Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Eugene Onegin at Seattle

Passion! Pain! Poetry! (but hold the irony . . .)

Pow! Zap! Zowie! Wowie! -or- Arthur, King of Long Beach

If you might have thought a late 17thcentury semi-opera about a somewhat precious fairy tale monarch might not be your cup of twee, Long Beach Opera cogently challenges you to think again.

Philippe Jaroussky and Jérôme Ducros perform Schubert at Wigmore Hall

How do you like your Schubert? Let me count the ways …

Crebassa and Say: Impressionism and Power at Wigmore Hall

On paper this seemed a fascinating recital, but as I was traveling to the Wigmore Hall it occurred to me this might be a clash of two great artists. Both Marianne Crebassa and Fazil Say can be mercurial performers and both can bring such unique creativity to what they do one thought they might simply diverge. In the event, what happened was quite remarkable.

'Songs of Longing and Exile': Stile Antico at LSO St Luke's

Baroque at the Edge describes itself as the ‘no rules’ Baroque festival. It invites ‘leading musicians from all backgrounds to take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads them’.

Richard Jones' La bohème returns to Covent Garden

Richard Jones' production of Puccini's La bohème is back at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden after its debut in 2017/18. The opening night, 10th January 2020, featured the first of two casts though soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who was due to sing Mimì, had to drop out owing to illness, and was replaced at short notice by Simona Mihai who had sung the role in the original run and is due to sing Musetta later in this run.

Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Mozart’s Don Giovanni returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Robert Falls updating of the opera to the 1930s. The universality of Mozart’s score proves its adaptability to manifold settings, and this production featured several outstanding, individual performances.

Britten and Dowland: lutes, losses and laments at Wigmore Hall

'Of chord and cassiawood is the lute compounded;/ Within it lie ancient melodies'.

Tara Erraught sings Loewe, Mahler and Hamilton Harty at Wigmore Hall

During those ‘in-between’ days following Christmas and before New Year, the capital’s cultural institutions continue to offer fare both festive and more formal.

Prayer of the Heart: Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet

Robust carol-singing, reindeer-related muzak tinkling through department stores, and light-hearted festive-fare offered by the nation’s choral societies may dominate the musical agenda during the month of December, but at Kings Place on Friday evening Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet eschewed babes-in-mangers and ding-donging carillons for an altogether more sedate and spiritual ninety minutes of reflection and ‘musical prayer’.

The New Season at the New National Theatre, Tokyo

Professional opera in Japan is roughly a century old. When the Italian director and choreographer Giovanni Vittorio Rosi (1867-1940) mounted a production of Cavalleria Rusticana in Italian in Tokyo in 1917, with Japanese singers, he brought a period of timid experimentation and occasional student performances to an end.

Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall

For those of us who live in a metropolitan bubble, where performances of Handel's Messiah by small professional ensembles are common, it is easy to forget that for many people, Handel's masterpiece remains a large-scale choral work. My own experiences of Messiah include singing the work in a choir of 150 at the Royal Albert Hall, and the venue's tradition of performing the work annually dates back to the 19th century.

What to Make of Tosca at La Scala

La Scala’s season opened last week with Tosca. This was perhaps the preeminent event in Italian cultural and social life: paparazzi swarmed politicians, industrialists, celebrities and personalities, while almost three million Italians watched a live broadcast on RAI 1. Milan was still buzzing nine days later, when I attended the third performance of the run.

La traviata at Covent Garden: Bassenz’s triumphant Violetta in Eyre’s timeless production

There is a very good reason why Covent Garden has stuck with Richard Eyre’s 25-year old production of La traviata. Like Zeffirelli’s Tosca, it comes across as timeless whilst being precisely of its time; a quarter of a century has hardly faded its allure, nor dented its narrative clarity. All it really needs is a Violetta to sweep us off our feet, and that we got with Hrachuhi Bassenz.

'Aspects of Love': Jakub Józef Orliński at Wigmore Hall

Boretti, Predieri, Conti, Matteis, Orlandini, Mattheson: masters of the Baroque? Yes, if this recital by Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is anything by which to judge.

Otello at Covent Garden: superb singing defies Warner’s uneven production

I have seen productions of Verdi’s Otello which have been revolutionary, even subversive. I have now seen one which is the complete antithesis of that.

Solomon’s Knot: Charpentier - A Christmas Oratorio

When Marc-Antoine Charpentier returned from Rome to Paris in 1669 or 1670, he found a musical culture in his native city that was beginning to reject the Italian style, which he had spent several years studying with the Jesuit composer Giacomo Carissimi, in favour of a new national style of music.

A Baroque Odyssey: 40 Years of Les Arts Florissants

In 1979, the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor, William Christie, founded an early music ensemble, naming it Les Arts Florissants, after a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Miracle on Ninth Avenue

Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first recorded opera I ever heard. Each Christmas Eve, while decorating the tree, our family sang along with the (still unmatched) original cast version. We knew the recording by heart, right down to the nicks in the LP. Ever since, no matter what the setting or the quality of a performance, I cannot get through it without tearing up.

Detlev Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (UK premiere)

It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamburg-born composer Detlev Glanert should count Hans Werner Henze as one of the formative influences on his work - he did, after all, study with him between 1984 to 1988.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Erwin Schrott as Don Giovanni [Photo © ROH 2012 / Mike Hoban]
20 Feb 2012

Erwin Schrott’s Don Giovanni, ROH

Erwin Schrott triumphed as Don Giovanni in the Mozart/da Ponte series at the Royal Opera House, overcoming the limitations of the staging.

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni

Leporello: Alex Esposito; Donna Anna: Carmela Remigio; Don Giovanni: Erwin Schrott; The Commendatore: Reinhard Hagen; Don Ottavio: Pavol Breslik; Donna Elvira: Ruxandra Donose; Zerlina: Kate Lindsey; Masetto: Matthew Rose. Conductor: Constantinos Carydis. Director: Francesca Zambello. Revival Director: Bárbara Lluch. Designs: Maria Björnson. Lighting: Paul Pyant. Fight arranger: Natalie Dakin. Original choreography: Stephen Mear. Revival choreographer: Duncan Macfarland. Royal Opera House, London, 16th February 2012.

Above: Erwin Schrott as Don Giovanni

Photos © ROH 2012 / Mike Hoban

 

DON-GIOVANNI-10155_0224.gifAlex Esposito as Leporello

Schrott exudes charisma, which gives him an advantage not every singer can muster, for Don Giovanni is a larger-than-life personality who needs to be expressed in the grand manner. It’s pointless to nitpick a portrayal as passionate as this. Schrott creates Don Giovanni in all his malevolent glory — virile, confident, arrogant. bursting with animal sexuality, yet manages to hint at the manic obsession that drives the character. Schrott hints at these fears in brief, quieter moments, and slips back into macho mode with increased vehemence. Stunning. To match the well-toned voice he also has a well-toned body. At last, director Francesca Zambello’s bizarre idea that Don Giovanni should dine semi-naked with the Commendatore makes a little sense. You’re hypnotized by Schrott’s biceps and pecs, and forget, for a moment, how silly it is that he should be costumed like this for a banquet that he knows will be the biggest confrontation in his life.

DON-GIOVANNI-10155_0602.gifCarmella Remigio as Donna Anna and Pavol Breslik as Don Ottavio

Schrott is brilliant but even he has to work within the limitations of Zambello’s brainless staging and untypically leaden playing from the Royal Opera House Orchestra, conducted by Constantinos Carydis. Also the more reason in this production to appreciate the efforts of the singers, who rise above what they have to deal with. Leporello, for example, should give Don Giovanni a run for his money. He’s a servant, but not entirely subservient. He’s also to some extent culpable for Don Giovanni’s crimes. But in Zambello’s production, he’s portrayed as a buffoon, even more peasant-like than Masetto’s peasant friends. Why would a sophisticate like Don Giovanni hire someone this bucolic? Nobody could possibly be fooled by this servant in his master’s clothes. So the production plays against anything Alex Esposito might make of the role. He sang in the 2008 version of this production, and has done the part many times, so he should have been aware how the production takes the bite out of whatever Mozart and da Ponte may have meant it to be.

Ruxandra Donose is a fiery Latin Donna Elvira, with a spirited edge When Donna Elvira sets out to confront Don Giovanni, she wears what looks like a dirty dress, hem ruched up over her calves in a way no aristocratic lady would dare to be seen. It’s probably not the way to play power games with Don Giovanni, master of intrigue, but Donna Elvira is no strategist. Donose’s “Mi tradi” takes on a wild air, expressing Donna Elvira’s emotional trauma. Donose has a very strong background in French repertoire, so imbibes its values of intelligence and clarity. This enhances her feel for the fundamental elegance of Mozart’s style, even in an opera which should be as dangerous as Don Giovanni.

DON-GIOVANNI-10155_0675.gifKate Lindsey as Zerlina and Matthew Rose as Masetto

Carmela Remigio was making her Royal Opera House debut as Donna Anna, though she’s taken the part of Donna Elvira many times (Please read this interview in which she speaks about the challenges). She specializes in 18th century opera, so brings a late baroque sensibility to what she does. She’s far closer to the spirit of Mozart than this maudlin production deserves. She sings with tight focus, suggesting Donna Anna’s tension, struggling with feelings she can’t articulate. Her sexuality is aroused, but she’s trapped by what society expects of her.

Fortunately, Pavol Breslik’s Don Ottavio is sensitively portrayed and sung with more authority than the role usually gets. Donna Anna might luck out, after all. Breslik’s tender “O mio tresoro” was interrupted by the loudest snort I’ve ever heard from any audience. I don’t condemn coughing as it’s involuntary, but it’s not funny to choose to blow one’s nose with such violence at this point. It sounded like a boo, and was not at all fair on the singer.

Throughout this opera, Mozart plays with the idea of identity switchers, expressed through the balance of voice types. Kate Lindsey’s Zerlina was pert and bright, almost strident, but a good foil for Matthew Rose’s deep, authoritative Masetto. Inspired casting! (Click here for an interview of Kate Lindsey.) Rose’s Masetto is big in every way, not simply because he’s so tall : this is a resonant voice, one can imagine him taking on Don Giovanni, at a stretch, and certainly the Commendatore. As for the Commendatore he was hardly present at all. Instead, a huge golden object kept swaying in the background, eventually revealing itself as a giant hand, its finger pointing at Don Giovanni. One of the truly horrific moments in the whole repertoire, reduced to something out of Monty Python, worse still prettified and shiny. Whatever Reinhard Hagen might have done with his role, he was completely upstaged, for no obvious dramatic or logical reason whatsoever.

DON-GIOVANNI-10156_0548.gifReinhard Hagen as Commendatore and Erwin Schrott as Don Giovanni

Judging from the audience reaction, this Don Giovanni should be a great hit, though not necessarily for the best artistic reasons. Many burst out laughing at the subtitles, as if to prove they got the joke. Yet if they really know the opera, they’d know it’s not a comedy. Its wit is savage irony, for the story is essentially tragic. Don Giovanni’s sex addiction is a sign of weakness, a symptom of the corruption of a power structure held together by exploitation. In this world of peasants and aristocrats, everyone gets screwed. Instead, Zambello’s production ignores these fundamentals, and plays up irrelevancies like the Madonna, crucifixes and the random objects Masetto’s friends carry for no clear purpose. This trivializes the drama by introducing an inordinate amount of stage noise, further encouraging new audiences to think of Don Giovanni as merry slapstick. This is Regie-opera at its worst, but because it’s scenic, those who don’t like directors will be fooled. So thank goodness for the singers in this cast, who have salvaged what they can, and used their experience and instincts to present a wonderful evening of song. For the singers, and for Erwin Schrott, this production should not be missed. (It runs to 29th February)

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):