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 Performances

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

The Gardeners: a new opera by Robert Hugill

‘When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot,/ Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,/ And flowers will shine in this now barren plot/ And fame upon it through the years descend:/ But many a heart upon each simple cross/ Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.’

Richard Jones's Boris Godunov returns to Covent Garden

There are never any real surprises with a Richard Jones production and Covent Garden’s Boris Godunov, first seen in 2016, is typical of Jones’s approach: it’s boxy, it’s ascetic, it’s over-bright, with minimalism turned a touch psychedelic in the visuals.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Cecilia Bartoli as Cleopatra [Photo © Hans Jörg Michel courtesy of Salburger Festival]
05 Oct 2012

Cecilia Bartoli Comes, Divides and Conquers

Cleopatra, one of few female seductresses in operatic history to emerge not only alive but empowered in the final act, is a fitting role for Cecilia Bartoli in her first season as artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival.

G F. Handel: Giulio Cesare in Egitto

A review by Rebecca Schmid

Above: Cecilia Bartoli as Cleopatra [Photo © Hans Jörg Michel courtesy of Salburger Festival]

 

She has assembled a dynamite new production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto, which premiered in May and returned to the Summer Festival, with the early music ensemble Il Giardino Armonico under the Italian singer’s old friend Giovanni Antonini alongside a handpicked cast and the French-Dutch directing team Moshe Leiser/Patrice Caurier. The opera, which premiered at the King’s Theater in 1724, was one of Handel’s most popular in its time and still stands out from his other operas for its stylistic variety and gripping drama. A libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym adapts the story of Caesar’s amorous and political alliance with Cleopatra after his arrival in Egypt in 48-47 BC but changes historical details freely. He also packs in a high concentration of da capo arias in keeping with the taste of Londoners in the 18th century.

Handel’s writing for Cleopatra includes some of his most beloved numbers, and Bartoli meets expectations in this production (seen at the Haus für Mozart on August 27) with natural charisma and authority. Although her giggling first entrance bordered on kitsch in Leiser and Caurier’s bold vision of a modern-day Egypt occupied by the European Union, she managed to pull off their tongue-in-cheek direction as she pranced onstage in a leopard jacked and boots during her first aria “Non disperar, chi sa?,” playing with her unrivalled technique to manipulate coloratura passages for clear dramatic purpose. This ability made itself most apparent in the firework runs and carefully timed turns of “Dal Tempesta,” sung under an oil tower as the future pharaoh resolved her energy anew in the third act. Bartoli amused without affectation as a disguised servant, teasing the blue-suited bureaucrat, Caesar (Andreas Scholl) after her aria “V’adoro, pupille” in which takes off on a missile. Her slow aria “Piangero la sorte mia,” which she sings in captivity by her ruthless brother, Ptolomeo (Christoph Dumaux), brimmed with devastated emotion as she spun out silver threads of coloratura

Scholl, who sings as many arias as his female counterpart, impressed equally with the clear timbre and refined phrasing of countertenor as well as his caricature-like dramatic portrayal of the role. “Dall’ondoso periglio,” in which the Roman emperor prays to God to be reunited with the woman for whom he has grown so much affection, featured pearly cascades and pianissimi that floated sumptuously to the back of the theatre. The singing of acclaimed mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter was a model of legato and inner expression as Cornelia, the widow of Pompeo whom Ptolomeo has beheaded. Her chemistry with the rising star Philippe Jaroussky in the role of Cornelia’s son, Sestus, who slays the Egyptian pharaoh in revenge, was as touching as the musical polish they both brought to every moment onstage. Jarsoussky revealed impeccable taste in the ornamentation of the da capo to his aria “Cara speme, questo core.”

The voice of Dumaux was slightly less penetrating, but he gave a powerful account of his aria “Domero la tua fierezza” in which he declares that he will curb Cleopatra’s pride, his rival for the throne. He also executed some very athletic moves in his vindictive aria “Si, spietata, il tu rigore.” The baritone Ruben Drole was a strong-voiced Achilles, Ptolomeo’s advisor, and the alto Jochen Kowalski brought comic flair to the role of Nirena, Cleopatra’s maid. Peter Kalman made for a valiant Curio, Caesar’s tribune. The idiomatic articulation and richly nuanced performance of Il Giardino Armonico nearly asserted the ensemble as a character in its right. Antonini maintains a strong bass that nevertheless allows every instrument to sing. The musicians cried with Bartoli in her pleading aria “Se pieta di me non senti.”

Leiser and Caurier also deserve much credit for a staging that ingeniously updates the mix of comedy and tragedy in Handel’s opera, casting a critical eye toward modern European politics while allowing the singers to indulge in just the right amount of slapstick. I found myself laughing with the production rather than at it even through the most gregarious of gestures, when as when Caesar is given a pair of 3D glasses during the prelude to “V’adoro, pupille,” casting Cleopatra’s appearance as a scene within a scene. The burning tires, Christmas-lit oil tower, and final scene of a tank rolling onto the recreation of a cobblestoned street in Salzburg (sets by Christian Fenouillat) made for a biting but riotously amusing commentary on the current state of affairs. Even the dancing soldiers (choreography by Beate Vollack), whose classical moves contrasted paradoxically with their rifles, were perfectly in place. Costumes by Agostino Cavalca reflected the imaginative scope of the directors, with corn rows for Ptolomeo and a series of sexy costumes for Cleopatra in which the Intendantin still managed to preserve her class.

Rebecca Schmid

Click here for cast and production information.

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):