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 Reviews

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.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

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.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Scene from Gianni Schicchi [Photo by Stofleth courtesy of Opéra de Lyon]
08 Feb 2012

Il trittico in Lyon

All the important directors pass through Lyon, so it was just a matter of time before British director David Pountney would be invited to stage a production. It was Puccini’s triptych.

Giacomo Puccini: Il trittico

Il tabarro — Michele: Werner Van Mechelen; Giorgetta: Csilla Boross; Luigi: Thiago Arancam; La Frugola: Natascha Petrinsky; Il Tinca: Wynne Evans; Il Talpa: Paolo Battaglia.

Suor Angelica — Sister Angelica: Csilla Boross; La Tante Princesse: Natascha Petrinsky; L'Abbesse: Anna Destraël; La Soeur zélatrice: Françoise Delplanque; La Maîtresse des Novices: Wilkinson; Soeur Geneviève: Ivana Rusko; La Soeur infirmière: Elizaveta Soina; Soeur quêteuses: Ivi Karnezi and Jessie Nguenang.

Gianni Schicchi — Gianni Schicchi: Werner Van Mechelen; Lauretta: Ivana Rusko; Rinuccio: Benjamin Bernheim; Zita: Natascha Petrinsky; Gherardo: Wayne Evans; Nella: Agnes Selma Weiland; Betto: Lynton Black; Simone: Paolo Battaglia; Marco: Wolfgang Newerla; La Ciesca: Kathleen Wilkinson; Le notaire: Maxim Kuzmin-Karavaev.

Opéra Nouvel. Chorus, Orchestra and Soloists of the Studio de l'Opéra de Lyon. Conductor: Gaetano d’Espinosa; Mise en scène: David Pountney. Scenery: Johan Engels. Costumes: Marie-Jeanne Lecca. Lighting: Fabrice Kebour. February 3, 2012.

Above: Scene from Gianni Schicchi [Photo by Stofleth courtesy of Opéra de Lyon]

 

So here is the Trittico he gave the Lyonnais (note that this difficult Puccini work is three little horror stories, very loosely and ironically structured as hell, heaven and purgatory):

Mr. Pountney’s point of departure was to relate the three stories each to the next. Michele’s murder of Luigi seemed to be among the presumed serial murders of young dock workers seduced by Giorgetta, ritual killings that somehow purged their horror at the death of their young son. Sister Angelica consumes the body and blood (bread and wine) of the son of God in a sort of sacrificial black mass that excites a vision of her dead son during her final moments of life. And, well, Frugula and Talpa from Tabarro reincarnate themselves in Gianni Schicchi as Gherardo and a pregnant Nella with a baby in a carriage and an annoying seven year-old son on roller skates.

Maybe you prefer Puccini’s shock and awe versions of the same stories.

The mise en scène fortified the thematic unification. In Tabarro there was a box that was supposed to be a ship container, in Suor Angelica the same box became a tabernacle and in Gianni Schicchi it was a coffin though it had multiplied itself into many more boxes that were safes filled with boxes of spaghetti and cans of tomato sauce. Colors too brought things together conceptually. The Tabarro container was within a huge stage box of small shiny black bricks (hell). The Suor Angelica box was in a stage box cloister of small shiny white bricks, thousands of them (heaven). In Gianni Schicchi the little bricks of the visible side walls seemed the color of pasta al pomodoro.

Of the three operas Il Tabarro was the most successful for a number of reasons, the first of which was that the top of the ship container box had cables and a hook that suggested it would disappear after that act. At first there seemed no reason to think that this little théâtre guignol piece was not being taken at face value, and even Mr. Pountney’s little twist at the end seemed fun. All the nuns in Suor Angelica disappeared under identical massive white habits so they all looked exactly alike. Therefore Sister Angelica seemed to have no personality whatsoever but that did not really matter once we understood that the opera was not about her but about a play on the Catholic mass.

Things fell apart in Gianni Schicchi where Mr. Pountney displayed his sense of fun in runaway character expositions that dwarfed Puccini’s own idea of his comedy. Specifically the campy antics of a very fey Marco (son of Simone), not to mention the fellatio and cunilingus enacted by Rinuccio and Lauretta. Then there were the witnesses to the writing of the new will who upstaged the whole scene by busily and noisily eating, yes, spaghetti al pomodoro.

Even a stellar cast could not have saved this production. As it was the Opéra de Lyon assembled a number of promising young singers and a few (but not enough) seasoned performers who mostly held things together on the stage. Of particular notice was the Brazilian born, Italian nurtured tenor Thiago Arancam who allowed Luigi’s passions to burst forth with tenorial flair and dramatic reality. Hungarian soprano Csilla Boross sang securely and acted Giorgetta with conviction but did not find the ultimate rapture of Sister Angelica, victim of the production. Bass-baritone Werner Van Mechelen is an accomplished artist who made both Michele and Gianni Schicchi into vocally and dramatically vivid characters. Wynne Evans and Paolo Battaglia were appropriately cast as Tinca and Talpa, and carried age and experience to Gherardo and Simone in Gianni Schicchi.

Of notice as well was Austrian born, Israeli nurtured mezzo soprano Natasha Petrinsky who is not yet an accomplished enough artist to bring Frugola alive, nor old enough and complicated enough to impersonate Suor Angelica’s evil aunt, and not grand enough to make Zita a comic force. She is a very promising artist. Neither tenor Benjamin Bernheim nor soprano Ivana Rusko, both house singers at Zurich Opera, are sufficiently finished artists to have been asked to take on the roles of Rinuccio and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi.

Young Sicilian conductor Gaetano d’Espinosa made natural and convincing verismo in the pit, aided by the naturally harsh sound of the Opéra Nouvel and its fine orchestra. Il Tabarro was his best effort, perhaps motivated by the splendid vocal force of the principals (Mlle. Boross, messieurs Arancam and Van Mechelen). Suor Angelica too seemed driven with sensitivity and understanding though he missed reaching its emotional heights. His choice of tempi (sometimes unusually slow) in Gianni Schicchi was beyond the capabilities of his some of his young, inexperienced artists.

Michael Milenski

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):