deception of Ochs. Particularly resounding in her upper register, Connolly’s doubtful hesitation when forced to choose between past and future loves is painfully touching.

Rosenkavalier_ENO_2012_1.gifAdrian Thompson as Valzacchi, Sir John Tomlinson as Baron Ochs and Madeleine Shaw as Annina

A master of comic timing, Andrew Shore is typically impressive as the exasperated Herr von Faninal; Shore alone matched Tomlinson in his use of the text, though as his partner-in crime, Annina, Madeleine Shaw is confident and vocally arresting. And, there are many fine performances from those taking the smaller character roles, including Jennifer Rhys-Davis as Sophie’s chaperone — her urgent proddings with her fan keep her young charge firmly in line during her conversation with the rose bearer — and Gwyn Hughes Jones who produces a stunning Italianate glean as he entertains the Marschallin in Act 1 (and whose petulant flounce and pout indicates his irritation when his star turn is prematurely halted!). Ericson Mitchell is rather older than the prepubescent boys who are usually cast to play Mohammed, the Marschallin’s page, and I’m not sure his crafty retrieval of Sophie’s handkerchief and bold final bow to the audience really captures the cheeky breeziness of the closing bars of the score; but his presence does add an edgy touch of adolescent knowingness to the goings-on in the Marschallin’s boudoir.

Edward Gardner's reading of Strauss’s wonderfully evocative score is expansive and luscious. He creates an opulent but airy bed of sound through which a multitude of minutiae effortlessly reveal themselves: sinuous, seductive clarinet coils; impassioned horn commentaries; rising celli climaxes. Tempi are at times quite idiosyncratic — the final trio is slow, and Och’s waltzes wistfully elongated — but this complements, rather than negates, the dramatic flow. This is superb orchestral playing with scarcely a note out-of-place or ill-judged; the precision of chamber music within a vast orchestral canvas.

Claire Seymour

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):