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

Matthias Goerne and Seong-Jin Cho at Wigmore Hall

Is it possible, I wonder, to have too much of a ‘good thing’? Baritone Matthias Goerne can spin an extended vocal line and float a lyrical pianissimo with an unrivalled beauty that astonishes no matter how many times one hears and admires the evenness of line, the controlled legato, the tenderness of tone.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis

Madness - or perhaps, more widely, insanity - in opera goes back centuries. In Handel’s Orlando (1733) it’s the dimension of a character’s jealousy and betrayal that drives him to the state of delusion and madness. Mozart, in Idomeneo, treats Electra’s descent into mania in a more hostile and despairing way. Foucault would probably define these episodic operatic breakdowns as “melancholic”, ones in which the characters are powerless rather than driven by acts of personal violence or suicide.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Patricia Petibon as Susanna, Malin Byström as the Countess and Kate Lindsey as Cherubino [Photo by Pascal Victor / Artcomart, courtesy of the Aix Festival]
18 Jul 2012

Le Nozze di Figaro in Aix-en-Provence

You pay your money, you takes your chances — that is festival life at its best. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. The fun is in the risk, so the riskier the better.

W. A. Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

Almaviva: Paulo Szot; Countess: Malin Byström; Susanna: Patricia Petibon; Figaro: Kyle Ketelsen; Cherubino: Kate Lindsey; Marcellina: Anna Maria Panzarella; Bartolo: Mario Luperi; Basilio: John Graham-Hall; Don Curzio: Emanuele Giannino; Barbarina: Mari Eriksmoen; Antonio: René Schirrer. Orchestre: Le Cercle de l’Harmonie; Chorus: Les Arts Florissants. Conductor: Jérémie Rhorer; Mise en scène: Richard Brunel; Dramaturg: Catherine Ailloud-Nicolas; Scenery: Chantal Thomas; Costumes: Axel Aust; Lighting: Dominique Borrini. Archevêché Théâtre, Aix-en-Provence. (July 7, 2012)

Above: Patricia Petibon as Susanna, Malin Byström as the Countess and Kate Lindsey as Cherubino

Photos © Pascal Victor / Artcomart, courtesy of the Aix Festival

 

Yes, it was risky indeed for the Festival’s umpteenth production of Le Nozze di Figaro by the Festival’s signature composer, W.A. Mozart (that’s Mose-art in French by the way). Richard Brunel, director of the Comédie de Valence (a small city south of Lyon), re-conceived Beaumarchais’ testy little comedy to take place in a contemporary notaire’s office, or maybe it was an avocat’s office or some sort of corporate office where Barbarina was the receptionist (it was confusing), with grand doors embedded into the stage left wall leading into, we later learned, a large room with two sewing machines.

LE-NOZZE442-Acte-2,-Kate-Li.gifKate Lindsey as Cherubino

It seems that there was to be an office wedding with Susanna and Marcellina arguing who was going to wear the wedding veil (Via, resti servita), a long white filmy thing that was on stage most of the opera. The count, who was a lawyer or something, sometimes brought his dog to the office as if he had just been hunting and still had his gun with him. His dog was really smart and sniffed out the door behind which Cherubino was hiding and guarded it while the Count, strangely lacking janitorial staff, went to get some tools. Later when things got out-of-hand between the Count and Countess the dog barked in just the right place, the only moment he could get a bark in.

A court room appeared on stage right, abutting the count’s office. Everyone soon gathered for various reasons and then the Countess wandered in too and sang her Dove sono (translation: Where am I?). In the end the Countess wore a wedding gown to disguise herself as Susanna, and Susanna wore black with a high grey turban to hide the Countess’ long blond hair (we had been amazed earlier by this strange coiffure on the Countess ). The sterile (no plants) garden seemed to be behind some featureless house in a French banlieue (suburb) parts of which kept sliding eerily about the stage making everyone even sleepier (it was 1:30 AM by then).

LE-NOZZE431-Acte-1,-Patrici.gifPatricia Petibon as Susanna, Kyle Ketelsen as Figaro and Paolo Szot as the Count

The curtain fell (well, a large flat thing slowly descended) and when it rose for the artists to take their bows the star of the show appeared alone on the stage. Yes! The dog.

Some very good singers then made their way onto the stage to accept applause. Figaro, American baritone Kyle Ketelson, of course had the final bow. Mr. Ketelsen had a huge success two years ago in Aix as Don Giovanni’s cheeky sidekick, a very physical Leporello. He is a vivid performer who projects text to perfection but dressed in a suit and tie his cheek did not find character in Figaro. The biggest ovation went to Cherubino, American mezzo Kate Lindsay, dressed in a suit and tie who fussed with the Countess’ bra (the libretto says ribbon) and sang breathlessly making Mozart’s young lover quite fun and real.

Brazilian baritone Paolo Szot who was to have appeared in Aix’s Nose but did not was the Count. Mr. Szot has a quite beautiful voice, beautifully used. He is often strangely type miscast in big houses (because he is South American i.e. latin) as Escamillo in spite of a soft, pretty presence. He did not read as a bonafide sexual predator, and made Almaviva seem even sympathetic and misunderstood in his garden escapade.

LE-NOZZE4131-Acte-4,-John-G.gifJohn Graham-Hall as Basilio, Mari Eriksmoen as Barbarina, Kyle Ketelsen as Figaro and Patricia Petibon as Susanna

These were the big house singers. Things got risky with French soprano Patricia Petibon as Susanna and Swedish soprano Malin Byström as the Countess. Mlle. Petibon gave Susanna a quite saucy “ina” (Zerlina, Despina) character in a quite smokey voice that precluded any text projection. At first it seemed Mlle. Byström might be a Swedish dramatic soprano in training, but it became apparent that she is a lovely, quite beautiful singer who does not project strong character. Both women boast important credits in early music so perhaps the attributes that made their performances pale on the Archevêché stage are valuable in other circumstances. The singers in the supporting character roles were swallowed up in the concept.

The evening’s conceit seems to have been to juxtapose hard edge contemporary dramaturgy and design with real, old, decorative music, a conceit that in some circumstances might spawn better results. The risky orchestra in Aix was Le Cercle de l’Harmonie, a group based in Deauville (Normandy) led by violinist/conductor Jérémie Rhorer, a protégé of William Christie. This orchestra has been specifically built to perform the music of the late 18th century (i.e. Mozart and Hadyn). As it was from row M in the Archevêché the music seemed long ago and far away, a bit like an old reed organ without sufficient air supply. Conductor Rhorer’s tempi seemed appropriate for the occasion.

Maybe you had to be French.

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):