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

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Hibiki: a European premiere by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Proms

Hibiki: sound, noise, echo, reverberation, harmony. Commissioned by the Suntory Hall in Tokyo to celebrate the Hall’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 50-minute Hibiki, for two female soloists, children’s chorus and large orchestra, purports to reflect on the ‘human reverberations’ of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 and the devastation caused by the subsequent tsunami and radioactive disaster.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

Janáček: The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Grimeborn

A great performance of Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared can be, allowing for the casting of a superb tenor, an experience on a par with Schoenberg’s Erwartung. That Shadwell Opera’s minimalist, but powerful, staging in the intimate setting of Studio 2 of the Arcola Theatre was a triumph was in no small measure to the magnificent singing of the tenor, Sam Furness.

Khovanshchina: Mussorgsky at the Proms

Remembering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this Proms performance of Mussorgsky’s mighty Khovanshchina (all four and a quarter hours of it) exceeded all expectations on a musical level. And, while the trademark doorstop Proms opera programme duly arrived containing full text and translation, one should celebrate the fact that - finally - we had surtitles on several screens.

Santa Fe: Entertaining If Not Exactly (R)evolutionary

You know what I loved best about Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?

Longborough Young Artists in London: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

For the last three years, Longborough Festival Opera’s repertoire of choice for their Young Artist Programme productions has been Baroque opera seria, more specifically Handel, with last year’s Alcina succeeding Rinaldo in 2014 and Xerxes in 2015.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Full-throated Cockerel at Santa Fe

A tale of a lazy, befuddled world leader that ‘has no clothes on’ and his two dimwit sons, hmmmm, what does that remind me of. . .?

Santa Fe’s Trippy Handel

If you don’t like a given moment in Santa Fe Opera’s staging of Alcina, well, just like the volatile mountain weather, wait two minutes and it will surely change.

Santa Fe’s Crowd-Pleasing Strauss

With Die Fledermaus’ thrice familiar overture still lingering in our ears, it didn’t take long for the assault of hijinks to reduce the audience into guffaws of delight.

Santa Fe: Mad for Lucia

If there is any practitioner currently singing the punishing title role of Lucia di Lammermoor better than Brenda Rae, I am hard-pressed to name her.

Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen at Grimeborn

Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can be a difficult opera to stage, despite its charm and simplicity. In part it is a good, old-fashioned morality tale about the relationships between humans and animals, and between themselves, but Janáček doesn’t use a sledgehammer to make this point. It is easy for many productions to fall into parody, and many have done, and it is a tribute to The Opera Company’s staging of this work at the Arcola Theatre that they narrowly avoided this pitfall.

Handel's Israel in Egypt at the Proms: William Christie and the OAE

For all its extreme popularity with choirs, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt is a somewhat problematic work; the scarcity of solos makes hiring professional soloists an extravagant expense, and the standard version of the work starts oddly with a tenor recitative. If we return to the work's history then these issues are put into context, and this is what William Christie did for the performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 1 August 2017.

Sirens and Scheherazade: Prom 18

From Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, to Bruch’s choral-orchestral Odysseus, to Fauré’s Penelope, countless compositions have taken their inspiration from Homer’s Odyssey, perhaps not surprisingly given Homer’s emphasis on the power of music in the Greek world.

Discovering Gounod’s Cinq Mars: Another Rarity Success for Oper Leipzig

Oper Leipzig usually receives less international attention than its Dresden, Munich or Berlin counterparts; however, with its fabulous Gewandhaus Orchestra, and its penchant for opera rarities (and a new Ring Cycle), this quality hotspot will be attracting more and more opera lovers. Leipzig’s new production of Gounod’s Cinq Mars continues this high quality tradition.

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A new La clemenza di Tito at Glyndebourne

Big birds are looming large at Glyndebourne this year. After Juno’s Peacock, which scooped up the suicidal Hipermestra, Chris Guth’s La clemenza di Tito offers us a huge soaring magpie, symbolic of Tito’s release from the chains of responsibility in Imperial Rome.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Sophie Bevan as Donna Elvira, Grant Doyle as Don Giovanni and Joshua Bloom as Leporello [ Photo by Mike Hoban courtesy of Garsington Opera at Wormsley]
09 Jun 2012

Don Giovanni, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

The pavilion at Garsington Opera at Wormsley is stunningly beautiful. Just being there is an experience, which is why the social aspect is so rewarding.

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni: Grant Doyle; Leporello: Joshua Bloom; Donna Anna: Natasha Jouhl; The Commendatore: Christophoros Stamboglis; Don Ottavio: Jesus Leon; Donna Elvira: Sophie Bevan; Zerlina: Mary Bevan; Masetto: Callum Thorpe. Conductor: Douglas Boyd. Director: Daniel Slater. Designer: Leslie Travers. Lighting: Bruno Poet. Garsington Opera at Wormsley, 4th June 2012.

Above: Sophie Bevan as Donna Elvira, Grant Doyle as Don Giovanni and Joshua Bloom as Leporello

Photos by Mike Hoban courtesy of Garsington Opera at Wormsley

 

But regular patrons can do bland, corporate affairs any time. They come to Wormsley because they care about opera. This new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni has a lot to offer to those who pay attention.

The Wormsley Pavilion is a wonder of translucent glass and gleaming metal. It inspires the set design by Leslie Travers. Simple, clean cut lines, stylish elegance. If Don Giovanni were alive today, he’d live in designer surroundings like this. He fits life into compartments, which the “boxes” in this set reflect. But as we know, things go awry. Under this surface glamour lurks something very nasty. Don Giovanni (Grant Doyle) and Donna Anna (Natasha Jouhl) act out bondage games. Naturally, she doesn’t want her father to know. She cuts Don Giovanni from his handcuffs, and he stabs the Commendatore (Christophoros Stamboglis). It’s not a conventional reading but valid. Don Giovanni gets his kicks from seduction, not rape in the modern sense, and those around him are complicit. Besides, Donna Anna’s feelings are conflicted. Her Don Ottavio (Jesús León) is rather alluring and comes over as real match for her. When they masquerade, she wears dominatrix, he dresses as muzzled dog, which expresses much about their relationship.

Because Garsington Opera uses relatively young singers, the production is energetic. Boyle’s Don Giovanni is quick on his feet (as is the character). Joshua Bloom’s Leporello radiates physical presence. Interesting voice, with good colour and range — definitely a future Don Giovanni. When Bloom sings the catalogue aria, he snaps out statistics rapid fire. He prints off a spreadsheet, and reams of paper fill the stage. Donna Elvira (Sophie Bevan) is dumbstruck.

While Natasha Jouhl’s Donna Anna is svelte and sung with richly controlled poise, Bevan’s Donna Elvira is more earthy, even endearing. This brings out the social commentary in the opera. Donna Anna’s is more posh, but she is trapped by her rank in society. She has too much to lose. Donna Elvira on the other hand, seems to be able to roam freely in pursuit of Don Giovanni and declare her feelings openly. Zerlina (Mary Bevan) is “a bit of rough”. Her wedding dress is more showgirl than country virgin, because she has aspirations. Think footballer’s wives weddings. She wants more than the underclass which Masetto (Callum Thorpe) represents, but she puts up with his violence because she has no option. Or perhaps, like a dirtier version of Donna Anna, because something in her draws her to the dark side Don Giovanni offers. Massetto and the villagers sing and move well. You can sense that this lot could riot and wreck Don Giovanni’s spotless cocoon of a penthouse, of they had a chance.

DonGiovanni_Garsington2012_004.gifMary Bevan as Zerlina and Callum Thorpe as Masetto

But retribution strikes when the Stone Guest comes to dinner. A corpse resembling the Commendatore is wheeled in on a hospital table. This looks much more like a marble statue than some depictions, and close to text. The inscription is written on a tag. While Don Giovanni and Leporello examine the corpse, a voice booms out from high above the stage, as Stamboglis sings. They can’t see him, but we can. Wonderfully surreal. We don’t need to see Don Giovanni literally dragged down to hell. He drops dead and falls into the same wheelchair with which the Commendatore’s body was removed at the start of the opera. Perfect symmetry. More controversially, Donna Anna caresses Don Giovanni’s corpse. Her emotions are complex. This implies more than a simple happy ending. The Edition used in this production is Barenreiter-Kassel, edited by Wolfgang Plath and Wolfgang Rehm.

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):