Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Dimitri Platanias as Rigoletto [Photo © ROH 2012 / Johan Persson]
12 Apr 2012

International HD Broadcast of Rigoletto by Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House started doing opera and ballet broadcasts before many other houses, and is now expanding its schedule. On April 17th, Verdi’s Rigoletto is being streamed live in over 600 cinemas in 21 countries.

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Rigoletto: Dimitri Platanias; Gilda: Ekaterina Siurina; Duke of Mantua: Vittorio Grigolo; Matteo Borsa: Pablo Bemsch; Count Ceprano: Jihoon Kim; Countess Ceprano: Susana Gaspar; Marullo: ZhengZhong Zhou; Count Monterone: Gianfranco Montresor; Giovanna: Elizabeth Sikora; Page: Andrea Hazell; Court Usher: Nigel Cliffe; Maddalena: Christine Rice. Royal Opera Chorus. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Conductor John Eliot Gardiner. Stage Director David McVicar. Royal Opera House, London.

Above: Dimitri Platanias as Rigoletto [Photo © ROH 2012 / Johan Persson]

 

This Rigoletto is the well-known David McVicar production from 2001, but this time the conductor is John Eliot Gardiner. He’s one of the great specialists in baroque and early music. This was not his first Verdi opera, but his first Rigoletto, so he was an inspired choice as conductor. Yet those who know period instrument practice know how rambunctious it can be. Gardiner’s Rigoletto is vigorous, capturing the turbulence of the Renaissance.

Be shocked by the licentiousness you see in the First Act. But McVicar’s not out to titillate, but to make us feel revulsion. For the Duke of Mantua, sex is a weapon, like any other abuse of power. We’re not supposed to approve. Listen to how Gardiner’s tight, disciplined approach challenges the depravity of this Court. At the first performance in this run (review here), Gardiner showed how Verdi builds moral purpose into the orchestra. Gardiner’s strong sense of structure, which undercuts any attempt at sentimentality. Listen out for small details, such as when flutes cut through the broad swath of strings. Small, individual voices that stand up to the mass. Gilda is powerless, but proves to be the most heroic person of all. Verdi tells us this even before she makes her sacrifice. Gardiner’s period background also shows in the way horns, trombones and cimbasso can be used to create 16th century colour even if the instruments are modern. This is a Rigoletto to listen to, as pure music.

Vittorio Grigolo sings the Duke of Mantua. He, too, is a good reason for catching this broadcast, as the emphasis on the Duke, rather than on Rigoletto brings out deeper perspectives on the role and on the opera. Grigolo and Gardiner contrast extremely well, one taunting the other, as should be, in this highly principled interpretation.

Grigolo makes an impact the moment he enters. “Questa o quella” is thrown like a gauntlet. Grigolo has the showmanship to create the Duke, strutting with arrogant machismo. The Duke luxuriates in his flashy image, and Grigolo glories in the flamboyance of his singing. This is no defect, but an accurate reading of the role. Grigolo’s Duke swaggers, for it’s his way of keeping control, of the courtiers and perhaps, of himself. There’s no room for subtlety. Thus, when the Duke falls for Gilda, it’s even more poignant when he almost reveals his inner fragility.

It’s then when Grigolo shows the depth of his characterization. With Gilda, he can play the man he might have been had he not been born to a crown. The duet with Gilda is genuinely tender. In “Ella mi fu rapita”, Grigolo lets the Duke’s mask drop for a moment, singing with genuine tenderness. In many ways this is the heart of the opera for it touches on the Duke’s inner psyche. Yet it’s not something the Duke can be comfortable with. Significantly, Verdi keeps cutting “La donna è mobile” so the sections don’t connect. Gardiner emphasizes the disjoint, for by this stage, the Duke is back to his old tricks, morally disintegrating once more. Grigolo’s voice gradually fades, for now the Duke is running away, blaming everyone but himself. Grigolo is a consummate actor and creates the part better than he’ll get credit for. The problem is that the Duke himself isn’t sympathetic and is a difficult character to portray.

Ekaterina Siurina sings Gilda with great personality, and Dimirtri Platanias sings Rigoletto. American audiences may recognize Matthew Rose, who sings Sparafucile, and ihas appeared at the Met, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Houston and at the Mostly Mozart series in New York. He’s very unusual in that he’s a British singer whose career took off in the United States. This gives him a unique perspective.

Discovered by the British baritone Benjamin Luxon, Rose won a place at the Curtis Istitute and received his early training in Philadelphia. Because the opera faculty at Curtis is compact, unlike London, a singer gets more intensive experience at a fairly early stage. “It was wonderful”, says Rose, because he was able to sing good roles with well established singers. “It was like being on a top football team. When you’re working with stars, it raises your own game”.

Rose speaks of Curtis fondly, but decided to return to Britain where he started again as a Young Artist at the Royal Opera House. Moving back to Europe expanded his repertoire. He made his Royal Opera House debut in 2003 and is also a regular at Glyndebourne. He’s enterprising, too, and runs a music festival in Sussex and plans a Britten series in Berlin next year. He’s worked with the Britten-Pears Foundation. He’s also very experienced in oratorio, and has worked with John Eliot Gardiner many times.

Watch how Rose sings Sparafucile. He’s imposing. While the Duke of Mantua is immoral, Sparafucile is amoral. Rose doesn’t need to invest the part with histrionics. To Sparafucile, murder is a business transaction without emotional meaning. Rose’s detachment is chilling in itself. In his exchanges with Christine Rice’s Maddalena, Rose’s sibilants cut with suppressed sexual violence. They’re not “brother and sister” in the modern sense of the term, but pimp and whore. Rose makes you wonder how Sparafucile came to be who he is. He’s brutal, but is it personality or circumstance?

More people will experience opera on film than will ever attend live performances, so film is an essential part of the business. Filming opera is an art in itself. Whoever directs a film of an opera needs to understand the opera, and also how the cast, production and music express its meaning. Film is the next frontier. Kaspar Holten, the new Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House, is a movie buff as well as an opera professional, and directed his Juan (see the review in Opera Today here). But that was a film for it’s own sake, not a film of the opera as such. By far the majority of filmed operas will be attempts to capture live performance as it happens in the theatre. Good opera filming is a skill that requires musical knowledge as well as film technique, and above all, sensitive response to relevant detail. Fortunately, the Royal Opera House has the resources and commitment to do it well. For more information, please see this link to the Royal Opera House cinema page.

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):