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

Guillaume Tell, Covent Garden

It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

Cosi fan tutte, Garsington Opera

Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.

The Queen of Spades, ENO

Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Leoš Janáček [Source: Wikipedia]
12 Aug 2012

The Makropulos Case at Edinburgh International Festival

The Edinburgh International Festival, in partnership with Opera North, presented Janáček’s The Makropulos Case at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.

Leoš Janáček: The Makropulos Case

Vitek: Mark le Broq, Albert Grego: Paul Nilon, Kristina: Stephanie Korley, Dr Kolenaty: James Cresswel, Emila Marty (E.M.): Yiva Kihlberg, Baron Prus: Robert Hayward, Cleaner: Sarah Pring, Technician: Matthew Hargreaves, Janek Prus : Adrian Dwyer, Count Hauk-Sendorf: Nigel Robson, Chambermaid: Rebecca Afonwy-Jones. Other roles: Stephen Briggs, Gabriel Keogh, Ricky Morrell, Jeremy Peaker, Arwel Price, Andrew Squires. Conductor: Richard Farnes, Director: Tom Cairns, Set and costume designer: Hildegard Bechtler, Lighting designer: Bruno Poet

Edinburgh International Festival, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 11th August 2012

Above: Leoš Janáček [Source: Wikipedia]

 

The plot concerns a long-running legal dispute over inheritance where the will is missing. The case has dragged on for more than 300 years, long after the initial claimants have died. Or not, as the Case might be. The law office scene has a strong element of dramatic tension, albeit perhaps at a slow pace, and this is not unpromising for an opera. It might however perhaps seem potentially rather dry and lacking in emotional content. But the desiccation is deliberate, suggesting centuries of pointless litigation. A mysterious diva, Emilia Marty, appears in town, transfixing all males who cross her path. In addition to her spell-binding powers, she appears to have mysterious knowledge of the matters of the case, to the consternation of the male company. Played out is a contrast between masculinity and femininity; logic and intuition; the tangible and the supernatural.

Only in the final (third) act is this resolved: the mystery woman has uncanny personal knowledge of the events which others are having to piece together from documents. She is the same woman, who has been involved since the beginning, travelling through time in different incarnations under variants of her initials "E M" . She became immortal because in her youth she drank an elixir of (almost) eternal youth devised by her father, which she had given to the original testator. The recipe for the elixir had been wrapped inside the will of her long ago lover, but only she knows the location. Until now, it's been considered missing or non-existent.

Having regained the means to renew extended life, she chooses to reject it, having 'seen enough'. Eternity isn't all it's cracked up to be. In a dramatic final scene, she ages visibly on stage - lit and staged very well in this production - before expiring. The message that life is best lived out within its naturally allocated span is in fact life affirming and this enjoyable show leaves the audience walking out of the theatre on air.

The multi-talented Swedish singer Yiva Kihlberg excels in the central role of Emilia Marty in this her debut with Opera North. Her first entry onstage, dressed in a wasp-waisted suit with Margaret Thatcher-style handbag recalls not only Thatcher but a young Elizabeth Taylor - a useful analogy for the audience. A 1940s styled simple set enables the stage to become in turn a law office; backstage at a theatre and finally a hotel bedroom. It is effective without being distracting and should tour well. Paul Nilon sings a strong Albert Gregor. Mark Le Broq is also very good as Vitek, the head clerk of the law firm. Nigel Robson is delightfully raffish as Count Hauk Sendorff.

This production is thoroughly enjoyable and would in fact make a good introduction to audiences new to opera, especially those that might fear "modern" opera. Janáček's The Makropulos Case dates from 1926, so it's olderr than most patrons, unless they, too, have Emilia Marty's secret. This production was presented in English translation, and the singing was clear and easy to follow. Janáček's music is accessible and vivid, and this performance, conducted by Richard Farnes, demonstrated why this opera has become a classic. Catch it in Edinburgh if you can - there are further performances tonight and tomorrow - or on tour this autumn, details at www.operanorth.co.uk.

Juliet Williams

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):