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

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

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.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Mazeppa [Monte Carlo]
04 Mar 2012

Mazeppa in Monte-Carlo

Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa is not everyday repertory, nonetheless here in the south of France the Monaco production follows fairly closely (a couple of years) on the heels of the Peter Stein Mazeppa in Lyon.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Mazeppa

Mazeppa: Tómas Tómasson; Maria: Tatiana Pavlovskaia; Kotchoubeï: Paata Burchuladze; Lioubov: Elena Manistina; Andreï: Dmitro Popov; Orlik: Gerard O’Conner; Iskra Vadim Zaplechni; Drunken Cosaque: Laurent Chauvineau. Salle Garnier. Choeur de l’Opera de Monte-Carlo. Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo. Conductor: Dmitri Jurowski. Metteur en scène: Dieter Kaegi. Scenery: Rudy Sabounghi. Costumer: David Belugou. Lights: Laurent Castaingt. (24 February 2012)

 

If Mr. Stein was preoccupied with the larger political implications of this ignoble moment of Russian history, metteur en scène Dieter Kaegi in this co-production with Opera Ireland dwells on the sordid personalities of its protagonists. Peter Stein’s Ukraine was its expanse, in Dublin and now Monaco the Ukraine became a small drawing room where a treacherous general seduces a gullible adolescent whose simple father naively tries to wreck revenge.

Peter Stein’s cast could not have descended to this basic humanity had it wanted to, but Mr. Kaegi’s cast was indeed able and maybe a bit too willing. Bass-now-baritone Tómas Tómasson made a handsome, just-graying Mazeppa whose intrinsic masculinity could not help but awaken the sensibilities of the gullible young Maria, the lithesome Tatiana Pavlovskaia.

The parents of Maria are quite comfortable, bass Paata Burchuladze was the very picture of bourgeois contentment together with mezzo Elena Manistina as his wife. Both are quite comfortable artists with fine, well used rich voices, and unobtrusive stage mannerisms. Maria’s intended, the plain, uncharismatic Andreï was Dmitro Popov who compensated with quite ample vocal charisma.

You get the idea, a great cast, all nurtured in Russian vocalism and style (though Mr. Tomasson is in fact Icelandic). Add Russian conductor Dmitri Jurowski for a clean sweep. Mo. Jurowski is perhaps a new breed of Russian conductor, all business, little pleasure in the smaller musical gestures that color Tchaikovsky’s more personal moments. The battle scenes roared, the confrontations howled, and finally Maria’s madness was relentlessly driven by the obliging Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo. The only thing lacking was poetry.

Mr. Kaegi (general director of Opera Ireland) together with designer Rudy Sabounghi and costumer David Belugou (both frequent contributors to Monte-Carlo productions) updated the action from Peter the Great’s reign to the 1930’s or so, a transposition it did not wear well. But never mind, the wigs, costumes and room furnishings were visually engaging (handsome and colorful indeed), and provided absolutely no sense of rural Ukraine in what must have been a fairly austere period (the 1930’s).

Unfortunately the supertitles, maybe faithful to Tchaikovsky’s text, often belied the staging, making a gap in the credibility of either. Like, for one example, the festive picnic at the execution of Maria’s father and the massive hammer and sickle banner that oversaw the scene. Orlik, Mazeppa’s thug aptly portrayed by Opera Ireland bass Gerard O’Conner, motivated his mutilation of Maria’s father by first shaving himself in the prison cell — evidently he just happened to have a straight razor that could have other uses.

This reduction of Mazeppa to a melodrama with all the trappings of a 1940‘s movie might have worked with a tighter theatrical technique. As it was the inconsistency of the staging with the libretto and the heavy handed use of staging leitmotifs prevented an effective realization of the concept. Mr. Tomasson’s over-acting and Mlle. Pavlovskaia’s mannered presence added a touch of soap opera caricature to production.

It was a festive evening in Monte-Carlo, the performance well appreciated by an international audience, the automotive artillery guarding the entrance to the opera house cum casino included an orange Koenigsegg CCX and a splendid vintage Mercedes Benz roadster.

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):