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

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne

Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

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):