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

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017 - Winner Announced

Bampton Classical Opera is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2017 Young Singers’ Competition is mezzo-soprano Emma Stannard and the runner-up is tenor Wagner Moreira. The winner of the accompanists’ prize, a new category this year, is Keval Shah.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

02 Aug 2012

Santa Fe Opera convinces : Rossini Maometto II

Santa Fe, NM : It is not unusual for Santa Fe Opera to produce little known or rarely heard operas in their enduring devotion to both unusual and ‘lost’ repertory, as well as commissioned and contemporary works. But is it unusual - very - for two such mountings in one season to be smash hits. Santa Fe lately enjoyed two such successes, graced by elevated musical and performance quality, and strong audience acceptance.

Gioachino Rossini : Maometto II

Anna: Leah Crocetto, Calbo : Patricia Bardon, Paolo: Bruce Sledge, Maometto: Luca Pisaroni, Conductor: Frédéric Chaslin, Director: David Alden, Scenic Designer :Jon Morrell, Costume Designer: Jon Morrell, Lighting Designer :Duane Schuler, Choreographer:Peggy Hickey

18th July 2012, Santa Fe Opera, NM.

 

Since founder and conductor John Crosby’s retirement in 2000, and the appointment that October of Richard Gaddes as General Director, with the subsequent assumption of those duties in 2008 by Charles MacKay, Santa Fe Opera’s musical quality and artistic values have grown impressively.

The pit orchestra has been constantly improved by such conductors as Edo de Waart and Alan Gilbert, and now by Frédéric Chaslin the current chief conductor. As a result, this season’s performances of two rare and especially challenging scores by Rossini and Szymanowski were beautifully realized by Chaslin and the young American music director Evan Rogister, showing high competence. Chaslin’s input as chief conductor for SFO, and especially as conductor of Rossini’s 1820 masterwork, Maometto II, proved invaluable. He’s a major asset.

Gioachino Rossini’s little-known tragedy enjoyed a splendid cast that included four highly gifted singers doing full justice to the severe vocal and musical demands set by the great Rossini in his fruitful Naples-San Carlo Opera years that were so creative (18 operas in seven years!). Santa Fe has now produced a superb Ermione (2000), as well as Maometto II from those years, and next season, La Donna del Lago (Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake), will be heard, completing a rich sampling of a famous, if not oft-performed, period of Italian bel canto history. This is true festival fare, and few opera companies have the resources or resolve to make it work as well as does the Santa Fe troupe. General Director Charles MacKay took risks in producing such repertory but all concerned have been well rewarded.

The rare Rossini had two key advocates to make it happen just now at Santa Fe: Italian lyric basso Luca Pisaroni, who was keen to sing the title role, and the distinguished musicologist Prof. Philip Gossett, who is editing a new critical edition of all Rossini’s works, and had ready at hand a reconstruction of the ‘original’ Naples version of 1820, mainly the work of distinguished Dutch musicologist and editor Hans Schellevis. Mr. Gossett said in a recent interview that the Santa Fe premiere is a tryout of the new scholarly score for evaluation in performance as part of the forthcoming edition of which he is General Editor.

Bel canto specialist Pisaroni wanted to perform the grand tragic piece that had haunted him since his young years when he witnessed the American basso Sam Ramey, in 1985 make a signal success as Maometto in Italy. Under MacKay’s leadership, the necessary support and talents were found and the rest is, literally, musical history. I expect future performances of Maometto II will in some way derive from Santa Fe’s premiere presentation of this important and newly refined masterwork of the Rossini canon.

Over the three hour duration of Maometto II, one may be challenged by the pouring forth of endless florid singing and flood of set pieces, connected by orchestrally accompanied recitatives in bel canto style. We are simply not used to hearing so many notes, so many verses, so many melodic and musical tropes and schemes, and their repetition and lengthy development - so much material, in fact, that Rossini’s middle-period serious works may briefly turn tedious. But then a new idea or musical delight makes it all worthwhile. The music is often glorious, romantic or heroic; solo arias, trios or larger forms, much of it pleases and often thrills. I cannot detail it all, but the performance of a 30-minute terzetto in Act I is one of the most remarkable developments in musical form in its time, even if today it may occasionally seem redundant. In Rossini’s time he was pushing the art with his experimental operas. Maometto II is a Rossini tragic opera, not known to the general opera public, that could command any major world stage and just now there are singers capable of performing it.

In addition to Pisaroni, to whom all laud and glory for his performance, the cast included a young Connecticut soprano Leah Crocetto providing a lovely assumption of Anna, in love with Maometto the Turkish general who is seeking to conquer her homeland, the Venetian colony Negroponte, and the stunning Irish mezzo soprano Patricia Bardon, as Venetian General Calbo (a trouser role), who loves Anna - a highly theatrical triangle, as Anna is put in the true focal point of the opera in making a choice between love and honor. Ms. Crocetto’s youth gives her the ability to move freely and well on stage, in spite of a certain avoir-du-pois, and most of all her warm singing is fresh, strong, technically brilliant and filled with great potential for the drammatico d’agilita roles of Rossini, Bellini, perhaps Spontini and others that are popular today. If she seemed to be occasionally marking time, all was forgiven in the death scene finale, when over a full chorus she spun out ravishing pianissimo tones and then, in her suicide scene, forceful dramatic outcries that bespoke an end to her agonies. Wow!

Ms. Bardon had a similar success with her big scene, an aria encompassing the widest possible mezzo range of both emotion and music. Her voice was full and mature in the best way, filling all florid demands and offering exhilarating color and rhetorical ‘punch.’ Bardon gave her all and maybe ten per cent more, with spectacular results. One more singer was a key to success, as Paolo Erisso, Anna’s desperate father and Head of the Venetians in Negroponte, attempting to defend all against the irrepressible Turks, namely California tenor Bruce Sledge whose bright high tenor served perfectly.

I heard the second performance, July 18, when Susan Sheston’s chorus, comprised mainly of the opera’s apprentice singers, performed their important music accurately and nobly. They had serious work to do and did it well. Smaller solo roles were successfully taken by Matthrew Newlin and Michael Daily.

Stage direction and scenic and costume design were in the hands of the celebrated Director David Alden and visual designer Jon Morrell who were highly effective. Alden’s work was mainly traditional, as it should be for Rossini, and much enhanced by Morrell whose innovative unit set was dynamic and surprising with costumes that were rich and pleasing. Choreographer Peggy Hickey must be commended for her dancers and dancing singers who made the Turco-Venetian hand combat scene into a quasi-Ninja ballet, cleverly realized. Fight director Jonathan Rider had a strong hand in this as did reliable lighting director, Duane Schuler. Maometto II turned out to be one of the most compelling evenings of music theater, if of a certain bel canto style, that I have seen in Santa Fe.

© J.A. Van Sant, 2012

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):