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

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

Die Frau ohne Schatten at Munich

It was fascinating to see — and of course, to hear — Krzysztof Warlikowsi’s productions of Die Gezeichneten and Die Frau ohne Schatten on consecutive nights of this year’s Munich Opera Festival.

Dulwich Opera’s Carmen

Dulwich Opera Company’s Carmen was a convincingly successful show.  This was mainly due to succinct musical direction and rigorous dramatic direction.  It also meant that the proximity of the action was a fascinating treat, and by the artists being young, and easy on the eye.

Franz Schreker: Die Gezeichneten

There is a host of fine operas out there languishing more or less unperformed (in some cases, quite unperformed). A few of them might even qualify as ‘great’. (Feel free to remove inverted commas, should that be your thing.) Franz Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, whatever its proponents might claim, is certainly not one of those: not even close.

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):