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

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

Soldier Songs in San Diego

David Little composed his one-man opera, Soldier Songs, ten years ago and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas of New Haven, Connecticut, premiered it in 2011. At San Diego Opera, the fifty-five minute musical presentation and the “Talk Back” that followed it were part of the Shiley dētour Series which is held in the company’s smaller venue, the historic Balboa Theatre.

Barber of Seville [Hollywood Style] in Los Angeles

On Saturday evening November 12, 2016, Pacific Opera Project presented Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville in an updated version that placed the action in Hollywood. It was sung in the original Italian but the translation seen as supertitles was specially written to match the characters’ Hollywood identities.

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

A Butterfly for the ages in a Butterfly marred by casting ineptness and lugubrious conducting.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

01 Aug 2012

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin, Opera Holland Park, London

This was unquestionably the best all-round performance I have yet seen from Opera Holland Park, staging and musical performances alike often putting august metropolitan houses from around the world to shame.

Peter Illych Tchaikovsky : Eigene Onegin op 24

Eugene Onegin: Mark Stone; Tatiana: Anna Leese; Lensky: Peter Auty; Olga: Hannah Pedley; Mme Larina: Anne Mason; Filipievna: Elizabeth Sikora; Prince Gremin: Graeme Broadbent; Triquet: Patrick Mundy; Zaretsky/Captain: Barnaby Rea. Daniel Slater (director); Leslie Travers (set designs); Mark Jonathan (lighting); Denni Sayers (choreography); Opera Holland Park Chorus (chorus master: Kelvin Lim); City of London Sinfonia/Alexander Polianichko (conductor)

231st July 2012, Opera Holland Park, London

 

Where musical direction has sometimes proved variable, in Alexander Polianichko, OHP had recruited a fine Tchaikovsky conductor. (His reading of Cherevichki at the Royal Opera House was the first time I encountered his work.) Polianichko clearly felt at ease with the score and communicated that ease freely. Tempi and transitions were all well handled, nothing especially drawing attention to itself, the drama progressing ‘naturally’ from the musical ebb and flow - though, as we all know, it takes a great deal of art to conceal art. This might not have been the searing drama I heard Daniel Barenboim bring to Tchaikovsky’s opera in Berlin, but it served the work very well. It would be vain to suggest that the City of London Sinfonia would not have benefited from a greater number of strings - and there was room in the pit - but a chamber-orchestral performance worked far better than I had expected, noticeably better, indeed, than it had for Mozart or Beethoven, which suggests that the conductor and the performers on the night were at least as important as actual numbers. Certainly the strings played with cultivation and commitment. If they were sometimes overshadowed by some ravishing woodwind playing, the problem of balancing was not their fault.

Daniel Slater’s production was manifestly superior in every respect to the lifeless, Made-for-the-Met offering Deborah Warner foisted upon the Coliseum earlier this season. It will be interesting to see how Slater’s staging compares with the new production Kasper Holten is preparing for Covent Garden, since during a couple of conversations I had with Holten earlier this year, he mentioned the importance of memory to his conception of the work. (I think I can give that away at least, since it is not really giving anything away!)

That certainly shine through in Slater’s understanding too, Onegin a ghostly, dream-like figure often watching when he was not participating. Leslie Travers’s set - which might, and I mean this as a compliment - work equally well for an intelligent production of Der Rosenkavalier, evoke faded grandeur, the end of a line, aristocratic furniture upended, reminding us that Onegin was an outsider both chronologically as well as temperamentally. The third act, five years later, is set during the early years of the Revolution, the Polonaise treated as an opportunity for temporal relocation, young Soviet soldiers rearranging the stage, laying out a red carpet for (General?) Gremin and his well-connected wife, and, most touchingly, the nurse Filipievna snuffing out the candles from the Larinas’ chandelier.

It rises again, in fine post-revolutionary fettle, seemingly powered by newer, electric means, putting one inevitably in mind of Lenin’s equation of communism as Soviet power plus electrification of the whole country. I wondered at first how the new, Leninist setting would benefit the work, but was entirely won over, for the point was not so much the Leninist setting - though might that not also be an interesting idea: Onegin as Bolshevik, soon disaffected? - as the passing of time. There is nothing wrong, of course, with that being expressed as originally envisaged, but Tsarist St Petersburg is not in itself the point any more than Leningrad might be.

Books play an important role too. When we meet Tatiana, she is very much engrossed in her book (Richardson, presumably), something of a plain-Jane in contrast to the flightier Olga. Her mother, of course, counsels her - whether it be wisely is another matter - that she had to grow out of the fictions her youthful reading engendered, in order to live in the real world. The replacement of the Larinas’ library by an all-red set of books - suggesting, perhaps, a Progress Publishers’ collected edition, even though that fabled firm would not be founded until 1931? - again provides an excellent visual shorthand for the changed circumstances of the third act. Tatiana’s frustration is powerfully represented by her sweeping those books from the shelves.

In many respects, I felt that Slater’s staging brought Tchaikovsky’s opera, or at least its central character, closer to Pushkin’s ‘original’ than is usually the case. For not only is Onegin an outsider, he is filled with restlessness, and one has a very clear sense of him journeying from one scene to the next, much as in Pushkin’s lyric narrative. There is one loss here - though this is far from confined to this particular staging - in that there is relatively little room for Tchaikovsky’s homoeroticism, intentional or otherwise. Still, no staging of an interesting work will be able to deal with every concrete aspect, let alone with every dramatic possibility. This was the only staging I can recall seeing in the theatre to compare with Steven Pimlott’s bizarrely underrated production for the Royal Opera.

Mark Stone presented an Onegin handsome of tone as well as presence, aloof, restless, tormented without the slightest hint of exaggeration. Anna Leese was an excellent foil as Tatiana, her portrayal as intelligent, as dramatically progressive, as it was moving. Hannah Pedley’s Olga was pleasingly rich-toned, without detriment to her relative flightiness as a character (especially in this production). Whilst Peter Auty’s Lensky was well received, I found his performance and Patrick Mundy’s Triquet the only real disappointments in the cast, both somewhat coarse of timbre, the former in particular often sounding as if he would be happier singing Puccini. Otherwise, there was much to enjoy in the finely etched Mme Larina and Filipievna of Anne Mason and Elizabeth Sikora respectively, and in the less-geriatricly-portrayed-than-usual Gremin of Graeme Broadbent. The choral singing was excellent, an ideal match of clarity and weight, testament surely to excellent training from chorus master, Kelvin Lim. A memorable evening indeed.

Mark Berry

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):