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 Performances

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Klaus Kuttler as Monostatos and Julia Novikova as The Queen of Night [Photo © Hans Jörg Michel courtesy of Salzburger Festival]
05 Oct 2012

Mozart’s Ghost finds its Way through Das Labyrinth

W.A. Mozart, despite a historically antagonistic relationship with his city of birth, retains an omnipresence in Salzburg that emerges in full force with each iteration of the illustrious summer festival.

Peter von Winter: Das Labyrinth

A review by Rebecca Schmid

Above: Klaus Kuttler as Monostatos and Julia Novikova as The Queen of Night [Photo © Hans Jörg Michel courtesy of Salzburger Festival]

 

The indulgence reached its pinnacle in 2006—fifty years prior to his tercentenary—with the staging of all 22 of his operas, including early works which scholars have discovered to have been co-authored by his father, Leopold. This season, the new Intendant Alexander Pereira has brushed the dust off another 18th-century obscurity, written not by W.A. himself but in posthumous tribute to his last opera, Die Zauberflöte. The librettist and impresario Emmanuel Schickaneder, eager to ride the success of the Singspiel, set to work writing a sequel, Das Labyrinth, and found a willing partner in the composer Peter von Winter. The work was premiered at the Theater an der Wien in 1798, seven years after Mozart’s death and the premiere of Die Zauberflöte.

To Schickaneder ‘s credit, the ambiguous nature of good and evil in the original libretto continues to provide scholars with endless fodder. When Goethe heard of the Das Labyrinth’s success in 1803, he began penning his own sequel which was left incomplete after the fruitless search for a composer. While Goethe develops the story in a more Romantic direction, endowing Tamino and Pamina with a son, the Genius, and augmenting the magical powers of both the Queen of the Night and Sarastro, the trajectory of Schickaneder’s sequel does not depart much from Die Zauberflöte despite the introduction of several new characters and a labyrinth which represents the final trial for Tamino and Pamina (never mind that Sarastro already initiated them into his sun circle). Meanwhile, the Queen is scheming not only with the moor Monostatos but Tipheus, King of Paphos, who vies for Pamina’s hand. They manage to briefly abduct the princess, but the Queen must ultimately cede to Sarastro’s powers when Tamino defeats Tipheus in a duel. Papageno and Papagena, who have discovered a large extended family, also help suppress evil by capturing Monostatos.

Winter’s score faithfully adopts strains of the original opera with a range of success. The first duet of Papageno and Papagena, “Lalaera! Lara! Lara!,” is a pleasant spinoff of “Pa, pa, pa…” without directly rehashing Mozart’s melodies. The chorus of priests that ends the eleventh scene of Act One is skilfully crafted, a ghost of Mozart’s incomparable harmonies, yet it would have been better placed at the very end of the act. The Queen’s opening aria “Ha! Wohl mir! Höre es, Natur” reveals that Winter studied his late Mozart operas carefully, with strong hints of his proto-Romanticism, yet it is melodically not very inventive, and the firework coloratura that characterizes the role is reduced to a passage of uninspired runs toward the end. The sequel’s Pamina is assigned more virtuosity than her original counterpart, but sadly, the spin-off to the aria “Ach, ich fühl’s”—“ Ach! Ich muss alleine tragen”—gives no musical indication of her longing to die and instead culminates in meaningless coloratura. The Three Women, here named Venus, Amor and Page, get some nice numbers, revealing Winter’s talent for colourful, pseudo-Mozartean scoring, and yet the effort could have been more self-conscious. The five-note motive representing the magic flute does not emerge once, not even when Sarastro hands it to Tamino for protection before he enters the labyrinth.

Despite the worn-out qualities of the piece, it has its genuinely charming moments, particularly with Papageno and his clan. In the Salzburg production, seen August 26, the young Austrian baritone Thomas Tatzl stole the show as the feathered bird catcher, joking to the audience with tireless charisma and a naturally warm, well-projected voice. Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann was also delightful as Papagena. The celebrated tenor Michael Schade was the stand-out of the evening from a purely vocal perspective in the role of Tamino, while Malin Hartelius was more uneven as Pamina, struggling to overcome the unfavourable acoustics of the Residenzhof, a covered courtyard where audience members sat with blankets on their laps to ward of the chill of the Salzburger Schnürrregen (sudden rainfall). The bass of Christoff Fischesser similarly risked being swallowed in the role of Sarastro. As the Queen of the Night, Julia Novikova was strongest in pure lyric moments. The baritone Klaus Kuttler was a frustrated Monostatos, and Anton Scharinger amusing as the Older Papageno.

The Three Women (Nina Bernsteiner, Christina Daletska, and Monia Bohinec) brought fine singing to the stage, as did members of the Festival Children’s Choir who appeared to Tamino as the “Three Genies” after Monostatos’ attempt to abduct Papagena. The Salzburger Bachchor, prepared by Alois Glassner, did full justice to Winter’s choral numbers, and Ivor Bolton led the Orchestra of the Mozarteum in a characteristically crisp, authentic reading of the score, even if it occasionally lacked elegance. Sets by Raimund Orfeo Voigt started out inauspiciously with a mini-proscenium of a theatre that looked straight out of a high-school production but improved with towering black panels punctured with light to represent Sarastro’s circle. Costumes by Elisabeth Binder-Neururer were designed in the local tradition of semi-rococo but reached their apex in the colourful Lederhosen- and Tracht-inspired garb of the Papageno family. The dancing, feathered children of the finale reaffirmed Salzburg as an anachronism Mozart might never have imagined could exist over three centuries after his death.

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):