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

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Extravagant Line-up 2017-18 at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany

The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus

The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

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

Rigoletto, Royal Opera House

How would a period instrument specialist like John Eliot Gardiner approach Rigoletto, Verdi’s sordid tale? This was his first Rigoletto (though not his first Verdi); but he created it with great insight.

Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto

Duke of Mantua: Vittorio Grigolo; Matteo Borsa: Pablo Nemsch; Count Ceprano: Jihoon Kim; Countess Ceprano: Susana Gaspar; Rigoletto: Dimitri Platanias; Marullo: Zhengzhong Zhou; Count Monterone: Gianfranco Montresor; Sparaficule: Matthew Rose; Gilda n: Ekaterina Siurina; Giovanna: Elizabeth Sikora; Page: Andrea Hazell; 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, 30th March 2012.

Above: Dimitri Platanias as Rigoletto

Photos © ROH 2012 / Johan Persson

 

There’s a lot to be learned from period practice, and anyone who knows it well knows how rambunctious it can be. Gardiner knows the Renaissance was violent. Verdi isn’t sentimental and the court at Mantua was cruel. This was historically-informed practice adapted to repertoire often milked for lush effect. Gardiner’s vigorous approach might not appeal to all, but it’s extremely perceptive. He makes Rigoletto raw and shocking, as it should be.

Rigoletto_ROH_2012_02.gifEkaterina Siurina as Gilda

David McVicar’s 2001 production is bleak. The ducal palace is evoked by a metallic wall — shiny but hard. Michael Vale, the designer, uses a large wooden structure that pivots like the twists in the plot, but the focus remains on the cast. Vocal performances take their cue from Gardiner and McVicar. Vittorio Grigolo bursts onto the stage in full throttle. “Questa o quella” is thrown like a gauntlet. The Duke doesn’t brook challenge. Grigolo has the power and showmanship to create the Duke, bursting with arrogant machismo. Like the Duke, he’s a force unto himself. The courtiers are a mob for whom subtlety means nothing. Grigolo’s Duke uses swagger as a weapon. The Duke’s brutishness come over well, moments of decorative richness adding a touch of devious artifice, totally in keeping with character.

Rigoletto_ROH_2012_06.gifVittorio Grigolo as Duke of Mantua

Yet Grigolo also manages to suggest the Duke’s inner fragility. 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 let 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. 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 again. Grigolo is a consummate actor and creates the part with more depth than he’ll get credit for. The problem is that the Duke himself is hard to pin down.

There have been so many great Rigolettos over the years that Dimitri Platanias has a lot to live up to. This was his Covent Garden debut, though he has done the role many times elsewhere. McVicar’s concept has Rigoletto crawling like a broken spider, which is perfectly valid. Platanias is physically imposing, with a voice to match, so a different concept would perhaps suit him better. Platanias does Rigoletto’s anger rather than his anguish. His dialogues with Gilda show Rigoletto’s fatherly side, but don’t access the demented, tortured soul within. Nonetheless, he’s a good counterbalance to Grigolo’s Duke and to Matthew Rose’s Sparafucile, sung with the power of an amoral force of nature. 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.

Rigoletto_ROH_2012_07.gifDimitri Platanias as Rigoletto and Ekaterina Siurina as Gilda

Ekaterina Siurina is an impeccable Gilda. It’s her signature role with which she debuted with Dmitri Hvorostovsky at the age of nineteen. A beautifully rounded, sensual “Caro nome” expresses the passion in Gilda’s personality, making her love for the Duke perfectly plausible. Gilda is too sheltered to articulate her feelings, but her instincts burst forth. Siurina’s clear, ringing timbre and perfect pitch make the long cadenzas bloom with promise, expressing emotions that words can’t convey. This intensity makes her sacrifice believable too. When Siurina appears dressed as a boy, her voice glows with purpose, for she’s found a way to fulfill her love in a sacrifice only a cloistered Catholic innocent might chose. Ironically, Rigoletto loses his child because she’s been brainwashed by her upbringing.

This was an extremely rewarding Rigoletto because it cuts past surface glamour and goes to the visceral drama.

The performance on 17th April will be broadcast live internationally in HD cinemas.

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):