Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Adriana Lecouvreur Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.

Rossini is Alive and Well and Living in Iowa

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Gergiev : Janáček Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Eleanor Laugharne as Tytania and Barnaby Rea as Bottom [Photo by Clive Barda courtesy of Guildhall School of Music and Drama]
01 Mar 2012

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, GSMD

There were high hopes for the 2012 debut production of A Midummer Night’s Dream by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s Opera programme .

Benjamin Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Oberon: Tom Verny; Tytania: Eleanor Laugharne; Puck: Alexander Knox; Lysander : Stuart Laing; Hermia: Kathryn McAdam; Demetrius: Ashley Riches; Helena: Sky Ingram; Quince: James Platt; Snug: Joseph Padfield; Starveling: Hadleigh Adams; Flute: Jorge Navarro-Colorado; Snout: Luis Gomes; Bottom: Barnaby Rea; Theseus: Ciprian Droma; Hippolyta: Catherine Backhouse; Peaseblossom: Alba Bosch Teixidor; Cobweb: Faustine de Mones; Moth: Iria Perestrelo; Mustardseed: Laura Ruhi Vidal. Conductor: Stephen Barlow. Director: Martin Lloyd-Evans. Designer: Dick Bird. Lighting designer: Simon Corder. Choreograher: Victoria Newlyn. Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Barbican Theatre, London, 28th February 2012.

Above: Eleanor Laugharne as Tytania and Barnaby Rea as Bottom

Photos by Clive Barda courtesy of Guildhall School of Music and Drama

 

Instead of the usual cramped GSMD theatre, this took place in the Barbican Theatre, which allows much more scope for ambitious work, and training in theatre skills, part of the GSMD brief. At the Barbican, young artists of the future have a bigger platform in every way.

A magical effect to begin with. The mechanical curtain was imaginatively clothed in sparkling metal strips. Then, the set revealed a dormitory, perhaps some spartan public school whose fees don’t cover humane accommodation for the inmates. Fair enough, for Britten was traumatized at boarding school, and his music retraces lost innocence over and over again. Then in come the lovers, Demetrius, Lysander, Hermia and Helena appear in 1940’s military garb. Later, Bottom awakes in a bed suspended above the stage. If these images seem familiar, they’re derived. like collage, from several recent professional productions including the ENO, Garsington Opera and Glyndebourne. That’s not in itself a problem, since GSMD students are there to learn.

Perhaps this production was a collaborative effort, involving as many students as possible in the process, but Director Martin Lloyd-Evans might have exerted tighter editorial control to ensure a coherent vision. There are many levels in Shakespeare and in Britten, so A Midsummer Night’s Dream provides wonderful opportunities for young directors and designers to engage with many ideas. This time, though, everyone seemed to be playing safe. The designs (Dick Bird) don’t suggest that much thought has been put into the production. GSMD students are capable of very good work indeed. Read here about their production of Dialogues des Carmélites last year That was outstanding, and would have done credit to a professional house.

When the energy of the cast is engaged, however, there are excellent moments. The mechanicals, in particular, moved precisely, as if in a chorus line, each man perfectly synchronised, arms askew. (Movement by Victoria Newlyn). Very impressive, but individual personalities are not well defined. Not even Bottom, whom Shakespeare singles out for special treatment. It’s a wonderful role, which Barnaby Rea sang well but wasn’t called upon to develop theatrically. The lovers were well done, Ashley Riches’s distinctive voice instantly recognizable, even in anonymous uniform. We need good countertenors and Tom Verney’s Oberon had imposing presence. He’s very young so could well develop an interesting profile. Good singing from the choruses, particularly the quartet of fairies, who were vivacious and well blocked. Given the high calibre of GSMD’s Technical Theatre course participants, one might have expected more imaginative special effects to create the magic the staging lacked. At the Linbury Theatre a few years ago, Puck was played by a circus artist, abseiling from wires, as if he could fly.

MND_Guildhall_02.gifSky Ingram as Helena, Stuart Laing as Lysander and Ashley Riches as Demetrius

Nonetheless, best for last. Shakespeare and Britten wrote the Mechanical’s stage play with such wit that it’s impossible not to make it effective theatre. Now each singer made his mark, each evidently enjoying himself camping up and having fun. Theseus, Hippolyta and the lovers sneer, but Shakespeare and Britten knew that amateur dramatics have quaint charm.

Anne Ozorio

MND_Guildhall_03.gifThe Mechanicals

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):