Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.

Puccini Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera House, London

Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..

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):