Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.

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):